Not much can be said about David Ortiz that has not already been chronicled over his illustrious Hall of Fame career. Simply put, “Big Papi” has been a larger than life superstar player one the field; one that has transcended the sports and become as large a Boston icon as is the field on which he plays.
Prior to the 2016 season, Ortiz announced that this season (his 20th) would be his last. In most cases, such an announcement would make total sense. At 40, there are few baseball players who could hold back the hands of time. In fact, many of the game’s biggest stars would fall short of reaching their 40th birthday while still donning a major league baseball uniform.
Not only has Ortiz been a larger-than-life star player on the field but has been an ambassador for the sport off if it. Big Papi has always been one to recognize and thank fans for their support. It is also through his giving nature that he has connected to baseball fans regardless of whether they cheer for him on the field or not. His recent promise to hit a home run for a young fan in Wyoming, Maverick, who has battled heart ailments since birth (and then hitting the home run that very night against the Yankees) further demonstrates that Ortiz doesn’t just say that he cares, he proves it; and more often than not does it in dramatic fashion.
There has been no signs of slowing down for the Dominican slugger. On Saturday, Ortiz fell a single shy of the cycle in leading the Red Sox back from a 5-2 deficit; ultimately winning the game 6-5. In the bottom of the 9th inning, Ortiz belted a run scoring triple to tie the game at 5. In the 11th, Ortiz would seal the deal by driving home the winning run with a double. The double would prove to be a milestone accomplishment for Big Papi; as he would become just the third player in MLB history to have 500 home runs and 600 doubles in a career (Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds are the others).
Looking at his statistics through the first 35 games of the season, Ortiz is on pace to hit 52 home runs, drive in 153 and eclipse his past career bests in slugging percentage and OPS. How could a player having such a dominant season want to walk away? I would imagine that the Red Sox brass are asking that question often. The Sox would do themselves and their fans a tremendous disservice to not at least encourage Ortiz to reconsider his decision to retire. For all their efforts to date, there has been no indication that David Ortiz is even giving his decision a second thought.
When asked (and he is asked often), Ortiz maintains his stance that this season will be his last, and that is focus is winning a World Series in his final season. As a professional athlete with many individual accolades, it is his leadership of three championship teams that may go down as his most proud achievement. But after posting such an impressive season to date, could Big Papi really change his mind and return for another campaign?
If one were to ask all retired players about how they wished their career would end; I can imagine that few would argue that going out at the peak of their game would not be their preference. David Ortiz has that opportunity within his grasp. As a proud athlete who has accomplished just about everything a player could ever imagine, it would be difficult for him to now have a change of heart and decide to return for another campaign. After all of the fan accolades this star has received on his “retirement tour”, how could this superstar player decide to turn back now?
I for one will hate to see number 34 depart Fenway Park for the last time. There seems to be so much more that Ortiz could do in a Red Sox uniform; but also would hate to see this all-time great show the sudden decline in skills and limp away from the game should he push his mid and body beyond it’s limit. There could be no better way for a star player to retire than on top of the sports’ world; as a champion still performing at an elite level. While the Red Sox will likely continue to revisit this issue with Ortiz, they would be best served to actually go out and supplement this roster with more talent in order to win the World Series; regardless the financial cost. For all the celebrations the team has planned for Ortiz this year, perhaps allocating all their resources to send a player who has given them so much out a winner would be the best (and most fitting) retirement gift they could bestow on this franchise’s biggest star.