Move over, Reggie Jackson. There's a new "Mr. October" in baseball lore.
After leading the 2013 Red Sox to a World Series title, dominating St. Louis pitching on a superhuman level (.688/.760/1.188) and capturing the World Series MVP, David Ortiz has surpassed Reggie Jackson as the player that should be synonymous with October baseball.
Reggie Jackson was smart to copyright Mr. October. David Ortiz could have every right to steal it otherwise.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) October 29, 2013
Jackson is not taking kindly to all of this chatter of Ortiz supplanting him and his famous nickname, however (h/t to The Boston Herald):
"Don't say nothing silly now," the former Yankees slugger told HuffPost Live. He did a great job (in the playoffs). But there's only one 'Mr. October,'" said Jackson.
In 2004, Ortiz was still a relative unknown. His emergence as a legitimate complement to future Hall of Fame (or so we assumed before failed PED tests) slugger Manny Ramirez in Boston's lineup helped end a curse and bring a MLB title to Boston for the first time in 86 years. In 2007, Ortiz was the Red Sox star, in the midst of five straight top-five finishes on the AL MVP ballot and on the path to catching Edgar Martinez atop the all-time designated hitter ranks.
Now, in the biggest surprise of all, Ortiz is the face of baseball in 2013. His team shocked the baseball world by emerging from the AL East cellar the previous season to win the division and bring a World Series celebration to the Fenway Park field for the first time since World War I.
As Red Sox starter Jake Peavy said in the above video, "David's a game-changer. He's as clutch as anyone I can remember playing with or against."
David Ortiz's reemergence as the Red Sox alpha dog and October monster is the most improbable story of all here. Over a decade ago, the Twins released Ortiz, setting the stage for his star to shine bright in Boston. Castaway to stardom is a tale that will live forever, but when Ortiz hit .238 and posted a 102 OPS+ in 2009, his story seemed to be ending abruptly.
Four years later, his latest career resurgence set the stage for another trip to October and for his reputation as a leader and clutch performer to match and surpass the postseason career numbers of baseball's former Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.
When comparing the World Series credentials of Ortiz and Jackson, a major theme emerges: Ortiz has been more prolific, but Jackson appeared on the big stage more often, boosting the numbers and memories of baseball fans.
Of course, the postseason landscape was vastly different during Jackson's career. Drafted in 1966, Jackson emerged as a star for the Athletics as baseball instituted the LCS for each league. Prior to 1969, the playoffs didn't exist in the tournament version we now know. But, for the remainder of Jackson's career, aside from a quirk in 1981 due to the players' strike, the League Division Series didn't exist.
In total, Jackson appeared in 17 postseason series. Five were on the biggest stage, 11 in the LCS and one in the ALDS.
While the former Mr. October deserves credit for leading his team to the World Series on five separate occasions, it's impossible to know if his Oakland and New York teams would have been able to navigate through the postseason format of today.
Ortiz, ironically, now has competed in the exact same number of postseason series as Jackson. Due to the rule changes, the breakdown is far different for Big Papi: eight ALDS, six ALCS and three World Series.
Regardless of the title or format, Jackson and Ortiz are now on even footing when it comes to determining October greatness. As the numbers show, the battle for postseason supremacy isn't a fair fight.
For as good as Jackson was in the World Series, his total body of October work simply doesn't match that of Ortiz's. Ortiz may never have a singular game like Jackson's three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, but Jackson was never as locked in for one series as Ortiz looked to be in this past Fall Classic.
Reggie Jackson's best on-base percentage for any singular playoff series was a .542 mark in the aforementioned 1977 World Series. On the path to earning 2013 World Series MVP, Ortiz posted an on-base percentage over 200 points better (.760).
In Game 6 on Wednesday evening, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny waived the white flag by intentionally walking Ortiz three separate times. Prior to the game, NBC Sports Radio host Brian Kenny and I spoke about why walking Ortiz, despite how locked in he was, could lead to big innings for the Red Sox. Ultimately, they did and helped serve as St. Louis' undoing. Matheny knew the risks, yet still had Ortiz escorted down the first base line on three separate occasions.
As Bleacher Report's Adam Wells pointed out, Ortiz's 2013 World Series ranks among the single greatest in the history of the sport along with Jackson in 1977, Hideki Matsui in 2009 and Barry Bonds in 2002.
When the bat was taken out of Ortiz's hands in Game 6, the scene was reminiscent of Bonds in 2002. During the seven-game series with the Anaheim Angels, Barry Bonds was intentionally walked seven times. Despite the risks of handing the San Francisco Giants free runs, Anaheim knew the pros outweighed the cons in the strategy.
The moment Ortiz reached that IBB pinnacle, something Reggie Jackson never did, the debate was over.
Who deserves the moniker of 'Mr. October'?
When future generations debate the legends of October, the similarities—not differences—between Ortiz and Jackson should be at the forefront of discussion. Both were stars, clutch hitters, left-handed bats and polarizing figures.
For Jackson, he dealt with hate surrounding his personality and constant clashes with Yankees manager Billy Martin. For Ortiz, the incessant fixation on his inclusion in the 2003 "doping list" has clouded his past, present and future for some fans.
Distractions aside, they dominated when everything was on the line. Reggie Jackson did it better than anyone, until David Ortiz came along.
Who is the true 'Mr. October'?
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