I'm not sure if David Ortiz is finished.
The evidence is mounting, I'll admit. And were I one to take eight days worth of production and render a verdict, well, it would be time to give Big Papi the rocking chair treatment and wish him well as he heads out to a future that I imagine would include lots of fake laughter on a studio set somewhere.
But Terry Francona isn't going to give up on Ortiz today, tomorrow or next week. History (and a Tuesday appearance on the Dale & Holley Show) has taught us that. It'll take a healthy stretch of hitting .150 before we see a significant change at the DH position. So we'll leave that alone for now.
However, I think we can assume that the peak of Ortiz' career has past. It is now safe to look at him in a historical context and ask questions such as this:
Is David Oritz one of the 10 best hitters in Red Sox history?
The fast answer, for me anyway, was "yes." But when you start going over the candidates you are quickly reminded that this isn't the Marlins or Padres. The Red Sox have had some serious A-listers over the last century-plus.
Do the five prime years (2003-07) offered by Ortiz earn a spot on this list? Let's take a look ...
1. Ted Williams (1939-61)
David Ortiz' best season with the Red Sox, of course, was 2006. Club-record 54 homers, 137 RBI (both totals led the league.) A truly great season by any standard. Well, almost any standard.
It was also the only time in Ortiz' career that he posted a slugging percentage (.636) that was higher than Ted Williams' career mark (.634.) And Papi's OPS for 2006 (1.049) was well short of Teddy Ballgame's career number (1.116.)
So David Ortiz isn't Ted Williams. Stunner, right? But you and I were there in 2006 and saw what Ortiz did, the level he was at as a hitter. Probably as good as most of us will ever see from a Red Sox player. Well, Ted Williams was that good for his entire career, if not a little better. When you think about that it's easy to understand why Williams and Babe Ruth are the only real candidates for the title of Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived.
2. Carl Yastrzemski (1961-83)
For some reason I always want to fight the idea that Yaz is an all-time great. Because he played for so long it's easy to fall into the "Yaz was just a compiler" trap. And it's true that for the last decade or so of his career he gave the Red Sox a steady diet of .280-18-80 seasons. If some guy started his career in 1971 and retired in 1983 while putting up the same numbers that Yaz did in those seasons he wouldn't be remembered today. In his final 14 years, Yaz led the league in a total of one offensive category (93 runs in 1974.)
No, it is what he did from 1963-70 that made Carl Yastrzemski a bona-fide, can't-even-argue-it immortal. He led the league in the following categories during that span:
Three batting titles (1963, 1967, 1968)
Hits (1963, 1967)
Doubles (1963, 1965, 1966)
Runs (1967, 1970)
Home Runs (1967)
Walks (1963, 1968)
OBP (1963, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970)
Slugging (1965, 1967, 1970)
Total Bases (1967, 1970)
That's 24 in an eight-year stretch. How good is that? Well, do you think Ernie Banks was a great player? Hall of Famer, two-time MVP, 512 career homers. In his 19-year career he led the National League in a total of eight offensive categories (including IBB twice, which I guess we'll allow). Dave Winfield is another first-ballot Hall of Famer. He has 465 career homers and 3,110 hits. Total categories led? Three. Getting the idea? Need one more example? No? Well, I do. Let's take one more Hall of Famer and a member of the 3,000/500 club, Eddie Murray. (The other three members of that club? Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Rafael Palmeiro. In other news, I hate the steroid era.) Steady Eddie led the league in a whopping four categories in his career.
So three absolute slam dunk Hall of Famers, in a combined 62 seasons, led the league in 15 categories, or nine fewer than Yaz in an eight-year stretch.
Time to wave the flag on the "Is Yaz an all-time great?" argument, I guess.
3. Jimmie Foxx (1936-42)
I think the 1939 Red Sox would have to get my vote as the team that would have been the most fascinating to follow on a day-to-day basis. Think about it. You have all the characters. Ted Williams as a rookie, ready to change the way people thought about hitting. The grizzled vets were well represented with guys like Foxx, Doc Cramer and Lefty Grove. Plus a player-manager in Joe Cronin. (I still think a player-manager could work today. You don't think Jason Varitek could play twice a week and handle all the manager's stuff?) And, in his final major-league season, a backup catcher named Moe Berg, who I always image carrying a movie camera and notebook on all road trips, ready to spring into whatever it is spies spring into.
Foxx played just six-plus seasons in Boston, but he was so productive in those years that he has to finish in the third spot on this list. He's second in club history in on-base percentage and slugging, and tied for fifth with a .320 batting average. He won the 1938 AL MVP with the Sox after leading the league with 50 homers (a Red Sox record for 68 years) and 175 RBI (still a club record and a total that led the league by 29 that season). Though historically best remembered as the leader of Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's clubs of the late 1920s and early '30s (and also by film buffs as the inspiration for the Tom Hanks character in "A League of Their Own"), Foxx was, in his six-plus seasons in Boston, the very definition of a slugger.
4. Tris Speaker (1907-15)
Which do you think we'll see first, another MVP with the first name "Tris" or one with the nickname "The Grey Eagle?"
