The David Ortiz Retirement Tour Embodies What’s Wrong with the Red Sox
Two years ago, David Ortiz said he wouldn’t go through a prolonged retirement tour like Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter. The Red Sox are ensuring he might have to take those words back.
The first of many planned “celebrations” for Ortiz’s final season occurred Monday, when the Red Sox hosted a Spring Training retirement ceremony for Big Papi at JetBlue Park—where he’s a career .163 hitter. As a gift to commemorate the special day, the Red Sox presented Ortiz with a tacky golf cart, which he sped off in after the sixth inning. Presumably, he couldn’t wait to flee the scene.
— Steve Silva (@stevesilva) March 28, 2016
Ortiz is one of the most important players in Red Sox history and is certainly worthy of adulation as he gets ready to hang it up. The Red Sox are also a multimillion-dollar enterprise and can be expected to exploit his retirement for business purposes. But at a certain point, it begins to feel like the Red Sox view their fans as sycophants—blind sheep who are willing to buy into every corny marketing gimmick despite three last-place finishes in four years.
This season’s promotional schedule shows a number of events commemorating Ortiz’s final season, from a gold chain giveaway on April 12 to Papi Gnome Night on May 21. Fans who show up to the game on July 26 will even get to “Build-A-Papi.” One can hope the Red Sox will also be building up their postseason roster by that time of year, and not selling off pieces yet again.
The Red Sox have been aggressive self-promoters ever since John Henry purchased the club in late 2001, but the excessive marketing has persisted even as the team has stumbled. After winning the World Series twice and qualifying for the playoffs six times in Henry’s first eight seasons as principal owner, the Sox have only played in October once over the last six years. During that time span, they’ve spent an average of $174 million on payroll.
A lack of recent on-field success doesn’t mean Fenway Park has to resemble a morgue on a nightly basis, but the Red Sox aren’t doing themselves any favors by reminding everyone of 2004 and 2007. If you’re watching a losing team from the comforts of $100 obstructed view seats while sipping the most expensive beer in the major leagues, an Ortiz Canvas print won’t lift your spirits. It will, however, insult your intelligence.
Shortly after Ortiz exited Monday’s game in his golf cart, pitcher Rick Porcello bowed out after surrendering five runs to balloon his ERA this spring to a whopping 9.77. The symbolism couldn’t have been more perfect.
If the Red Sox’s starting rotation struggles this April like it did last year, the David Ortiz Retirement Tour™ won’t distract the masses. Instead, it’ll be a reminder that the only memories of a winning team produced at Fenway these days come in memorabilia form.