David Ortiz doubled, tripled and homered Saturday, spraying line drives at Astros centerfielder Jake Marisnick as if he were flipping Frisbees for his retriever to fetch. Ortiz pretty much won the game by his lonesome, tying it with two outs in the ninth and winning it with two outs in the 11th, getting doused with baby powder at second base and then rushing off to the birthday party of his own baby, who’s now a teen.
It was another wonderful moment in a career full of them in Boston and when NESN’s Guerin Austin asked him, “Are we sure we can’t get you to do one more year?” the question was answered with cheers from fans and a hearty laugh from Ortiz.
He leads the American League in slugging percentage (.695) and OPS (1.101), is second in doubles (16), fifth in homers (15) and ninth in average (.320) entering play Monday night. Those numbers cry not for retirement, which Ortiz plans to begin after the season, but for enshrinement.
You can understand why Austin asked the question, because she’s not alone. There’s a growing consensus nationally that Ortiz should reconsider, and acutely in New England that the Red Sox should lure him to do so with the promise of millions of dollars. How could anyone stop hitting a baseball when they do it as well as Ortiz?
“As for Ortiz,” wrote Nick Cafardo for the Boston Globe, “there needs to be an intervention at some point.”
Cafardo is a talented and veteran baseball writer whose notes columns are to most Sundays what Ortiz’s performance was to Saturday. But here’s another opinion: No there doesn’t.
Ortiz is 40 years old, charitably listed at 230 pounds and it can’t be easy, as Red Sox broadcasters Dave O’Brien and Jerry Remy have articulated more than once this spring, to get that body ready to hit a baseball as he has.
We’re averse to athletes retiring early for selfish reasons, because we want to enjoy more game-winning hits like Saturday’s regardless of whether the 40-year old athletes want to, or are able to, deliver them.
The adulation was enjoyable for Ortiz, and visible for us, but was it worth all the preparation, which is unknown to us?
Cafardo said Ortiz “must be lured with a 20 million-plus contract …” and his opinion is not without company. Have those who suggest that considered that maybe Ortiz is hitting like this because he doesn’t want to be lured? Or that maybe if Ortiz is enticed to return for millions he’ll hit as if that’s why he came back?
The Red Sox won’t have a DH as good as Ortiz if he doesn’t return, certainly in 2017, maybe ever. But somehow there was music after The Beatles disbanded.
Maybe there’s a reason why David Ortiz wants to retire a year too early rather than a year too late. Maybe he’s seen what happens to those that do the latter and his memory, like his bat speed, is sharper than everyone around him.
To all those insisting the Red Sox can’t let Ortiz go, it’s as if Derek Jeter’s final dreadful season with the Yankees never happened, when at every stop Jeter was saluted but unable to return a performance worthy of it. Maybe Ortiz doesn’t want to be feted when he can no longer return the favor.
Maybe Ortiz doesn’t want to stay until fans are happy to see him go because the Didi Gregorious version of a DH who replaces him will be better.
The poet A.E. Houseman wrote about “fields where glory does not stay,” and maybe Ortiz wants to go before the glory does.
- We’ve yet to have a manager fired in 2016 but if the Astros’ A.J. Hinch is first, remember Saturday. He allowed rookie Michael Feliz to pitch to Ortiz with a 2-2 count after a wild pitch opened first base. ” … And then to come up in a spot where maybe we were thinking they might not even pitch to him,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “… I think we were a little surpirsed they would make … they might look to expand the strike zone. If they walk him, OK, they’ll face the right-hander on deck. That’s their decision.” Any idea whether Farrell thought they made the right one?
- One more note on Saturday’s 6-5 Red Sox victory. Ortiz got a triple instead of a double on his game-tying hit in the ninth when Marisnick dove and couldn’t find the ball when he rose. If Ortiz doesn’t get to third in the ninth, he’s probably not in the game in the 11th. As the game-winning run in the ninth, he’d likely have been run for were he on second.
