There was a time when the Boston Red Sox almost traded David Ortiz. But three World Series rings and what’s soon to be 14 seasons later, Theo Epstein is glad they didn’t.
The former Red Sox general manager and current Chicago Cubs president sat down with WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche recently to discuss the designated hitter’s storied career with the Red Sox ahead of his final season with the club. But while Epstein was the guy responsible for bringing Ortiz in, he also had to do his best to make sure he didn’t go anywhere.
As Epstein explained to Roche, Boston had some holes at first base, DH and third base going into the 2003 season, so the club overloaded its roster with guys like Kevin Millar, Jeremy Giambi and Ortiz, bringing them in on one-year deals to see how they’d pan out. Ortiz was behind both of those two on the roster and was getting frustrated despite his lack of power.
But Epstein told Ortiz and his agent to sit tight.
“I told them we’d do something soon to clear up the opportunity for them,” Epstein said. “I think within a week we traded Shea Hillenbrand to the Diamondbacks, which cleared up regular at-bats for David. I think he hit his first home run maybe June 1 of the year at Anaheim I believe, and he took off, hit like 30 bombs in the second half of the season and became Big Papi somewhere in October of 2003 and then the rest is history.”
Ortiz has amassed 503 home runs, 1,641 RBIs, a .284 average and a .925 OPS in his career. He’s a nine-time All-Star, a six-time winner of the Silver Slugger Award, a three-time World Series champion and a World Series MVP. Ortiz also has enjoyed nine seasons with 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs, including the last three.
Needless to say, Epstein thinks Ortiz has done a spectacular job for himself.
“I’m just really proud of him,” Epstein said. “He’s made his career. It wasn’t anyone making it for him. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s done things the right way. His personality has really taken over the franchise in a lot of ways over the last 10 years. He is such an identifiable figure and has done so much good in the clubhouse and in the community. It’s a Hall of Fame career. I’d like to see him go out on a really high note. I’m sure he will.”
The whole interview airs on WBZ-TV on Sunday night at 11:35 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz reacts during the fifth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.