Big Papi Remains An Asset
Boston — David Ortiz remains a constant even in a lost season for the Boston Red Sox.
The defense of their 2013 World Series title hasn’t gone anything like the Red Sox would have liked — Boston dropped its seventh straight game in an 8-6 defeat to Seattle at Fenway Park on Sunday — but one thing that’s been a success is the performance of Ortiz.
Entering Sunday, the 38-year-old slugger was up near the top of the major leagues in both homers and RBIs, with 30 and 93 — and that’s coming on a team that’s been near the bottom of the AL in runs scored most of the season.
Knowing the last-place Red Sox faded out of any playoff contention a while ago, Ortiz just keeps plugging along.
“I don’t look at the motivation side because I know I have to still come in and get my job done,” he said in an interview with The AP on Sunday morning. “But, on the other hand, it doesn’t feel right. You get prepared to be in the playoffs, and you know you’re not going to be. It gets a little crazy. What can you do? Finish what you start and come with the same attitude the following year.”
Coming into Sunday, last fall’s World Series MVP has accounted for 19 percent of the team’s runs. He recently posted his 10th season with 90-plus RBIs in 12 years. He’s seven shy of having his eighth year with 30 homers and 100 RBIs with the club, which would move him one ahead of Ted Williams for the most in team history.
He also could become just the second player in history to lead his league in RBIs for a team that finished last in runs scored. The other is Wally Berger, who did it in 1935 with the Boston Braves.
He learned a few years ago that he has to work harder and said he spends much more time weight lifting — even when his body is tired. Is he impressed by his season? Nope, he expects it.
“No. I’m not surprised. I’m surprised I don’t have better numbers. I used to have better numbers,” he said. “Age catches up with you. It doesn’t matter how hard you try. People are impressed with my numbers because of the numbers I’m putting up, but I used to put up better numbers than that.
“You go through injuries. You go through a whole bunch of different things. The game is not even the same — they won’t pitch you if you don’t have somebody behind you. I always carried that chip on my shoulder that I can do better than what I have. That’s probably the reason I keep on going.”
A little over a week ago, Ortiz belted his 400th career homer in a Red Sox uniform, joining Hall of Famers Williams (521) and Carl Yastrzemski (452) as the only players to reach that plateau. He has 461 homers in a career that started with Minnesota before he was signed by the Red Sox before the 2003 season.
Even the proud Ortiz was at a loss for words when he was asked about possibly joining Yaz and Ted in Cooperstown.
“It’s something that, I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s all new to me. Of course I’ve got to be humbled by it because it’s a very unique and special situation. If I told you that I ever expected to mentioned right next to those guys that’s (crazy),” he said, breaking into a laugh. “No. You play the game. You’re talking about vintage players. Guys that the game is always going talk about because of how special they used to be.”
Ortiz also knows that his days in the game are winding down. He’s seen former teammates and stars Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez leave. He knows he’ll be gone one day, too. But, he knows the extra work in paying off.
“The stronger survive, and the stronger stay longer,” he said. “When I first got here, I was pretty young and there were a lot of veteran guys, guys that were at the beginning, middle and end of their careers. It rotates.
“I’ll just keep on doing what I always do, heaving lifting. I have to keep up with not trying to gain weight. I have to do heavy lifting, which is the hardest part because as you get older, it gets you more tired. In my case, it just makes me feel like I get stronger.”