If there is ever a ho-hum feel to all this, a general acceptance and expectancy for what David Ortiz delivers to the game of baseball, let's hope it never arrives here in the Fens. Because what we get to see this guy do every time he's put in a clutch situation is still no less surreal than it was the very first time we witnessed his heroics.
He IS the MVP. Sorry, if you can't see that after last night, if you're one of those tossing your chapeau into Alex Rodriguez's ring simply because he brings a Mizuno to the ballpark, well, you are flat-out wrong. Mr. McFeeley never delivered to Fred Rogers as much as Ortiz has to New England in his three-year stint with the Red Sox, and it's hard to imagine that even he did it with such an exultant demeanor and infectious grin.
Mr. McFeeley may make deliveries to the Land of Make Believe, but David Ortiz makes us Believe.
Where would they be? Seriously, think about that for a moment.
Where would the Red Sox be today, on the brink of another New England October, without David Ortiz? The pennant race might have been over before the kaleidoscope hues of fall invaded St. Alban's, certainly by the time these Yankees got here this weekend to close out 2005.
What if one of Theo Epstein's first moves as general manager was not to take a flier on a part-time, yet promising hitter with the Minnesota Twins? Worse yet, what if the Twins noticed his potential and didn't allow him to hit waivers? Or, God forbid, if George Steinbrenner was serious when he said back a few years ago that he urged Brian Cashman to go after him? There certainly is no World Series pennant fluttering in center field, now is there?
What if Grady Little allowed an unproven Ortiz to continue to fester on the bench in the middle stages of the 2003 season, untapped potential sitting in favor of the bat of Shea Hillenbrand? Where are those Red Sox? Where is Boston today? Certainly not the joyous state of a Nation transformed, from dour doomsday prognosticators to the "Believe" bearing that paid off in the elusive manna of a year ago.
Ask the Yankees. Ask the Blue Jays. Ask the Angels. They've never seen anything like it. Neither have we. He is Bobby Orr, Larry Bird, Tom Brady, and Carl Yastrzemski. By God, he alone is making Bill James re-think his entire preposterous position that there is no such thing as hitting in the clutch.
And it is there that makes David Ortiz the special athlete (is it OK to use that term for a DH, folks?) that he is. Of course James can't see the value of hitting in the clutch, an aspect of the game that can't be whittled down to numbers and statistical analysis. It takes strength, courage, and intelligence to come through when your team needs you to the most, aspects of a person that can't be measured by carrying the two.
The Yankees are in town. Have you heard? In a series that is of somewhat importance, with Boston a game out, the Red Sox face the daunting task of sweeping their bitter rivals to take back the AL East, which was theirs just scantly more than a week ago. Two out of three, and we all reconvene in the Bronx on Monday for memories of 1978. If the New York script holds true, Mark Bellhorn plays the part of Bucky Dent this time around, as Ortiz plays Yaz, popping up to Rodriguez to end Boston's season.
Right. David Ortiz doesn't follow the script of history, he writes his own entries, steadfastly ridding fans of doubt. Boston's destiny is in its own hands. Win out and they are in the October tournament for an unprecedented third year in a row. Anything less, and they could be playing as late as Tuesday to decide who gets the final position. At this point, with this race, perhaps that is only fitting.
With all apologies to the NFL, this is why baseball is the best. The theater may drag a bit in spots, but every single season you are guaranteed a climax worthy of sitting on the edge of your rickety grandstand seat, clasping your mittens together with tense sentiment, and watching the final acts unfold. In football, they play the game, and everything is over in three hours. Baseball delivers a journey that no other sport can match. It's the nature of the day-in, day-out grind of the game, an aspect that can be maddening at times, but oh, so rewarding by the time your local grocer starts stocking the candy corn.
It is Red Sox-Yankees. Again. A scene that we seemingly at some point will tire of, but not as long as David Ortiz is around. David Wells is banged up, Curt Schilling hasn't been himself, Jason Varitek is scuffling, and the bullpen is about as reliable as a Bob's Furniture deal. If they make the playoffs, it will be an impressive feat of will, something we didn't exactly see much of in their just-completed split with the Blue Jays.
Except for one David Ortiz. Without him, today they are two games in back of New York, and a game behind Cleveland for the wild card. He makes things happen, exploits once thought unattainable by his team's fan base. And as long as he is in the lineup, swatting at pitches in the brisk air of an autumn weekend, there is no end in sight yet.
It's a nice gesture by Delta Song, naming a Boeing after the big fella and all, but no offense, there's no journey the airline can take us on that will ever be more thrilling than the one received when we hop on Big Papi's back.
He is Walt Disney, Mass Millions, and Michael Caine's "Mr. Destiny." He makes dreams come true.
Put your faith in the upright position. Lean back, and enjoy the ride.