You’ve probably heard it mentioned plenty of times by now, but the Red Sox will enter the 2013 season with only one member of the 2004 championship team left on the roster – David Ortiz.
I wrote last week about the changing times for the Red Sox organization, but the one constant through all of this change has been Big Papi, the face of my team and my personal favorite player.
We all know the memorable playoff hits and the big moments. In honor of David Ortiz, I’m going to talk about my five favorite underrated Big Papi moments – essentially, not including the ones we all know and love, like the 2004 walk-offs.
The “This is Sportscenter Commercial”
If you haven’t seen it before, Ortiz’s appearance on ESPN’s This is Sportscenter is fantastic.
I hate the Yankees as much as the next guy, so seeing Ortiz criticize Jorge Posada’s hat was wonderful. The appearance by Wally the Green Monster near the end as Ortiz puts on the hat is really what makes this one, though. Probably my favorite This is Sportscenter commercial ever.
“It’s not what you think!”
The 2010 Home Run Derby
I like All-Star Breaks in sports, less for the games themselves and more for the events. I watch the NBA’s All-Star Saturday religiously – even though the Dunk Contest has gone downhill the past few years. The Home Run Derby is one of my favorite sports events every year, as well, so when I found out Ortiz would be participating in 2010’s contest, I knew I had to watch.
I was on a cruise in the Caribbean at the time, watching on a crappy cabin TV as Ortiz doubled up the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez’s long ball total in the final round. While Hanley flashed some impressive opposite field power, he managed only 5 dingers in the final round, which just wasn’t quite enough to match the raw strength of Ortiz. Papi nailed 11 home runs to take home the top prize for the first time in his career.
Coming off some criticism about season-opening slumps, it was a nice reminder that Ortiz was still Ortiz. Of course, he ultimately bounced back from those down years in 2008 and 2009, but at the time there were plenty of questions about how much he had left in the tank. It was a fun day, and he ultimately finished with a solid 2010 stat line of 32 homers and a .270/.370/.529 triple-slash.
Also, it remains extremely fun to watch these players smack home runs. That probably goes without saying.
The Feud with Jay-Z
It’s probably pretty well-forgotten by now – it took a Bleacher Report article to refresh my memory – but I found Ortiz’s trouble with Jay-Z to be kind of hilarious.
Basically, Jay-Z sued Ortiz after Ortiz started a nightclub in the Dominican Republic called “Forty-Forty,” because it sounded quite similar to Jay-Z chain of sports lounges, 40/40.
It just seems pretty hilarious to me that Ortiz would call his own club Forty-Forty (after the 40 homer, 40 steal club) considering he’s probably the slowest player I’ve ever seen. He ended up changing his nightclub’s name, but I found the whole incident funny, because it was just such a very Sox-Yankees thing to happen.
David Ortiz Hugs New York
I came across this randomly two years ago, and it might just be the most Big Papi thing of all time.
Basically, it’s a commercial for MLB Fan Cave where Ortiz goes out on the streets of New York trying to hug Yankees fans. The results are predictably hilarious, from the people who are too cool to hug him to the ones who do it anyways. I think my personal favorite has to be the cab driver.
I can’t blame some of them, though. I almost certainly wouldn’t hug Derek Jeter if he came up to me on the street, either.
Maybe this is a larger story than the rest here, but my favorite thing about Ortiz is the way he’s managed to extend his career beyond what any of us could have expected. After down seasons in 2008 and 2009 and a slow start to 2010, there were serious questions as to how much he had left in the tank.
I know there’s a stigma around players who don’t “age properly” these days, but seeing Ortiz essentially reinvent his game, crushing lefties and shaving over 10% off his strikeout rate (23.9% in 2010, 13.5% in 2011/2012). His injury in 2012 aside, the level he’s been able to play at this late in his career is remarkable, and it definitely would appear to be due to this new plate approach. He’s been the anchor of this team for the past several seasons, and was one of the lone bright spots (before his injury) of the Red Sox 2012 campaign.
So now we’re heading into Ortiz’s 11th season with the Red Sox, and he’s the elder statesmen once more. He’s the last 2004 veteran, and will likely remain one of – if not the – best offensive players on the roster. With the Red Sox enduring so many changes, it’s refreshing to have #34 aboard. David Ortiz is and always will be my personal favorite baseball player, and I can’t think of a better player to help usher in a new era for the Boston Red Sox than him. Although he may not have all that much more time left in the league, I’ll enjoy having him while he’s here.
So here’s to you, David Ortiz. Red Sox Nation is lucky to have you.