Dan's Dugout: Big Papi's Last Hurrah • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Big Papi’s Last Hurrah

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The Farewell Tour has begun.

Like Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter before him, David Americo Ortiz has embarked on a pre-planned farewell tour.

Big Papi hits one out. Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Big Papi hits one out.
Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Already a member of the 500 Home Run Club and the owner of three World Series rings, the powerful designated hitter of the Boston Red Sox says he’ll stop playing at the end of the 2016 season.

Big Papi’s next stop will be the Baseball Hall of Fame, where he’ll be the first full-time DH.

The 6’4″, 230-pound Dominican turns 41 in November but remains a productive force in the Boston lineup. In fact, the Red Sox will find it difficult to replace the man-mountain who bats fourth in their lineup.

Ironically, Fenway Park is far more friendly to righthanded hitters, which Ortiz is not.

Like Ted Williams, an earlier Red Sox icon, Ortiz has a longer poke with his lefthanded swing. In retrospect, it’s amazing that he once hit 54 home runs (2006) or had three straight seasons with 40 or more.

A feared clutch hitter, he entered this season with 19 career walk-off hits — and more hits, home runs, and runs batted in than any previous designated hitter.

David Ortiz has more 30-homer seasons than Ted Williams.

David Ortiz has more 30-homer seasons than Ted Williams.

Among the Red Sox, he ranks first with nine seasons of 30 homers and 100 RBI. He’s already had one more 30-homer season than Teddy Ballgame and is tied with Williams for the most 100-RBI campaigns in club history.

An All-Star nine times in the last 12 years, Big Papi has also been Most Valuable Player in both the World Series (2013) and the American League Championship Series (2004). He’s won the Hank Aaron Award, the Roberto Clemente Award, and the Josh Gibson Award but somehow missed grabbing a regular-season MVP trophy.

The only man to place among the top five in the MVP voting from 2003-07, he’s just two short of Jim Thome’s mark for the most walk-off home runs in the game’s long history.

When he’s done, his 2007 autobiography will need considerable updating. That book, called Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits, was one of his biggest hits yet: it made the coveted Best Seller list of The New York Times.

Always prone to spectacular performances, Ortiz pounded a pair of home runs at Tampa Bay last

David Ortiz has thrived as a full-time DH.

David Ortiz has thrived as a full-time DH.

September 12 to become the 27th man with 500 homers. He and Albert Pujols, another Dominican en route to the Hall of Fame, are the only players to reach 500 with multi-homer games.

Big Papi loves to do things in bunches; he started the season with 50 two-homer games, all but two of them with the Red Sox (a club record).

He’s hit 14 homers in the playoffs, three in the World Series, and one in the All-Star game — though he’s a frequent Home Run Derby competitor and actually won it in 2010.

In retrospect, it’s hard to believe Ortiz was not an original member of the Sox. He signed with Seattle as a non-drafted free agent in 1992, was traded to Minnesota four years later for the forgettable Dave Hollins, and joined the Red Sox via free agency after the Twins released him in a surprise move after his 20-homer season in 2002.

Big Papi is on the fast track to the Hall of Fame. Image: Topps Company

Big Papi is on the fast track to the Hall of Fame.
Image: Topps Company

Perhaps his penchant for hurting himself caused concern. Big Papi has been on the disabled list more than a half-dozen times with injuries that ranged from his wrist to his Achilles.

The desire to preserve his potent bat, not to mention his outlandish build, prompted his transfer from first base to DH years ago. Even though the National League eschews the DH rule, Ortiz hasn’t trotted out to first base more than 10 times since 2004.

A vociferous leader in the locker room and in the dugout, Big Papi is clearly the face of the Red Sox. Replacing him won’t be difficult; it will be impossible.

Elsewhere in baseball:

With A.J. Pollock probably sidelined for the season with an elbow injury suffered this spring, look for the Diamondbacks to sign veteran centerfielder Michael Bourn (released by Atlanta) . . .

Hip surgery patient Tim Lincecum, winner of consecutive NL Cy Young Awards with the 2008-09 Giants, still hopes to start after rejecting San Francisco’s offer to put him in the bullpen . . .

Not surprised to see switch-hitter Nick Swisher return to the Yankees, who need veteran

Nick Swisher will be wearing pinstripes again.

Nick Swisher will be wearing pinstripes again.

protection at first base and the outfield corners . . .

Blue-chip rookie Mallex Smith, known for stealing bases and posted high on-base percentages in the minors, could surface in Atlanta soon now that Ender Inciarte already has hamstring issues . . .

Injuries continue to plague both Carl Crawford, who is sidelined again, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have 11 men on the disabled list . . .

What idiot thought Andre Ethier (Dodgers) is worth $18 million per year? . . .

First baseman James Loney has surfaced with the struggling San Diego Padres following his release by the tightwad Tampa Bay Rays . . .

Former Mets reliever Carlos Torres has also found a new home, signing with the moribund Milwaukee Brewers after earning his release from the pitching-poor Atlanta Braves.

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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