Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz wanted the team to pursue Nelson Cruz and re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury this past offseason. He wants the Sox to put all their eggs in one basket and go after Giancarlo Stanton. He wants Ben Cherington to go for broke. He wants to buy the world. Don’t we all?
Ortiz told the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo that the Red Sox need to put together a great team — one that can compete for a World Series title — in 2015. He told Cafardo that he’s gone up the backstairs and requested that Cherington sign specific players. He wants to be a part of a lineup that emulated that of 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and even 2013 in which they could mash the baseball, score in bunches, and punish opposing pitchers mistakes.
And he’s not wrong in wanting that. This isn’t an Ortiz antic of whining about his contract or publicly showing up official scorers for doing their job. A man with a reputation for not running out ground balls, Ortiz is going full speed down the first base line in an attempt to make his team better, and get them out of last place.
It’s not a place Ortiz necessarily needs to go to, either. He’s having another fine season, ranking among the American League leaders in home runs (26) and RBIs (82). Barring injury or a bad slump, Ortiz will record his eighth 30-100 season since 2003.
But what the 38-year-old slugger sees is a .246 batting average and .832 OPS that is more than 100 points below his OPS of .953 in a Red Sox uniform. He sees an offense that is at the bottom of the American League in runs scored (437) and near the bottom in batting average (13th, .246) and OPS (13th, .691). And above all, he sees a team mired in the basement of the AL East at 51-64.
Ortiz isn’t concerned about his own numbers. He’s concerned about this team getting back to where it should be, where they were in 2013. He’s concerned about winning. And he can’t do it all himself, as very few can.
The biggest element of Ortiz’s comments? He’s saying what we’re all saying. This lineup needs a bat to compliment Ortiz and put Dustin Pedroia back in the two-hole where he belongs. Yoenis Cespedes could be that answer, time will tell. Maybe Xander Bogaerts or Will Middlebrooks will be that guy at some point, but that’s a risky bet at this juncture. It could be outside the organization with Stanton or Matt Kemp. While it’s easy to say Cherington should have gone after Cruz given the year he’s had, maybe you go harder after him this offseason.
While it was understood why Ellsbury wouldn’t be retained, why wouldn’t Ortiz want him atop the lineup for the foreseeable future? He was a crucial piece of the 2013 team and when healthy had been the best leadoff hitter in baseball for the last five years.
Don’t blame Ortiz for wanting to be on a competitive team, as every athlete worth their salt wants. Don’t blame Ortiz for wanting to win another ring or two. Like Shaquille O’Neal once said, when you win once you want to win twice and when you win a second time you want to win a third time. Ortiz is a guy who has won three times who wants to win a fourth, and with his 39th birthday just over three months away, he’s battling Father Time, who has more rings than anyone.
There are plenty of things Ortiz has done over the years that you can criticize him for. Wanting to be in the best position to win ballgames isn’t one of them.