Commentary

Sox need Big Papi more than ever

As disastrous season ends, David Ortiz should still be centerpiece of future

Updated: October 2, 2012, 1:59 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

NEW YORK -- This much, David Ortiz justifiably considers obvious, that the Boston Red Sox should give him a two-year contract extension and finally show the same regard for the players who have fought the good fight here that they do for their high-priced imports.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz was having his best season since 2006 until a heel injury kept him out of 71 of the last 72 games.

He has given them a full decade of elite performance, and by now they should recognize that while his performance could show slippage as he heads into his twilight years, he has offered no evidence that any decline is imminent.

On the contrary, he was having his best season statistically since 2006 when he strained his right Achilles tendon, causing him to miss 71 of the last 72 games of the season. He posted a .318/.415/.611/1.026 batting line, and was on pace to hit 36 home runs. And in a season in which so much else went wrong, he was one of the few players whose popularity did not take a hit.

For not much more than what the Red Sox paid to make Edgar Renteria go away, the Sox could re-sign Ortiz to two more years. At worst, the second year would be akin to a golden parachute companies give their most prized employees. At best, the Sox would have a dynamic middle-of-the-order bat in their lineup and a presence who still carries tremendous weight in the Sox clubhouse.

Just ask rookie Jose Iglesias, whom Ortiz has invited to spend time in the Dominican Republic with him to work on his hitting. Or Will Middlebrooks, who marvels at how generous Ortiz is with his time and advice, saying that Big Papi has told him to call him anytime this winter, about baseball or anything else.

On a team that needs an extreme makeover, Ortiz still remains a foundational piece. He has not been playing for chump change, mind you, but there comes a time when a player should be accorded something extra, especially in a year that the Red Sox acknowledged that they made failed investments in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.

Ortiz's agent, Fernando Cuza, was in town Monday, and while he probably exchanged niceties with Sox general manager Ben Cherington, who was also here, serious negotiations evidently will await at the end of the season.

Ortiz We need power. Power makes the world go 'round. Just like money.

-- David Ortiz on what the Sox lack

Ask Ortiz what else the Sox need, and he says he probably would need three hours to talk about it. But besides the clear need for pitching, Ortiz identified another priority.

"We need power," he said. "Power makes the world go 'round. Just like money."

The Red Sox thought they had addressed their need for power when they traded for Gonzalez, then signed him to a seven-year, $154 million extension. But that notion exploded in mid-August, when Gonzalez was packaged with Crawford and Josh Beckett and sent to the Dodgers, the Sox shedding $262 million in salary obligations.

Ortiz was asked if he thought the signings of Gonzalez and Crawford by the Sox represented misjudgments by the front office.

"No, I think when it comes down to that, I'm a big-time believer that you go for the best that is out there," he said. "Now if you don't get what you're expecting, that's a different story, but they went for what was the best out there.

"Who was better than C.C. when he went to free agency? Adrian, we didn't have what we needed at first base when we had the chance to get Adrian. I mean, I think the time Adrian was here was great. This year he had a little bit of issues hitting for power, but man, with runners in scoring position he was hitting .400. So OK, you're not hitting for power but every time you get somebody on base you bring him in? That's pretty much the same thing as hitting for power, I guess."

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Ortiz was asked to address the rap that Gonzalez wasn't a winning player.

"Things were going in different directions, a lot of different opinions," he said. "A lot of people talk, a lot of people see the game different, it gets a little confusing. But a guy who produces at the highest level I think is going to win a game. I think he's going to make a difference in winning a ballgame."

Gonzalez was a good teammate, he insisted.

"Gonzo was great," he said. "Gonzo and I used to go back and forth and we hit each other with things, pretty normal like you do with all your teammates. I can't tell you any different than what I saw, a guy who came in, got himself prepared to play a game, and tried to go 4-for-4. That's not going to happen every day, but that's what he did.

"I think he had a unbelievable season last year. This year, he was having a good season, just not hitting for power like he used to. But anyway, I think [management] analyzed it and decided this deal was the way out for us to be better next year."

He predicted certain stardom for third baseman Middlebrooks, and said that while Ryan Lavarnway is going through growing pains now, he has a bright future, too. He is intrigued by a potential free agent like Tampa Bay outfielder B.J. Upton ("Put him in a better lineup to hit, and I think he could be a 30-30 guy") and while he says he "loves" Josh Hamilton, wonders if there's something the Rangers know about him that have kept them from locking him up already.

And he asserts that a certain aging designated hitter plans to do whatever it takes to continue producing like one of the best hitters in the game.

"I get myself prepared, especially as I'm getting older," he said. "I think it's my responsibility to prepare physically so I can survive. When you're in your 20s it's easy. You get away with a lot, but if you get mature enough to know what life is like when you're in your 30s, then you're going to survive."

And thrive.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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