David Ortiz, Red Sox Look Headed for 1 More Exciting Run Together

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2016

Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz celebrates his two-run homer against the New York Yankees in the eighth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park on Friday, April 29, 2016, in Boston. The Red Sox won 4-2. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox share a treasure trove of beautiful memories. Busting one of professional sports' most infamous championship droughts and then winning two more titles to boot will do that for you.

Now, in Ortiz's final season, Boston and Big Papi appear primed for one more run.

After pounding the hated rival New York Yankees 8-0 Saturday at Fenway Park, Boston sits at 14-10, a half-game out of first in the American League East.

And after going 2-for-3 in that game with a home run, Ortiz owns a .321 average and 1.071 OPS with five big flies and 19 RBI.

It didn't have to be this way. Ortiz is 40, an age when even the most talented players often crumble.

And the Red Sox are coming off a dreadful 2015 campaign that saw them limp to a second consecutive last-place finish.

Yes, Boston and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski added big pieces this winter, including All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel and ace left-hander David Price. But the Red Sox went on a shopping spree prior to the 2015 season—handing headline-grabbing deals to Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez—and we know how that worked out.

So far, however, with their veteran designated hitter sipping from the fountain of youth that apparently bubbles somewhere in Beantown, the Sox are rolling. 

Ortiz seems to be sipping from the fountain of youth in his swan-song season.
Ortiz seems to be sipping from the fountain of youth in his swan-song season.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Yes—caveat alert—it's early. Nothing is guaranteed, and the AL East is stacked top to bottom with flawed-yet-plausible contenders.

The powerful Baltimore Orioles are currently the surprise first-place squad. The Toronto Blue Jays boast ample firepower of their own. The pitching-rich Tampa Bay Rays are a small-market success story waiting to happen, and the Yankees, lousy start aside, are always dangerous.

Still, the Red Sox faithful have got to love what they're seeing. Before we drill deeper into Ortiz's hot start, let's look at some other things that are going right in Boston.

Price has endured an up-and-down April, racking up 46 strikeouts in 29.2 innings but posting an unsightly 5.76 ERA through five starts.

Other starters, however, have picked up the slack. After tossing seven shutout innings Saturday, sinkerballer Rick Porcello lowered his ERA to 2.76. And right-hander Steven Wright, who slid into the rotation because of a spring knee injury to Eduardo Rodriguez, sports a 1.37 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 26.1 innings.

Speaking of unexpected contributors, Travis Shaw—who wrested the third base job from an out-of-shape Sandoval—is hitting .314. 

Add the continued emergence of shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Mookie Betts and a stellar start from second baseman Dustin Pedroia (.311 average and .846 OPS), and you're looking at a lineup that paces the Junior Circuit in runs scored.

Contributions from youngsters like Mookie Betts along with Ortiz's output have helped Boston score the most runs in the AL.
Contributions from youngsters like Mookie Betts along with Ortiz's output have helped Boston score the most runs in the AL.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Which brings us back to Big Papi. Even at his ripe old age, with more than 9,000 big league plate appearances under his belt, Ortiz remains the backbone of the Red Sox's offense. 

And lest you think his strong April showing is some sort of small-sample mirage, remember: Amid all of Boston's woes, Ortiz hit 37 home runs last year, his highest total since 2006. And he's eclipsed 30 homers and 100 RBI in each of the last three campaigns. 

Yes, he's getting long in the tooth. But there's no reason to assume he can't continue to perform at a high level, as FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan outlined: "Through 39, David Ortiz hasn’t changed very much. He's protected much of his game from the usual consequences of age, and for that reason, we should expect that 40 will bring its own share of glorious moments."

Will that include punching a postseason ticket for the first time since 2013, when Boston won the most recent of its trio of 21st century championships and Ortiz hit five jacks and drove in 13 runs in 16 games?

If the offense can keep clicking, Price finds his ace game and the rest of the rotation and revamped bullpen hold up their end of the bargain, why not?

Here's another intriguing query: If a deep playoff push doesn't happen—or even if it does—might Ortiz consider delaying retirement one more year?

He teased the possibility recently. "If I get bored I'll just call up the Red Sox and tell them to activate me again," he told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.

Chances are, he was kidding. Then again, who knows?

Sometimes, when you make beautiful memories, the temptation is strong to make some more.

All statistics current as of April 30 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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