Speaker was a regular in the Red Sox lineup for his last seven seasons in Boston, and in each of those years he finished in the league's top 10 in on-base-percentage, slugging and batting average. A brilliant defensive player by every account (449 career outfield assists), Speaker was AL MVP in 1912, batting .383 with a .464 OBP for the eventual World Series champs.
5. Wade Boggs (1982-91)
Think he would have been a Theo Epstein kind of player? Wade played in the wrong decade. He would have been a $150 million player today. Boggs finished his Red Sox career with an on-base percentage of .428, good for third on the team's all-time chart. And I'm willing to submit that his .428 OBP in 7,323 plate appearances with the Sox is more impressive than Foxx's .429 in 3,934.
Of course, if you believe what you read about that era, Foxx managed to put up these titanic numbers while stumbling around like Dudley Moore, so maybe he deserves extra credit. Though I never read about Foxx drinking 64 beers on a cross-country flight ...
6. Manny Ramirez (2001-08)
Tough call between Boggs and Manny. Honestly, it came down to this: One guy might have been taking fertility drugs while he was in Boston, and the other guy probably spent a great deal of his time begging women NOT to take fertility drugs. Have to go with the latter in a tie-breaker situation.
I have a feeling that history is going to focus more on the "Manny being Manny" stuff, which is kind of shame. There might have been two or three more valuable hitters in baseball over Manny from 2001-08, but that would be about it.
7. Jim Rice (1974-89)
I'm sure there are people who think that Rice belongs ahead of Manny on this list, but these are probably the same people that claim Rice, with his own hands, built a 40,000 square-foot home made only with the remains of the bats he broke on check swings during his career.
I've written the "Jim Rice was overrated" bit enough over the last couple of years, so let's focus on the good: From 1977-79 Rice was the best hitter in the American League. For another eight or so years in his career he was an above-average power hitter, putting up enough .300-20-100 seasons to make his Baseball-Reference page look the home of a Hall of Famer.
It should be noted, however, that even at his best Jim Ed wasn't the hitter Manny was at his peak. In 1978 (his MVP season), Rice slugged .600 with an OBP of .370. Manny beat that slugging mark five times in his seven full seasons in Boston and the OBP total in all seven. The truth is that Manny is closer to number two on this list than he is to number seven.
8. David Ortiz (2004-present)
And here we are. I could have bumped him a spot up, but I suppose a decade and a half of what Rice gave the Red Sox is worth more than seven seasons from Ortiz. Though I could easily be convinced otherwise.
Here's a little Player A/Player B for you to chew on ...
Player A: 4,452 plate appearances, 230 HR, 752 RBI, .304/.394/.542
Player B: 4,386 plate appearances, 259 HR, 832 RBI, .287/.387/.576
Player B is Ortiz and his total numbers with the Red Sox. Player A? Mo Vaughn's career numbers in Boston. Ortiz has a clear edge, but it was closer than I thought it would be. Of course, throw in the postseason stuff (Big Mo was a career .226 playoff hitter, not the kind of stat that gets a plaque from John Henry) and the call gets even easier.
9. Nomar Garicaparra (1996-2004)
I suspect if you had asked me 10 years ago today where Nomar would be on this list when his career was over I would have guessed second, maybe third. Think about it. At the time, he was coming off of a 1999 season that saw him post a .357/.418/.603 line. He was 26 years old and starting a 2000 season that would see him hit .372 to win his second straight batting title. Three thousand hits, MVPs, the Hall of Fame, the winner of the Jeter/ARod/Nomar debate, everything was in play.
So when you look at Nomar's career numbers with the Red Sox, it is hard to do without thinking about what should have been. But a sober analysis shows that he produced two historic seasons and four other seasons that fit nicely in the "highly productive" department. And that lands you ninth on this list.
No shame in that, of course. Just not what we expected a decade ago.
10. Vern Stephens (1948-52)
Think the Pink Hat crowd is well versed in the five-year Boston tenure of Stephens? The shortstop led the American League in RBI in both 1949 and 1950, also hitting at least 30 homers and scoring 100 runs in both seasons.
(Reason No. 466,922 why I'll never understand MVP voting: In 1950, Stephens led the AL with 144 RBI, hitting .295 with 30 homers for a Red Sox team that won 94 games. He finished 24th in MVP voting. Chico Carrasquel hit four homers and knocked in 46 runs for a White Sox team that won 60 games. Carrasquel finished 12th in MVP voting.)
Just Missed The Cut:
Johnny Pesky (What a terrific player he was. Led the league in hits three times with the Sox and I think very possibly a Hall of Famer if not for the years missed during WWII. Those were the times when a comeback meant returning after four years fighting in a war, not after four months spent hiding in your Isleworth mansion after getting busted for nailing porn stars and pancake waitresses.)
Pete Runnels (two batting titles)
Babe Ruth (In his final season with the Red Sox, he hit 29 homers, 19 more than anyone else in the league. Also led the AL with 11 homers while winning 13 games with a 2.22 ERA in 1918.)
Dustin Pedroia (Why not? Sure looks like a lock for this list if he keeps this pace. I think he's a legitimate 3,000-hit candidate.)
Do you agree? Here's your chance to weigh in on whether Kirk Minihane was dead-on in his assessment of Ortiz, or whether he was off the mark. Click here to vote in our poll.