Even Tom Brady, the other “clutchest ever” guy in town, will let today be his day, albeit with an assist to Roger Goodell.
David Ortiz will be honored around 2 p.m., some time before the end of the first half of the New England Patriots game with the Buffalo Bills.
The Red Sox promise it will be his final, final, final good-bye.
Sure, it’s been a long good-bye, with every city bidding him adieu in its own special way. Ortiz has been a good soldier the entire route. He’s stood up at home plate. He’s smiled. He’s hugged. He’s received his gift. And he’s moved on.
Today will not only be the last, but it will be different. This will be the one with the tears. Carl Yastrzemski doesn’t show up much at Fenway Park these days, preferring to watch every game in his Boxford home, but I’m guessing “The Captain,” will get his hug in, too.
Where is Ortiz’s place in baseball history?
Can everyone admit, particularly the Baseball Writers of American, that Ortiz is a baseball Hall of Famer? His place in history — through Friday 17th in homers (541), 22nd in RBI (1,768) and 10th in doubles (632) — is cemented.
Yes, he was likable. Yes, he had a huge, contagious smile. But for 20 years, particularly the last 14 with the Red Sox, he was among the best of his generation.
As a designated hitter? Done deal. He’s the all-time best.
The interesting question is Ortiz’s place in Red Sox history.
Did Ortiz do enough to surpass Ted Williams as “The Greatest Red Sox Player Who Ever Lived”?
Could be a great discussion for some high school debate class. Williams had appreciably better numbers in a few categories -- .344 batting average vs. .286 for Ortiz; 709 strikeouts vs. 1,748 for Ortiz; and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) with Williams at 1.116 vs. .931 for Ortiz.
And Williams, remember, missed three seasons due to World War II, in which he flew an amazing 39 combat missions as a Marine pilot, out of baseball from age 24-26.
But Ortiz did something Williams couldn’t do. He beat the Yankees — seemingly singlehandedly in several games in the 2004 ALCS — and three times he led the Red Sox to a World Series title.
Better yet, his performance in the 2013 postseason, hitting a game-tying grand slam (Sox were down 5-1) in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers was special. He trumped that with a .688 batting average — 11 for 16, 2 HRs, 6 RBI — in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ranking athletes based on championships is a new development. Most great athletes before the turn of the century were ranked for their production.
If Williams, who passed away in 2002, or even Yastrzemski, now 77, knew then what they know now, that championships supersede statistics, I’m guessing both would’ve pressed ownership to put better talent around them, like the Yankees always did.
Ortiz had something going for him that Williams and Yaz did not. He wasn’t born and bred in the Red Sox system, which for decades had a Yankees complex. Ortiz arrived here via Minnesota afraid of nothing on the baseball diamond, especially fastballs.
Finally besting the Yankees the way they did in 2004 — Ortiz had two walk-off hits after the Sox trailed the series 3-0 — changed the course of this franchise forever.
Ortiz had his moments with the media, with his yearly contract disputes, his friendliness toward Yankees players and his appearing to be finished a few times several years ago.
His positive personality, however, always won out in the end.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that he’d put up another 30 homers and 100 RBI.
There have been a few times when Ortiz called team meetings, with the game going on, in the dugout. He was animated and unwilling to accept defeat.
It’s a tough one, comparing Williams and Ortiz. But this season, which might earn him league MVP honors, might’ve sealed the deal.
In my book, it has.
It says here that Ortiz is the greatest Red Sox player who ever lived. Later today, there will be tears to prove it.
Then the Red Sox and Ortiz can do what they’ve done best. Win. Maybe even a fourth World Series title.