When David Ortiz retired from baseball in 2016, he undoubtedly left Boston with less power at the plate. Big Papi led the Red Sox with 38 home runs his final season — a stat the team struggled to match in his absence.
Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Hanley Ramirez, all saw their numbers decline in 2017 — the Red Sox’ first season without Ortiz since 2003. When asked to identify differences in the offense after a slow start in April, Bogaerts highlighted point blank: “David’s not in the lineup.”
While Ortiz’s retirement was inevitably going to impact the Red Sox’ overall offensive production, it seemingly affected the players’ individual numbers, too. Asked to describe the void he left in the clubhouse, Big Papi articulated how his presence may have influenced his teammates’ stats.
“I was a little pushy with some of my teammates, so I think being that pushy helped them to put up better numbers,” he told the media at Pedro Martinez’s second annual charity gala. “I was that kind of guy. If I was doing what I was supposed to do, I would worry about my teammates doing well. Because you win as a team. You don’t win as just you being you.”
“I would’ve got on the guys not just with the criticism, but talking to them, building their confidence,” Ortiz continued. “Sometimes I would pull them and talk to them and work with them and do all kinds of stuff. That helps, somehow, some way.”
Although Ortiz said he noticed some of the current players didn’t have “as good as a season that everybody expected from them,” the slugger by no means proclaimed that the team needs him. He also said he didn’t think it was fair to judge the current state of the clubhouse, given that he “wasn’t in there this year.”
“It seems like everything was fine last year,” Ortiz said. “But like I said, you need to know your players, you need to know what you’re dealing with, and the most important thing, you want to make sure that those players are ready to go out there and leave it all on the field.”