Dissecting David Ortiz’s Lingering Heel Injury

When it comes to Big Papi, let’s look on the bright side.

David Ortiz
David Ortiz by Keith Allison, on Flickr

To Red Sox fans, David Ortiz’s lingering heel injury is, for lack of a better word, irritating. Big Papi, manager John Farrell told reporters on Sunday, will be shut down for five to seven days. He likely won’t be ready for Opening Day.

Ortiz re-signed with Boston in November. The 37-year-old slugger will be around for at least two more seasons, which will be his 11th and 12th in Boston. In other words, the prospect of a hobbled DH who’s pushing 40 weighing down the roster is very real.

But bloated contract aside (he’s making $14 million), it’s times like these when I like to repeatedly remind myself that at this point, anything we get out of Ortiz is a bonus. When he came to Boston as a free agent in 2003, few expected him to do much. Here’s a sampling of local reaction from back then:

Associated Press:

“David Ortiz’s $1.25 million, one-year contract with the Red Sox was finalized on Wednesday, giving Boston a veteran left-handed hitter who will compete with Jeremy Giambi for a lineup spot.”

Gordon Edes, Boston Globe:

“…the Red Sox all but completed a winter of shopping at Wal-Mart, yesterday announcing the signing of free agent first baseman David Ortiz. … The lefthanded-hitting Ortiz, whose career numbers are uncannily like those of the departed Brian Daubach, will be given a chance to win the everyday job at first base, but more likely will be involved in a mix’n’match in which he will share time at first and DH with the newly acquired Jeremy Giambi and perhaps Shea Hillenbrand.”

Tony Massarotti, Boston Herald:

“Further muddying an already jumbled muddle at first base, the Red Sox yesterday announced the signing of David Ortiz to a one-year contract. But then, the confusion at the position is one of the primary reasons Ortiz chose to come to Boston.”

Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe:

“Without ever having seen the team in Fenway, the Nation is already grousing about the raging bullpen, the salami bats of Jeremy Giambi and David Ortiz…”

In this case, I don’t mean to pick on the local press corps. (“Salami bats” actually made me laugh.) My point is that when Ortiz came to Boston a decade ago, nobody (perhaps excluding Theo Epstein) thought he’d become a star. Save for Tom Brady, has there ever been a Boston athlete who’s exceeded expectations more than Ortiz?

His longevity alone—he’s the only member of the 2004 team left on the roster—is impressive. So, as frustrating as his current injury is, I’m not going to let it drive me crazy. Not yet at least.

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