- Of course if he were on second we would have missed out on Hanley Ramirez trying to squeeze home the winning run with two outs. Presumably.
- Matt Bush has been a Texas Ranger for one weekend and he found an easy way to ingratiate himself with teammates. He threw a pitch so far inside on Toronto’s Jose Bautista Sunday that Bautista couldn’t avoid being hit by it. That precipitated a series of events in which almost everyone was wrong. An aggrieved Bautista slid late into second and an aggrieved Rougned Odor pushed and then slugged Bautista. Most baseball fights are foul tips when it comes to contact but Odor showed solid power. Odor was still wrong for shoving and hitting Bautista, as was Bautista for his slide as was Bush for his pitch. All of this goes back to last fall’s Bautista bat flip after his series-winning home run, but if Odor was really upset by that, he’s had ample opportunity to slug his double-play partner Elvis Andrus, whose two errors preceded the homer and bat flip. You have to wonder about the timing of hitting Bautista, since it was the seventh and last game between the two teams and his 33rd and last plate appearance against Texas this year. If the Rangers were still seething, what took them so long? The best revenge for the Blue Jays would be if Odor were suspended, say a week or so, and the Rangers lose the AL West by a game or two as .174-hitting Hanser Alberto fills in. Otherwise this one will be continued in 2017, even if Bautista is with a new team.
- Has there been a trade in recent memory that was transacted with such great promise and resulted in such great misery as 2012’s Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda? The Mariners thought they were getting a good young catcher who could hit, but it turned out Montero could do neither, and after four years of him hitting .247 and throwing 14% of base stealers, the Mariners waived him. The Yankees thought they were getting a good young pitcher and Pineda has been an 18-game winner. It’s just taken him five years to do that. The Yankees still have Pineda, and it’s hard to determine if that means they’ve won the trade or lost it. Pineda is 1-4 with a 6.28 ERA this year and has thrown nine home runs in 38.2 innings.
- The Red Sox scored 14, 13, and 13 runs in three games against the Athletics last week so imagine their fans’ disappointment when they only scored 11 against the Astros Thursday. Of course that was against Dallas Keuchel, the reigning AL Cy Young winner.
- Some before-and-after ERAs from the Red Sox’s week in which they scored 73 runs in seven home games: Keuchel 4.70 to 5.58; Sonny Gray (who was third in the 2015 Cy Young voting) 4.84 to 6.00; Sean Manaea 7.20 to 11.37 (Manaea is nicknamed “Baby Giraffe;” you have to look way up to see his ERA); Chris Devenski 1.72 to 3.24; reliever Marc Rzcepsynski 1.42 to 3.46; John Axford 1.29 to 3.60.
- The Rays added Corey Dickerson for his power and he’s given them some, if not much else. Dickerson has eight homers, five doubles and a triple, but just five singles. He’s slugging .463 but hitting just .176.
- The Tigers moved Justin Upton to center field this week, perhaps because he’s been hitting like the guy they benched. The Tigers sat Anthony Gose, who’s hitting .209. With his two hits — one of which was a misplayed fly ball — on Sunday Upton upped his average to .216 and his OPS to .572, or only 56 points less than Gose’s .628.
- The Phillies are tied for MLB’s sixth-best record at 22-16. Don’t expect it to last. They have MLB’s sixth-worst run differential at -30 and are 14-3 in one-run games. In games decided by four runs or more they’re 1-10, the one thanks to a 10-6 win at Milwaukee. They’ve lost games by 8-1, 9-1, 11-1 and 10-3.
- The Braves are 9-27 and the worst team in MLB, but have to be heartened by back-to-back pitching performances last weekend from 24-year-old Mike Foltyneiwcz, who blanked the Royals over eight innings Saturday, and 23-year-old Matt Wisler, who fanned seven over 7.2 on Sunday. The Royals scored just four runs in back-to-back game; maybe they should be worried.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly identified NESN’s Guerin Austin.