The Boston Red Sox and David Ortiz: how will he be remembered?

Well, on the eve of David Ortiz‘s 40th birthday, he announced that he would announce his retirement today on his 40th birthday.

The announcement will come via The Players’ Tribune  at some point Wednesday. Approximately eight seconds later, Hall of Fame discussion will begin.

I for one am glad that Ortiz’s time is done in Major League Baseball. He is an absolute killer of my New York Yankees, and it will make this much easier without him taking aim at that short right field porch.

.387/.457/.742, three home runs and 11 RBI. That’s what he hit in that infamous seven game doozie in the 2004 ALCS, also known as the worst year I have ever lived.

Ortiz wasn’t simply just one of the most prolific and memorable home run hitters of his generation, he was outspoken. Sometimes he said stuff that made you love him, like in 2013 after the horrific morning at the Boston Marathon.

“This is our f@#&ing city. And nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”

It ruffled a few of the oversensitive ninnies feathers in this country, but overall it made me — as much as a New York Yankees fan as they come — think it was ok to see Boston win a few games, just as Red Sox fans did when the Yankees played the Diamondbacks in 2001.

He also has had some choice words for the Yankees over the years. As he did this past August when he nonchalantly threw Alex Rodriguez under the bus. You know when he implied that A-Rod is, “playing the right way now — as far as we know.”

Ahhh. Life’s sweet irony. Let’s not forget the one thing that will come up to haunt Big Papi when his time comes up for Hall of Fame induction come 2022. As far as WE DO know, there was a time when Big Papi was not playing the right way.

“I was taking whatever supplements were good at the time, stuff that everybody was using that would sustain me in my workouts,’’ he said to the Boston Globe this past March.

Which supplements? The substance that triggered his positive test result has yet to be identified.

“It’s been a long time,’’ Ortiz said. “I don’t know.’’

I am not accusing Ortiz of any wrong doing, I am not saying he will not be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of the 500 Home Run Club. But you are out of your mind if you think there isn’t going to be MAJOR discussion as to Ortiz’s place in Cooperstown over the next five years.

Let’s be fair to Ortiz. He was one of the many players that failed an ANONYMOUS drug test in 2003. He was also amongst just four of the names that were leaked to the press in 2009 of the said many on the list that failed the test. No one was ever supposed to know that Big Papi took PEDs. But at the end of the day, we do.

It was also a test taken in 2003, a time when baseball was in flux determining what was acceptable and not acceptable for players to take. MLB was still trying to figure out what drugs enhanced the power and strength of baseball’s best sluggers and what were simply daily supplements. Ortiz not remembering what supplements he took, however, kind of throws him in the same boat as the others who failed to speak honestly and clearly about their PED use.

Prior to becoming a Red Sox legend, Ortiz was no more than a marginal baseball player. His six years spent in Minnesota were not the start to any Hall of Famers career. He slashed .266/.348/.461 with 58 home runs and 238 RBI. His highest home run total? 20.

Ortiz’s first season with the Red Sox was out of this world. He would slash a career high to that point .288/.369/.592 with a career best 31 home runs and a career best 101 RBI. What was that season that the Red Sox signed Ortiz? Yup, it was 2003. Whereas Ortiz’s greatest home run total in his first six years was 20, he would never hit below 23 home runs again. Not even A-Rod can boast about that.

From that point forward, he and Manny Ramirez would restore the Boston Red Sox tradition. The sorry franchise that was cursed by the Bambino would win their first World Series in 2004 since 1918… and they would win another… and yet another. A large part of every one of those championship seasons was Big Papi.

During that time, he became beloved by everyone in baseball that wasn’t wearing pinstripes because of his big smile, big hugs and big home runs. Last season he smashed his 500th home run, and that all but enshrines him in the Hall of Fame.

As long as he was clean. And we will never know if he was or wasn’t. That assumption of lumping everyone in the era under the umbrella of PED use may come back to haunt him.

Personally, I think Ortiz spent the latter part of his career showing he was a better baseball player clean and free of any PED use. I hated him as a fan, but always said that I would love him as the Yankees DH. He was that kind of player. The kind of guy you love to hate but at the same time hate to love.

Five years from now, things may change. Maybe Andy Pettitte becomes a Hall of Famer during that time. Maybe because he admitted use and apologized, it opens the door to the Hall for people that saw the err in their ways. Maybe in six years from now, nobody will care about PED use and the Steroid Era and Ortiz becomes a first ballot Hall of Famer.

But we all know there are a lot of traditionalists that vote for the Hall of Fame. I think Big Papi will see himself enshrined in Cooperstown one day, but these talks of first ballot are a bit premature. If he was up for election today, right now, under the current mindset of PED-use… there is no way Big Papi is a surefire bet. Six years from now, when it starts to get swept under the rug, when more people finally want to see Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire in the Hall of Fame… well, that could be an entirely different story.


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