Red Sox's Disappointing ALDS Sweep Ends Iconic David Ortiz Era on Down Note

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterOctober 11, 2016

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 10:  David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox tips his cap after the Cleveland Indians defeated the Boston Red Sox 4-3 in game three of the American League Divison Series to advance to the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 10, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

He was supposed to be wiping champagne from his eyes, rather than tears.

It was supposed to end that way for David Ortiz. Not this way.

That's what I thought. That's what we all thought.

But it did end this way Monday night at Fenway Park. It ended with the Cleveland Indians celebrating a sweep of Ortiz's Boston Red Sox and the Fenway fans celebrating Ortiz's career one more time.

"Pa-pi! Pa-pi!" they chanted in the eighth inning as Ortiz left for a pinch runner in the middle of a rally that seemed destined to send this American League Division Series into Tuesday and beyond.

"Pa-pi! Pa-pi!" they chanted again after that rally and a ninth-inning rally fell short, as the Indians charged onto the field at the end of a thrilling 4-3 Game 3 win.

Ortiz was already gone by then, up the tunnel to the Red Sox clubhouse the moment the final out settled into Lonnie Chisenhall's glove in right field. He returned a few minutes later, walking alone to the Fenway mound, acknowledging the cheers from fans who had to be disappointed but were not devastated.

Ortiz was responsible for some of each emotion, because his 1-for-9 in the series contributed to the Boston power outage that sent him home earlier than expected. But no one in New England can feel devastated, for the simple reason that Ortiz's 14-year Red Sox career forever changed the way we will think of this franchise.

He arrived in 2003, when the Curse of the Bambino was in full force. He leaves with the curse a distant memory, with three World Series rings and too many big moments to mention.

He leaves a team that is in fine shape for the future, with a lineup filled with great young talent and even more on the way. Ortiz was an MVP candidate at age 40 in his fantastic final season, but the likelier winner is Mookie Betts, the superb right fielder who turned 24 on Friday.

Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. couldn't deliver enough for Ortiz against the Indians, and 21-year-old Yoan Moncada proved in September that he wasn't yet ready to give the Red Sox another spark.

But the franchise is in good hands, and it's no shame to lose a best-of-five series to an Indians team that now becomes the favorite to go to the World Series and try to end its own championship drought.

Ortiz and Francona won together with the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox (above), but Francona's Indians ended Ortiz's career Monday.
Ortiz and Francona won together with the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox (above), but Francona's Indians ended Ortiz's career Monday.Winslow Townson/Associated Press

"They played unbelievable baseball, and that's what the game is all about," Ortiz said at a press conference.

He congratulated Terry Francona, the manager who won the first two of those three World Series crowns with Ortiz in Boston and has now turned the Indians franchise around.

We're shortchanging Francona and his team with all this Papi focus, but if I know Tito, he'll understand and won't mind. He knows what Ortiz meant to Boston and baseball, and he could feel as well as anyone how much Monday's game was about the iconic Red Sox star.

It was that way with each at-bat, with everyone understanding this could be Ortiz's final game. It was that way in the sixth inning, when Ortiz's sacrifice fly cut the Indians' lead to 4-2. It was that way even more in the eighth, when Ortiz came to the plate representing the tying run.

Francona went to closer Cody Allen, and Allen didn't throw Ortiz a single strike. Ortiz walked to first base and waved his arms to ask the fans for more noise. When Hanley Ramirez followed with a single that made it 4-3, Red Sox manager John Farrell had no choice but to pinch run for Ortiz at second base.

He left to cheers and chants, and then he stood on the top step of the dugout, a cheerleader for the rest of this game and perhaps the rest of his life.

He wanted it to go on, but it wasn't to be.

"What [the Indians] did to us, we were expecting to do to them, because we thought we were the best team," Ortiz said. "In the playoffs, it's not about the best, it's about who played the best. And they played the best."

So often, it was Ortiz who played the best in October. In 85 postseason games, he drove in 61 runs, tied with his longtime rival Derek Jeter for the fourth most of all time (behind Bernie Williams, Manny Ramirez and David Justice).

Ortiz was the Most Valuable Player of the famous 2004 American League Championship Series against Jeter's New York Yankees, and also of the 2013 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. His grand slam in the 2013 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers stands as one of the most dramatic moments in recent baseball history.

There was nothing like that in this series, not for him and not for the Red Sox. But there was a moment, and it came when Ortiz walked to the mound after it was over.

He had already spoken to his teammates, telling them they should be proud of their worst-to-first season and optimistic about their future. He walked to the field with cameras all around him, and he went to the mound with the realization this really was going to be it.

"I've been trying to hold my emotions," he said. "At that last second, I couldn't hold it anymore."

He'll be back at Fenway for sure, back to see friends and back for a number retirement ceremony sometime in the future. But as he walked off the field wiping away a tear, he knew he wouldn't ever be back as an active player.

There's sadness in that, for sure. He loved playing, and even many who don't care a bit about the Red Sox loved watching him play.

But imagine the sadness this sweep would have brought in the days before Ortiz first wore a Red Sox uniform. In his 14 seasons, a curse was reversed and a franchise was changed.

If this was the way it had to end, that will have to be just fine.

    

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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