Boston Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski told Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy that Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is the greatest player not named Ted Williams to put on the Red Sox uniform. Yes, that’s right, Big Papi, who has brought three World Series titles to Boston while slugging 397 home runs in 12 seasons in Boston, is the second greatest player in the 114-year history of the franchise in the eyes of the man they called Yaz.
This has reopened the topic of where Ortiz stands in Red Sox lore, which began following the 38-year-old’s amazing performance in the 2013 World Series.
Many have made the case similar to the one Yaz made to Shaughnessy. This is flawed, mind you, as it’s near impossible to make a case for Ortiz being a No. 2 among the many great Red Sox players over the years despite how great he’s been. There’s no way he’s near Williams, considered by many to be the greatest hitter who ever lived, and the last man to hit .400.
An individual who spent most of his life around baseball once said if Williams played at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, he’d have hit 800 home runs.
No. 2? That should be the man who claimed Ortiz was the second-best. Yastrzemski slugged 452 home runs when 500 home runs was the holy grail, and put up 3,419 hits. He was the first player to have 3,000 hits and 400 home runs in the AL, and the last player to win the Triple Crown before Miguel Cabrera did it in 2012. He was the only AL player to hit .300 in 1968, the year of the pitcher.
Yaz could hit, run, field, throw and so much more. He’s the greatest all-around player in Red Sox history. Williams might be Babe Ruth, but Yastrzemski is Willie Mays.
Canonizing Ortiz as No. 2 is similar to those who get a little to far ahead of themselves on the man who currently wears No. 2. You know, those who say New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is one of the greatest to put on pinstripes, and that he’s just as good, if not better than the likes of Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra.
The truth is that the championship performances, the beaming smile and the big hits all cloud our judgement, and shoots Big Papi up the all-time board — even though he wasn’t the all-around player that Yaz, Dwight Evans, or Nomar Garciaparra were. It lets us forget that Big Papi wasn’t even best Red Sox hitter of his era (that would be Manny Ramirez, best hitter the Red Sox have had since Williams).
Moreover, No Red Sox player dominated the game of baseball the way Pedro Martinez did between 1998-2004.
That takes nothing away from Ortiz, of course. He’s the face of the Red Sox’ golden era, in which the franchise has won three World Series titles and became an international brand. He should end up in Cooperstown. The No. 34 will be on right field facade someday. A good case can be made for Ortiz being among the top five Red Sox players ever.
But let’s pump the brakes on putting him up there with — let alone above — Yaz and Ted.