Fans will remember him for bringing three World Series championships to Boston, but some forget that Big Papi started his career with the Minnesota Twins. And in some ways, Ortiz doesn't want to remember his time in Minnesota, either.
“[Former Twins general manager] Terry Ryan doesn’t feel bad just because he let me go,” Ortiz said, per Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He feels bad because he also knows the Twins treated me bad.”
Ortiz made his major league debut with the Twins in 1997. He played six big league seasons with the club and was on the 2002 Minnesota team that won in the American League Division Series. Since then, the Twins haven't reached the American League Championship Series.
Big Papi was the No. 9 hitter in a lineup that featured star outfielder Torii Hunter. Jacque Jones hit 27 home runs that year for Minnesota, which also had a star pitcher on the rise in Johan Santana.
Had Ortiz stayed in Minnesota, he thinks the results would've been better.
“The Twins would’ve won another World Series,” he said, per Reusse.
However, the team released him in December 2002. He then signed with the Red Sox and went on to become a nine-time All-Star. Two years later, he was a member of the 2004 World Series championship team that broke the 86-year championship-less curse in Boston.
“Anyone who says [releasing Ortiz] was a financial decision is dead wrong,” Ryan said, per Reusse. “It was a very bad baseball decision. We thought we had better options. We were wrong in a big way. It’s on me, nobody else. I’m the general manager. We don’t release big league players without the general manager’s approval.”
After Ortiz left, the Twins added future All-Stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. While the Twins won five more American League Central titles, they never got out of the ALDS again.
Had Ortiz stayed, they could've had the best offense in baseball for a number of years and may have even won a World Series or two.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.