If you missed it – and I’m not sure anyone at this point has – David Ortiz penned a column for The Players Tribune this week arguing, amongst other things, two key points. One, that he is, and always has been, clean. And two, that based on his allegedly-clean production over the past 15 years, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Regardless of the answers to either question, one thing should never be in doubt; David Ortiz has done everything an athlete could to become a legend in the city of Boston, and it’s time we start treating him like it.
As for the first part, who knows? Ortiz’s name showed up on the 2003 Mitchell Report, and we’ve seen over the last decade or so that players whose names show up on any kind of list tend to ultimately be guilty, failed test or not. It’s the reason Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez were suspended. It’s the reason Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are still not in the Hall of Fame and may never be. Once you’re guilty in the court of public opinion, you’re guilty for life it seems.
Did David Ortiz use steroids? I don’t know. Probably? Whether he did so knowingly or not is another question, but I’d think if the first answer is yes, the second one is, too. If he did juice, there’s no way to know when, or for how long, or even if he still is, though the latter seems unlikely even to the biggest Ortiz-haters. We’ll likely never know for sure if he did or didn’t, but he’s been adamant about it for years. Whether this is a “my name is my name” situation or a “the lady doth protest too much” one, we will never know. Come to your own conclusions.
As for his Hall of Fame candidacy, well, we’ve covered the DH debate before, so I won’t rehash it here. If you don’t think a designated hitter should be in the Hall, I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. If you think Ortiz used PEDs and shouldn’t be in for that reason, I won’t try to convince you otherwise on that, either. If you think Ortiz is clean, and that his DH-status alone shouldn’t keep him out, he deserves to be in.
At risk of burying my lede though; it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if he used steroids in an era when everyone else was, it doesn’t matter if he makes the Hall of Fame. What matters is that David Ortiz did something for the Red Sox and the city of Boston that people in this city – whether they be journalists, fans, or whomever – should stop being so quick to forget or dismiss.
If you hadn’t picked up on it yet, here’s your GIANT HOMERISM warning now. I live in Boston, I have rooted for the Red Sox all 24+ years of my life, and I can say, without a doubt, that David Ortiz is the best hitter I’ve seen put on a Red Sox uniform. Forget his career numbers; they don’t matter for the sake of this argument, because his status as a great hitter isn’t what makes him an icon here. It’s more the when and the how than the what.
Here are the facts. In the 85 years prior to David Ortiz signing with the Red Sox in 2003, the team had won zero World Series’. In the 12 years since, they have won three. Before David Ortiz, the question on every Red Sox fan’s mind was “what will go wrong, and when?” Now, the question is, “Why didn’t we win the World Series this year?” That’s an incredible turn around. It’s not all Ortiz’s doing, but he’s certainly played his part. I know as a 24-year-old, the Red Sox did most of their suffering before my time, but I will always have the 2003 ALCS (Ortiz’s first season), so I at least have an idea of what being a Red Sox fan was like BBP (Before Big Papi). I certainly have an idea of what life is like for a Red Sox fan now, and trust me – I don’t want to go back.
I may be beating an old drum here, but David Ortiz’s playoff heroics alone make him deserving of a statue on Yawkey Way. I’m not joking. The Boston Mount Rushmore is a crowded one. You could fill it with Tom Brady, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and Bobby Orr and no one can tell you you’re wrong. Want a Red Sox player on there? Throw in Teddy Ballgame. Point is, it’s easy to leave Ortiz off of it. But the man deserves a statue, and this video explains why better than I ever could:
He walked off the 2004 ALDS. The 2004 ALCS speaks for itself, as Ortiz brought the Red Sox back from the dead twice in 24 hours (people forget that 8th-inning home run in Game Five, which set the stage for his later heroics). He pulled the same routine in the 2013 ALCS with his Game Two grand slam. Saber metrics be damned; David Ortiz is clutch, and you can’t convince me otherwise. When his team needs a boost the most, he produces. Time after time after time after time, he produces.
If the story ended there, I think my case would be made. But it doesn’t. David Ortiz isn’t just a Red Sox. He’s a BOSTON Red Sox, and the distinction matters. After the horrific events at the Boston Marathon in 2013, it was David Ortiz who addressed the crowd in their first game back. With a crowd full of mourning, nervous fans, David Ortiz reminded them of something the city had never forgotten, but needed assurance of, in the wake of terror.
“This is our f***ing city.” Five words that no other Red Sox player in my memory could have said more accurately, on live TV no less.
The point is, 12 years, three championships, four minutes worth of playoff heroics, and an FCC violation later, this is absolutely David Ortiz’s f***ing city. It’s time the people here start acting like it.