From: Scoop Jackson – ESPN
David Ortiz spoke with his bat, but it was his words that won the World Series
Boston Red Sox savior David Ortiz’s path to World Series MVP and my pick for sportsman of the year began on April 20. During a ceremony before a baseball game in front of his city, inside of his park, he grabbed a microphone and said these five words: “This is our fucking city!”
From that moment forward, David Ortiz became a symbol of hope, pride, strength and resilience for a city that was in need of something more than baseball to heal the pain it was struggling through.
Now all it needed was a hero.
Bats speak louder than words.
That’s what true baseball historians, aficionados, legends and lifers will tell you if you ever get into a real conversation with them about the importance of the game and the role it’s played in this country.
The game’s association with apple pie and Chevys is minimal and almost degrading. The game, when put in proper perspective, is so much larger. Pies get eaten, cars get driven. Bats create sounds and produce runs. They feed souls and drive spirits. And those who swing bats — and swing them well — have always had voices that have the power to go beyond the impact their hits can have inside the diamond.
Somehow, Ortiz used the six months following the Boston Marathon bombing to let his bat speak. To back up the words he spoke on that horrific day.
He was able to take a team (and organization) that had just had one of the worst seasons in its 112-year history and ignite a resurrection rarely seen in modern-day sports.
At 37 years old and in his 16th year in baseball (11th with the Red Sox), his .309, 30 HRs, 103 RBIs, .395 OPB stat line was the omphalos, the center point, of a remarkable turnaround. In 2012, the team finished with 93 losses. In July, the Sox were 20 games over .500 and took back first place in the American League East by the end of the month. They never looked back.
His numbers in the World Series did more than speak for themselves. Still two months after the fact it is difficult to comprehend what Ortiz did between the Wednesdays of Oct. 23 and 30.
Before the final game of the World Series, Ortiz was hitting .733 with a slugging percentage of 1.267 in the first five games. His 11 hits at the time were two shy of the most ever in a World Series and he still had two more possible games to play; they accounted for a third (11 of 33) of the total team hits. And this is without the first-at-bat grand slam that St. Louis’ Carlos Beltran robbed him of in Game 1. Add that to the list and Reggie Jackson loses his “Mr. October” nickname and his legacy is no longer as mythical and untouchable as it’s been made out to be.
The media dubbed Ortiz “King of October,” while his teammates began calling him “Cooperstown.”
Ortiz’s final World Series math added up to him having a .688 BA, .760 OBP, 1.188 SLG with eight walks (a Series record), two HRs and six RBIs. His final postseason math for 2013 was .353, .500 OBP, .706 SLG. More telling: His World Series OPS was 1.948 while the team’s was .484.
When a player hits almost .700 in a championship round and the rest of his team hits below .179 and that team still wins it all, it becomes appropriate to for that moment spell team with an “i.”
“I would be doing him a disservice trying to put it into words,” Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told reporters after the World Series. “He just keeps writing new chapters. I know great players are great, are more likely to be great in any moment, but it’s hard to see him in those moments and not think that there’s something different about him. He’s locked in. We’ve seen him locked in before, but to do it on this stage, and do it in so many big moments, I can’t add anything more to the legend that’s already there, but he keeps writing more chapters on his own.”
But it was the chapter he wrote in the dugout of Game 4 that elevated his team, Red Sox Nation and his own stature. It was a pivotal, Series-changing moment. With Boston down 2-1 in the Series, Game 4 was tied at 1 going into the sixth inning and Ortiz — not his bat — decided to speak.
“It was like 24 kindergartners looking up at their teacher,” said teammate Jonny Gomes, who moments after Ortiz’s speech hit a three-run game-winning homer. “He got everyone’s attention, and we looked him right in the eyes. That message was pretty powerful.”
In his own way, as only he could, Ortiz told his team to just do what he was doing: Play ball. Simple. “I know we are a better team than what we had shown. Sometimes you get to this stage and you try to overdo things, and it doesn’t work that way,” he remembers saying.
