July 8, 2016

Oral History: The Beginning Of The Legend Of David Ortiz

Howard Bryant, ESPN:
AFTER THE 2002 season, the Red Sox had a list of nine -- count 'em, nine -- candidates for time at first base and designated hitter. As former Red Sox beat writer Jeff Horrigan says, "The expectations were really, really low. That was clear just by the number of people they threw at the position." But Boston's new GM, Theo Epstein, and president/CEO Larry Lucchino -- with an assist from one of the greatest pitchers in team history -- saw a glimmer of something in a washout from the Twins named David Ortiz. This is the story of the months between November 2002 and May 2003, when a player nobody wanted, just one of nine, became a legend a city couldn't do without.
I was never really Theo's guy. There were other guys he was paying more money to. If I had been his first choice, I really think I would have been playing since day one. ... So yeah, I sat and I sat, and I kept my mouth shut because you gotta keep it professional, you know?
David and I had a few quick conversations early in the year in which I encouraged him to be patient, told him that we believed in him, expressed some empathy for his situation and reassured him that things would work themselves out. He was frustrated early but handled himself really well, not wanting to make an issue in the clubhouse or drag his teammates down.
Finally, I just said f--- it. I went to Grady. I went to Theo. They were asking me why I was mad, and I said, "I'm not mad, but I'm better than every f---ing guy you're running out there ahead of me." So I called [my agent] Fern. I told him, "If you're not here tomorrow, you're fired." He said, "What's wrong?" I said, "I'm better. Play me or I want out of here. Play me and I'll show you what's up."

1 comment:

allan said...

Great stuff re Ortiz in Alex Speier's 108 Stitches posting today:

He has 15 straight seasons of 20 or more homers, joining Hank Aaron (20), Babe Ruth (16), Willie Mays (15), Barry Bonds (15), and Alex Rodriguez (15) in that distinction as one of the most consistent sluggers in major league history. He’s also now one of 12 players ever to hit 20 or more homers in a season in his 40s, he has 34 doubles – one shy from the record by Sam Rice for most ever in a season by a player in his 40s, and his 55 extra-base hits are tied for the second-most ever by a player in his 40s ( Dave Winfield’s record of 62 seems likely to fall this month).

Yet as eye-popping as all of those numbers are, they fail to encapsulate just what Ortiz is doing at home. With Wednesday’s 1-for-3 performance that included the homer, a sac fly, and a walk, Ortiz is now hitting .373 at Fenway (pre-2016 career high: .365 in 2007) with a .477 OBP (.471 in 2007) and .753 slugging mark (.706 in 2012).

Though on pace for “just” 17 homers at Fenway, which would be tied for fourth most in his career, Ortiz is on pace for 67 extra-base hits in his home park (48 in 2007), which would shatter the team record of 59. He is currently in line to hit 48 doubles at home, which would represent the most home doubles ever hit by a player in his home park. (In the last 100 years, only two players – Tris Speaker with the Indians in 1921 and Hank Greenberg in 1934 – have ever had 40 or more doubles at home in a single season.)

In his final act, Ortiz is putting on a show like few others in the venerable 105-season history of Fenway Park. Right now, Ortiz has a 1.230 OPS at Fenway. That would be the fifth-best OPS ever at Fenway, behind only Jimmie Foxx (1.399 in 1938), Ted Williams (who exceeded the mark three times, topped by a 1.339 OPS in his historic 1941 campaign), and Fred Lynn (1.267 in 1979).