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If you’ve been keeping in mind the fact that I’ve been approaching my preview of the 2016 Red Sox season based on my take of what’s been getting the most ink and air time, then you maybe surprised that I haven’t mentioned “Big Papi”before this. You can be forgiven for assuming that the retirement of the “face of the franchise” for the past fourteen years would be commanding a lion’s share of the attention this spring, but it has (and I never thought I’d use this phrase in connection with David Ortiz) been rather low key.

 

RELATIVELY SPEAKING:

 

 

Again, keeping in mind that all things are relative, his pending departure has not exactly flown under the radar, either. After all, nothing that the 6’3”, 230 pound slugger does goes unnoticed. But compared to the traveling circus that became the Derek Jeter Retirement Tour, this one seems to be getting off to a fairly quiet start. To some extent, that’s because the 40-year-old Ortiz is still very much on top of his game, where as the Yankee captain was easily two years removed from his best.

 

That might not be a totally fair comparison to make, since Papi’s game is just the hitting part, but he is still doing it with the best of them. He is the only one in MLB who owns three straight 100 plus RBI seasons, and each one of those included at least 30 home runs. He enters the 2016 season with career totals of 503 home runs, 1,641 RBIs, 1,340 runs, and an OBP of .378.  Although there are many who believe he could play at least one more season, he has admitted to struggling with an Achilles issue that you know will eventually catch up to him, so now is a good time to end it, and he is comfortable with that.

 

I don’t anticipate that Oritz will get out of each city he visits for the last time empty handed, but neither do I expect it to be a sideshow that will damage his reputation. As long as he gets his 30 homers, drives in 100+, and has one last chance to shine in the post season, then it should be a very successful swan song indeed.

 

PREDICTING THE FUTURE:

 

 

So if you were paying attention to that last bit, then you know I am anticipating  that the Red Sox will return to the playoffs this year. The AL East should be a very competitive division, with the potential end result of having all five teams above .500 and within a few games of each other. I believe that if the Sox can get one more strong starter to go with the David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly rotation, they should be in good shape. Maybe Clay Buchholz will be that guy, but he has never had a season when he stayed healthy so I doubt he’ll start now.

 

Failing a Buchholz revival, Boston has enough valuable bits that they could trade for another starter to compliment a strong bullpen consisting of closer Craig Kimbrel, and set up men Carson Smith, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara. Although I am not prepared to predict a return to the World Series just yet, they should have all the ingredients needed to be a very competitive team, perhaps only a move or two removed from giving Big Papi an opportunity to walk off in style in the Fall Classic.

 

VERY RANDOM THOUGHTS:

 

 

Allen Craig. International Man of Mystery: When the Sox traded John Lackey to St Louis for Craig along with Joe Kelly, everyone thought that he would be a perfect fit for Fenway. However, the 6’2”, 215 pound first baseman/outfielder has been dealing with a foot injury that has kept him from hitting his weight. He spent most of last season in the International League at AAA Pawtucket, where he batted an unimpressive .274 with 4 HRs and 30 RBIs in 93 games. He has had a fairly solid Spring so far, hitting .320 in 12 games, but with only one extra base hit. I would assume that the Sox would be willing to swallow large amounts of the $20 million they owe him if they could find him a new home. At this point, the sooner, the better.

 

Weighty Matters: Nick Cafardo did an interesting piece in last Sunday’s Boston Globe (3/20/16), regarding how much Pablo Sandoval‘s weight has cost them from a base running standpoint. He has an “extra base percentage” of 9%, or about half of what David Ortiz has. Most glaring to me was the fact that he was on first seven times when a double was hit, and he never scored on any of them. He clearly costs his team not just runs, but games as well. If he can’t run the bases, and he’s not a power hitter, then you can’t afford to have him DH. Given how bad he’s been in the field, you have to believe they would be a better team without him.

 

More Weighty Matters: Did you happen to notice that “Big Papi” is listed as carrying 230 pounds on his 6’3”, while the 5’11” Sandoval is carrying 255 pounds?  No wonder he can’t take an extra base.

Stay tuned…

Jerry Ballgame

About Jerry Ballgame

The personification of "old school", Jerry Ballgame was born in the shadow of Dr. Naismith's peach basket, and baptized in that "Dirty Water." Designated by his "Uncle" Ted, to keep an eye on things, he's here to tell everyone what his view is like from the Hub of the Universe.

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