And afterward, whether it was sitting with his son, the World Series MVP trophy and Chris Berman on the field or in a studio chopping it up with David Letterman, Ortiz came off as the one athlete for whom moments like this were born.
A marriage of performance and personality. The mastering of craft and class. All along, when everything was supposed to be about him, about what he had just accomplished, Ortiz never ventured or leaned away from keeping this entire experience about — and for — Boston.
He put the victims and people affected by the bombing ahead of himself. He reminded us all along the way that while the game itself cannot change lives or save them, a sense of freedom can come through the swing of a bat. It can lift the souls of fans and in this case a city.
I’m not the first to suggest Big Papi as sportsman of the year. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci suggested it as well. I hope we are not alone.
The sublimeness of sports rests in the fact that no one sees something like this coming. No one at the beginning of 2013 could have told you that David Ortiz would elevate himself and the Boston Red Sox and the city of Boston (almost) single-handedly within a span of eight months. Especially someone who started off the season on the disabled list.
“Baseball deludes us,” Cal Fussman once wrote. “The crack of the bat, the majestic flight of the ball, the slow, regal trot around the bases. We rise to our feet and roar. We think we are seeing power.”
He started the next paragraph to open the final chapter of “After Jackie” with, “But we’re not.”
But sometimes, even in baseball, we witness something more.
After Ortiz released his infamous and FCC excused and approved “f-bomb” on Boston’s field of hopes and dreams, the words that followed were this: “And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”
Sometimes, even when a bat is making a historic amount of noise, words can speak louder.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino was not in the starting lineup for Monday night’s Game 5 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, marking the second straight game he’ll be sidelined with lower-back tightness, though manager John Farrell has since noted “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” will be should be available off the bench.
Jonny Gomes will again take his spot in the lineup playing left field, with Daniel Nava moving to Victorino’s place in right field.
The Red Sox also shuffled their lineup a bit, moving Dustin Pedroia from the third spot to second and David Ortiz from fourth to third. Game 4 hero Gomes will hit cleanup, followed by Nava.
David Ross will be behind the plate for the second straight game.
RED SOX LINEUP
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, 1B
4. Jonny Gomes, LF
5. Daniel Nava, RF
6. Xander Bogaerts, 3B
7. Stephen Drew, SS
8. David Ross, C
9. Jon Lester, SP
• Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)
• Scouting report on Wainwright: Not much went right for Wainwright in Game 1 against the Red Sox. A seven-pitch walk to Jacoby Ellsbury in the first was only the start of the 32-year-old’s rough night as he allowed three runs in the opening inning, partly due to poor defensive play behind him. However, with the series tied 2-2, Wainwright has another crack at giving his team the advantage moving forward.
“It’s a pretty clean slate [from my last start],” Wainwright said Sunday in his news conference at Busch Stadium. “I honestly don’t know why my mechanics were as bad as they were [and] my delivery was off as much as it was. But I feel like I’ve put a lot of good reps in in front of the mirror and watching film and feeling my delivery again.”
“I feel like I’ve made a lot of good adjustments to be ready for this next game to throw some quality pitches.”
In his Game 1 start, Wainwright’s curveball was his best pitch. He used his curveball for 15 of his final 33 pitches, a span that saw him retire seven straight batters before allowing a David Ortiz single in the fifth inning that he was able to pitch around. Overall, Wainwright went five innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on six hits and striking out four.
“I learned that they hit mistakes,” Wainwright said of his first career start against Boston last Wednesday. “And I learned that if I make mistakes in the middle of the plate up in the zone, they’re going to hit them.”
Overall, Wainwright is 2-2 in his four postseason starts with a 2.25 ERA. The right-hander has allowed seven runs (five earned) in his past 12 innings after allowing only two runs in his first 16 innings pitched of the playoffs.
