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Padanilam: Stage set for Big Papi’s finale

| Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Just last week, pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. That can only mean one thing: Baseball season is underway.

After a relatively busy offseason, MLB has plenty of headlines that offer promise for an exciting year in the game. The Cubs look poised to improve upon last year’s revelation of a season and potentially break their well documented, 107-season World Series drought. Meanwhile, the reigning champions, the Royals, and the only team that won 100 games in the regular season last year, the Cardinals, are projected to win only 76 and 82 games, respectively, by the Baseball Prospectus PECOTA ratings system.

However, perhaps the biggest headline is the one that carries a more melancholic tone: The 2016 season will be David Ortiz’s last. The slugger has been the heart and soul of the Red Sox ever since he joined the organization in 2003. His nickname, “Big Papi,” doesn’t just represent his larger-than-life status in Boston, but it captures the sentiment of endearment with which he has won over fans throughout all of baseball.

This season will be a farewell tour for David Ortiz, much in the fashion of 2014 for Derek Jeter and 2013 for Mariano Rivera. Well, maybe it won’t be as big as it was for those Yankee legends and guaranteed Hall of Famers.

But it should be.

With 503 home runs in his career and counting, there is no doubt Ortiz is one of the premier power hitters to ever play in the game. Over his 13 years in Boston, Ortiz has averaged a .288 batting average, 34 home runs and 108 RBIs per season. He’s also finished in the top five in MVP voting five times, won six Silver Slugger awards and been named an All-Star nine times while manning the designated hitter spot in the Red Sox lineup. There’s no question his impact on the field has been felt.

Yet Big Papi’s mark on the game is so much more than just a bunch of numbers.

Ortiz has been the leader of three World Series-winning rosters in Boston. In 2004, he led arguably the most memorable comeback in playoff history by hitting walk-offs in Games 4 and 5 of the ALCS to lead the Red Sox to a comeback from 3-0 series deficit against the rival Yankees. Then he helped lead the team to 4-0 sweep over the Cardinals to break Boston’s 86-year “Curse of the Bambino.”

But perhaps his greatest contribution to the organization and the city was that third World Series win in 2013. In April that year, Boston experienced the tragedy that was the Boston Marathon bombings. Before the team’s first home game after the event, Ortiz rallied the fans. He went on to lead the team to another crown, earning the World Series MVP award. His leadership for that team and its city personified the mantra that echoed throughout that year: Boston Strong.

Fortunately for Ortiz, this year should be a good one for the Red Sox on paper. The acquisitions of David Price and Craig Kimbrel bolster a pitching staff and bullpen that were in dire need of some help. I might not be a Red Sox fan, but I hope Ortiz’s farewell tour ends in a way that Jeter’s and Rivera’s didn’t: with the chance to play in October.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

Contact Benjamin