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BOSTON — It would be difficult, if not impossible, to make a better impression on Hall of Fame candidates than Red Sox legend David Ortiz in his final season of 2016..
Big Papi announced on his 40th birthday — Nov. 18, 2015 — that the following season would be his last.
The great slugger spent his last season torturing his opponents and bashing baseball like a man in his prime.
Consider that Ortiz — who is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time — had the most doubles (a career high of 48), homers (38), RBIs (127) and extra bases (87) for any player in history in a final season. His 1.021 OPS was tops in the American League.
He also had the highest total Offensive WAR (5.1), OPS+ min. total bases (333), and plate appearances were the most notable statistics for any AL/NL player during his last year before retirement. Before he was expelled from the game, Shoeless Joe Jackson had a 7.4 OWAR, 172 OP+ and 336 total base performance in his last 1920 season.
“I think everyone wants to do that,” Ortiz said. However, I don’t believe anyone ever retires after putting up a year like that. Ortiz spoke to MLB.com in a recent telephone conversation.
Ortiz was not indecision about his career ending. Ortiz was done, and there was no going back.
Ortiz stated, “If you look at a man who is about to retire you don’t expect him to retire with numbers such as that.” “But I was done man. “I ran out of gas.”
The top reason Ortiz decided that ’16 would be it was a nagging right Achilles that had dogged him since July of ’12.
Ortiz stated, “To be completely honest with you, because I knew that injuries could happen, I took better care of myself that season.” “All the pain in my Achilles was why I quit that season,” Ortiz said. The rest of my body was fine.
Ortiz knew the end was near and worked overtime to ensure he could produce every day.
“I can tell you that I put in a lot of effort the last season to make it possible to perform. I was getting to the field at 11: 30 for a 7 p.m. game,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz’s dedication to staying on the field paid off from the first day of the season when he ripped the first of his 38 homers of ’16 on a frigid Opening Day in Cleveland.
In his final act, Ortiz left a few moments that will be remembered. Take, for example, May 14 at Fenway against the Astros when he tripled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and then had his 23rd and final career walk-off hit – a two-out double – in the 11th. That day, he was just one out of the cycle.
Ortiz was 4-for-4 eight days later playing at home against Cleveland. He had two doubles and a walk-off homer. Ortiz would likely have reached for his first career cycle if it wasn’t for his second double that bounced into the bullpen in the right-center triangle area.
He was a man on mission every season. Why not continue his mission into 2017??
Ortiz stated that the baseball game was so amazing to him, but that he couldn’t disregard it because of money. “I could have signed, and said, ‘OK. I’m going back to play next year.’ But what about the next? What happens if I can’t play because of an injury? You are not getting older. My decision to retire was made because I was getting older. These other players could be my children. This is something that I was concerned about.
Ortiz’s first encounter with Ortiz was when the opposing team made a pitching change. Players from the other team came to talk to him.
“I can remember hitting a double at Seattle [in 2015] one time,” Ortiz said. They got a new pitcher and you know how the infielders come around you to talk, I look around and everyone was like 21, 22,” Ortiz said. “I was like, “Oh man.” The same thing happened in Tampa and Houston, and that was when [forget it]. was my age. “I’m done for next season.”
It was a spectacular finale for the ages. Ortiz’s records in homers and doubles, total bases, OPS, and total bases still stand as the best by any player in his 40s. Ortiz was accompanied by Mookie Betts and Xander Bogards, emerging stars who won the AL East title with 93 wins.
“I was all in that year. Ortiz said, “I was all in.”
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