David Ortiz hit his 500 (regular season) home run last night against Matt Moore of the Tampa Bay Rays, becoming the 27th player in Major League Baseball to accomplish that feat.
Ortiz has hit some of the most memorable home runs in the post season, which didn’t count towards his 500 mark, but certainly carry much more weight for Red Sox fans. Ortiz wasn’t traded to the Red Sox as part of a blockbuster deal. In fact, the Minnesota Twins released Ortiz in 2002 after some injury plagued years and modest output at the plate. Of all the free agents signings in the history of the Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz may go down as the most important.
In 2003, Ortiz signed a free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox. Ortiz was inserted as their starting designated hitter midway through the 2003 season. His first year stats with the Red Sox: 31 home runs, 101 RBI. Since that year, all Ortiz has done is hit, hit home runs, lead, and win. Ortiz joins an exclusive sub-section of the 500 home run club – 500 home runs and 3+ World Series championships. The others to accomplish this feat – Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Reggie Jackson. Ortiz will undoubtedly start the conversations as to where he fits into the all-time great home run hitters. By reaching the 500 home run mark, he has certainly earned that right.
In this era of players changing teams to chase big money contracts, it is refreshing when you have a player build a career with one team and organization. I always lament when a player I follow leaves Boston for Toronto or Los Angeles, or all places, New York. Ortiz has had opportunity to leave. He has had contract talks and contract breakdowns over the years with Red Sox management. Someway, somehow the two sides – Ortiz and the Red Sox – have seen the bigger picture. A bigger picture which now has David Ortiz sitting alongside the greatest players to ever wear a Red Sox uniform. The Splendid Splinter, Yaz, Pedro, and now Big Papi. Congratulations David Ortiz for not only your accomplishments on the field, but your place in Red Sox history.