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Sports Authority

Ortiz deserves criticism, not love

| Tuesday, February 23, 2016

There is perhaps nothing more unpalatable in sports than farewell tours. Yes, a statement that bold can be at least somewhat attributed to recency bias, given the seemingly never-ending and excruciatingly tiresome onslaught of coverage concerning Kobe Bryant’s final season. But other retirement circuits over the past few years — Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter come to mind — have been comparably obnoxious.

So, when Ben Padanilam suggested yesterday in this space that David Ortiz, who will be playing his last season in 2016, deserves fanfare similar to that of other accomplished athletes who announced retirements prior to their final seasons in recent years, he unmasked a crippling apprehension implanted in me in mid-November when Ortiz announced this upcoming campaign would be the end of the line for him.

Simply put, the 2016 MLB season should not at all be about David Ortiz’s retirement. That Ortiz will be hanging it up after the year should not be a consistent headline-generator but rather a mere footnote from now until October.

Kobe Bryant’s unnecessary closing ceremony, which somehow still has nearly two more months to go, has seemed nothing short of incessant, but a farewell circuit in the NBA pales in comparison to the length of one in baseball, as the MLB’s schedule nearly doubles the number of regular season games.

Furthermore, while it remains slightly confounding to me how Bryant, who statistically has made an already laughably bad team worse for much of the season and has a history that includes (but is not limited to) feuding with teammates and other members of the Lakers organization, marital infidelity and a sexual assault settlement, can be revered nonstop for months — at least Kobe’s accomplishments on the court objectively put him in an elite category with some of the best to ever play his sport. The same cannot be said for Ortiz, who statistically is by no means a surefire Hall of Famer, especially given his one-dimensional value as a designated hitter.

In addition to not having an unequivocally convincing statistical case that might possibly excuse an excessive farewell celebration, Ortiz’s positive 2003 PED test, which coincidentally aligned with a shift in his career from an average hitter to a star, should raise questions about how deserving he is of being celebrated at all. While the failed test has been ignored considerably in the casual fan and media’s perception of Ortiz recently, the test alone could extinguish any shot of him getting elected to the Hall of Fame in the future.

Despite this, I have come to accept that Big Papi will almost undoubtedly be given a significant amount of coverage in his final season. There will never be a season in which the Boston Red Sox don’t get substantial media attention. Ortiz’s contributions — tainted or not — have been an integral part of their historic success that got them that attention.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be cringing every step of the way though.

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