400 home runs.
No concern for any jinx here.
David Ortiz will soon become the sixth player to hit his 400th career home run while wearing a Red Sox uniform. Too bad his most memorable home run doesn't even count toward that total:
There are some clips you can never watch enough.
Ortiz burns as the brightest spot in an otherwise all-too-tepid and mediocre 2012 Red Sox season. He came to spring training lighter, leaner and meaner and has been slapping the ball ever since. He's no longer too proud to hit away from the shift and is gotten aggressive with lefties. He's swinging the most-powerful and consistent bat in the Red Sox lineup this season (21 home runs, 53 RBI, .308 average and an all-important 1.020 OPS after 75 games). Ortiz is posting these numbers at age 36 during a period of wide-spread PED testing - which makes them that much more impressive. Ortiz is on the ultimate performance-enhancing substance this season - a one-year contract.
Redemption. With his reported positive test for a banned substance in 2003, Ortiz will have to battle the steroid era asterisk when it comes time to talk Hall of Fame. Every home run will always carry some form of tiny doubt. But batters weren't the only ones who presumably used back in the day (even if they were acquitted of federal perjury charges). The entire game was being played on a warped scale and still Ortiz soared above his competition - especially in the clutch.
Oritz has a mostly-love-but-sometimes-hate relationship with fans. He's never spit at the Fenway Faithful, like Ted Williams did. But he has consistently complained about the "drama" involved playing for the Red Sox. Last week, Ortiz referred to Boston as being close to the "(expletive)hole that it used to be." It's that same "drama" propelling those Fenway "sellouts" and generating the revenue that allows his employers to pay him $14.58 million to do nothing but hit and play first base in National League ballparks. Last October, at the low-point of Chicken and Beer, Ortiz committed the nearly unforgivable sin of admitting he thought about playing for the Yankees because there was "too much drama" in Boston.
There's never any drama in New York.
Ortiz remains a rarity in Red Sox Lore - a non-white player who is widely viewed as the face of the franchise. He's joins Luis Tiant, Jim Rice, Mo Vaughn and Pedro Martinez on that wicked short list. It adds just another layer to his historic impact on the Red Sox franchise. Ortiz embodies many of the qualities we've always demanded of stars on the Red Sox - clutch performance, leadership, openness (sometimes to a fault), a willingness to accept blame and, most importantly, a dynamic personality. He does all the right things in the community and says what fans and teammates want and need to hear. This season, more importantly, he's kept the Red Sox a viable offense threat (the team is 2nd in the majors with 397 runs after 76 games) with the likes of Brent Lillibridge, Darnell McDonald, Scott Podsednik and Che-Hsuan Lin at various times in the starting lineup.
His players-only team-meeting of May 11 has been widely credited with sparking the Red Sox second turnaround of the season. And lost in the April weekend scarred by that historic 15-9 loss to the Yankees on April 21 when the Red Sox blew a nine-run lead, was this simple message tweeted after the Red Sox game the next night was mercifully rained out:
Stuck at the airport trying to go to Minnesota ....... It's don't matter we are the sox!!!!!! New england city of hope!!!!We will be back!!— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) April 23, 2012
Geographical glitch aside, it was a glimpse of hope amid a flood of hopelessness. The mark of a leader in 140 characters or less.
And there was this prediction sent hours before the Red Sox beat Justin Verlander on May 29:
Good day to get over 500!!!!See you guys at Fenway ....go sox...34— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) May 29, 2012
Profiles in courage - 2012 edition.
Ortiz's production this season has led to reasoned speculation that he might be around to hit No. 500 in a Red Sox uniform. My Red Sox psyche has enough trouble dealing with life after Labor Day, never mind into 2015. The biggest threat to Ortiz this season could be the return of Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury to the lineup. With Ellsbury on base and Crawford in the on-deck circle, walking Ortiz will be looking better and better as his numbers get higher and higher. But those are lofty goals and speculative concerns most Red Sox fans will be happy to wrestle with.
2012 is becoming one long farewell tour in Boston - Jason Varitek, Tim Thomas, Tim Wakefield, possibly Ray Allen. Ortiz isn't going anywhere - at least until the final out to the World Series. It's poetically fitting that Ortiz is the final hold-over from the 2004 team since 341 of his first 399 career home runs came in a Red Sox uniform. Whether No. 450 comes with Boston, Tampa Bay or Anaheim, Ortiz and the Red Sox are forever linked.
As it should be.
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