David Ortiz had his Boston beard long before anyone else on the Red Sox.
He also set the tone for 2013 long before Boston became "Walk-Off City."
For Oritz, Boston was "our f--king city" [Click here to see the R-Rated version.]
It's been his "f--king city" for the past decade. He's been cheered and jeered. His offensive numbers were placed under the same scrutiny that any baseball player who's had a positive PED test faces. He's been called overpaid, overweight and overdue. No long-term member of the Red Sox is immune to the ups-and-downs that come with playing in this "f--king city." Ted Williams, Yaz, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Carlton Fisk have all been there.
Ortiz forever cemented his place in Red Sox history on that Saturday in April, inspiring a groggy fan base the day after watching an entire metropolitan area endure a day on lockdown.
Ortiz took the microphone on the same day he made his Red Sox 2013 debut, promptly getting a pair of hits and driving in a run. He's been slugging away ever since.
Saturday, he took David Price deep twice. He channeled his inner Manny Ramirez, standing in the batter's box while watching his second home run soar above the Pesky pole before it landed fair deep in the right field stands.
Ortiz maintains he was just waiting to see if the ball landed fair or foul.
That left Price crying foul.
"He steps in the bucket and he hits a homer," said Price, "and he stares at it to see if it's fair or foul. I'm sure that's what he'd say. But as soon as he hit it and I saw it, I knew it was fair. Run."
Twi-idiots went wild, screaming via their smartphones that Ortiz was outrageous for taking his time and admiring his handywork.
Guess that's what Joe Maddon was talking about when he said his flailing Rays were "out Fenwayed" after Saturday's 7-4 clubbing. Maddon talked like he had never before been inside Fenway Park as a manager. Joe Cool sounded like a fool. Even though the Rays made an incredible run to get where they are - down 0-2 and on the verge of extinction against Boston in the ALDS - Maddon knew his team would eventually meet the Red Sox again in the postseason. If he failed to prepare his outfielders for Fenway's funny angles, that's on him. The park has been open for 101 years. So is leaving in his ace until he's been battered for seven runs.
There is no luck in baseball. Every hit, every pitch, every bounce can be traced back to its physical origins. How fast was the ball thrown, how many rotations per minute was it making, at what angle did it break, what was the speed and direction of the bat, the density of the wood, the weather conditions, etc. . .
There is a scientific explanation for all of it.
Maddon's team wasn't "out Fenwayed" when Price beat the Red Sox 2-1 on July 29, giving Tampa Bay a brief visit to first place.
Remember this? We do.
Physics was on display even on Sunday, when the Red Sox were taking batting practice and Ortiz was using an aluminum bat during BP to see how far he could hit the ball.
Who needs PEDs when you can do this?
Maddon has received much praise in on this website in past years. But his act is beginning to wear as thin as Miley Cyrus.. In a recent extensive profile on ESPN.COM, he was notably photographed driving his 1956 Chevy [complete with an iPad in the dash] long before his team clinched a playoff berth.
Maddon has become the story of his team. In college and high school sports, particularly football, the top programs are identified by their coaches. But in the pros, coaches get second billing unless their job is on the line. Even Bill Belichick has a Tom Brady. Same in baseball. Talk about the Red Sox, and you get buried in beards, come-from-behind victories, the resurgence of the team's starting pitching staff and Koji before anyone mentions whats-his-name.
I have no idea what car John Farrell drives. I did see Farrell outside the Ale House in Fort Myers this past spring standing alone on a Saturday night waiting for a ride. Eventually, he was picked up in what looked like a Chevy SUV circa 2011.
The most notable manager in Boston who became the story in recent years was Bobby Valentine. Like Maddon, Valentine found a way to inject himself into the story. Both Maddon and Valentine won a pennant unexpectedly and have been baseball media establishment darlings during their careers. When Valentine was hired, it was State Run Media and the baseball insiders who extolled his virtues while the rest of us were wondering what the hell Larry Lucchino was thinking.
Ortiz and Price kissed and made up Saturday night, according to CSNNE's Sean McAdam. "We had a good talk," Ortiz said. "It's all good, man."
It's been all good for Ortiz this season.
When he unloaded on that helpless yet amazingly durable dugout phone in Baltimore [it will survive the apocalypse along with Twinkies, cockroaches and those Sullivan Tire ads], his teammates were luckily spared his bat-wielding wrath.
His f-bomb got a pass from the FCC and he avoided a suspension after he dialed the wrong number at Camden Yards [above].
Ortiz has been going batty ever since. He finished the season with 30 home runs, 103 RBI and a .309 average. It was his seventh 30 HR, 100 RBI season in 11 years with Boston, a milestone that took Williams 19 season to achieve. Ortiz is wise and humble enough not to elevate himself above Teddy Ballgame on any historic pantheon.
He doesn't have to. The Red Sox have always been trapped by their past, whether it was the curse of the Bambino or the curse of having having to match the euphoria of 2004 and 2007. [Side note, the Red Sox clinched their 2004 and '07 playoff berths at Tropicana Field.] Ortiz is the lone player on this team who was there in 2004. That year, Ortiz owned the playoff spotlight until making way for Curt Schilling's bloody sock and Ramirez's World Series MVP award.
This year, his presence has been overshadowed by the Baby Beards, solid starting pitching and a light's out closer whose 11 pitches in the ninth inning of Game 2 consisted of eight consecutive strikes, two pitches that were fouled off and a grounder to first.
Ortiz was there for Aaron F. Boone in 2003, the glory years and back in 2008 when the Red Sox lost their last postseason game at Trop, Game 7 of the ALCS. But he is living in the hear and now. His smile grows with each win and each postseason home run. Whether the Red Sox officially dispatch the Rays Monday or Tuesday at Fenway South, or have to take care of them back in Game 5 at Fenway, Ortiz won't fret. He's cooler than ever these days. His off-season two-year contract extension has alleviated what was almost an annual passive-aggressive whine fest about the team's lack of faith in him.
The Red Sox showed plenty of blind faith in Ortiz, giving him a two-year extension this offseason which could be worth $30 million. They really had no choice. They needed his presence in this lineup that was being overhauled in the wake of 2012.
Ortiz has responded, providing the octane that has left this Improbable Dream on the verge of continuing into the reality of the American League Championship Series.
Even if you hadn't noticed amid all that other facial hair.
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