David Ortiz was done. Finished. Toast. Cooked. … Or so that’s what some people thought.
Ortiz, who was limited to 109 games in 2008 because of a wrist injury, stumbled out of the gate in 2009, hitting just .185 with one home run, 48 strikeouts and a .570 OPS in his first 46 games. It was reasonable to wonder at that point whether the Boston Red Sox slugger’s best days were behind him. But he rebounded later in the year and performed at a high level for seven more seasons.
“Everything was all great and then I injured myself in 2008,” Ortiz said in a recent interview with Tom Caron, part of which is featured in NESN’s special presentation “The David Ortiz Era,” presented by Foxwoods Resort Casino. “That gave me a bad habit for the following season. I created a loop in my swing and I wasn’t able to catch up with nothing.
“Then right away, everybody starts talking and telling me things. You’ve got everybody calling you, this and that, blah, blah blah, you know? And even people saying that I was done. I’m like, ‘I’m not done. I’m going to be done when I want to, not when you want.’ ”
Ortiz caught fire in June 2009, showed much more power in the second half of the season and ultimately finished with 28 home runs and 99 RBIs to go with a .794 OPS. He also struggled to begin the 2010 season, but Ortiz knew what needed to be done to return to All-Star form.
“That’s why you keep on working and keep on working, all of a sudden you’re out of it,” said Ortiz, who changed his diet, lost weight and studied more game film following the 2010 campaign. “But if you just start putting attention to everything that is around you, people saying that you can’t, that you can’t, that you can’t, then you get tied into that and you will never come out.”
While some fans and pundits might have been clamoring for Ortiz’s exit during his most tumultuous moments, those who know Big Papi best certainly aren’t surprised he used the criticism as motivation toward getting back and even winning another World Series in 2013.
“The humiliation and the defeat that you face in those opportunities when they kind of catch you blindsided,” former Red Sox captain Jason Varitek said. “It shows you why David’s been so successful in all the right moments, because David had that extra gear to now go, ‘OK. Watch me now.’ ”
Amazingly, here we are in 2016 wondering whether Ortiz is retiring too early rather than too late. At 40 years old, Ortiz hit .315 with 38 home runs, 127 RBIs and a 1.021 OPS.
It’s arguably the most impressive final season in sports history. And it all seemed so improbable roughly seven years ago.
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images