• Scouting report on Lester: Putting aside the speculation that he was in some way doctoring his pitches in Game 1, Lester pitched masterfully, shutting out the Cardinals’ potent offense for 7 2/3 innings and striking out eight batters. The start was yet another in a string of successful starts Lester has made in October, something he says he doesn’t know how to explain.
“I feel like I’ve pitched pretty [well] throughout most of my seasons, and it’s just carried over into the postseason,” Lester said Sunday. “I don’t know what it is. I like this stage. I like knowing that I’ve got to go out there and give everything I’ve got for my teammates, because tomorrow might be our last game. You don’t know; I guess that just gives you that little extra focus.”
Of Lester’s 10 career postseason starts, seven have been of the quality variety — at least six innings pitched and three runs or fewer allowed. The 29-year-old has gone 5-4 in 12 postseason appearances overall, posting a 2.22 ERA. Of his 69 postseason innings pitched, 13 1/3 have come in the World Series, where he has yet to allow a run.
“I think the one thing that we all recognize is that the power stuff wins in the postseason,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday. “He’s got it, he maintains it, and yet, in addition to his physical strengths, there’s a level of concentration that he’s capable of maintaining that gives him the ability to execute consistently over the time he’s on the mound. Those two things combined are what’s given [him] the career performance he’s had in the postseason.”
This will be the first time in his career that Lester has made five starts in a single postseason.
Three Cardinals players to watch
• Carlos Beltran, RF: Beltran was only given one shot at Lester in Game 1, striking out swinging on four pitches before being removed from the game due to a rib contusion. Beltran has three hits in 10 World Series at-bats so far, two of which have come in his two at-bats with runners in scoring position. Beltran was left with a bat in his hand at home plate in the ninth inning of Game 4 after Kolten Wong was picked off first base to end the game.
• David Freese, 3B: Since singling in the ninth inning of Game 1, Freese has been held hitless in his past eight at-bats, a streak that’s resulted in him being dropped to seventh in the order. Of the 13 runners he’s left on base the past four games, six have been left in scoring position.
• Pete Kozma, SS: In keeping with pattern, manager Mike Matheny has selected Kozma to start at short in Games 1 and 3 while going with Daniel Descalso in Games 2 and 4. The difference between the two has been a wash offensively, as Descalso is 0-for-6 while Kozma is 0-for-8 through the first four games of the series. However, Kozma was the only St. Louis Cardinals hitter to not strike out in Game 1, seeing 13 pitches in his three plate appearances.
Three Red Sox players to watch
• David Ortiz, 1B: A lot of the talk leading into the World Series was about how many games Ortiz would play at first base over Mike Napoli. But Ortiz has ended that conversation, with a gaudy .727 batting average, a result of eight hits in 11 at-bats. His eight hits have accounted for a third of the Red Sox’s total in the series (24). He also has two of Boston’s three homers and he leads the team in RBI (5) and runs (5). He has collected hits in his past four at-bats and is the only Boston starter to not strike out so far.
• Jonny Gomes, LF: With outfielder Shane Victorino’s status still unknown following his late scratch before Game 4, Gomes re-proved his worth in the lineup to Farrell by hitting what turned out to be the game-winning three-run home run for Boston in the sixth inning, ending his 0-for-9 skid to start the World Series. Gomes also worked a 10-pitch walk in the fifth and a six-pitch walk in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, a step back on the right track for a player with whom Boston has won eight of nine postseason starts.
• Xander Bogaerts, 3B: Bogaerts started off the series going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in Games 1 and 2 before turning it on in St. Louis to collect three hits in his past seven at-bats. The 21-year-old’s .231 average is third on the team behind Ortiz (.727) and Dustin Pedroia (.267).
Three key considerations:
• Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa has appeared in all four World Series games, the only pitcher on either team to do so. Farrell has used Tazawa to face just one batter in three of his four appearances, something the 27-year-old did in only two of his 71 appearances during the regular season.
• Sunday night’s win guaranteed that the series will shift back to Fenway Park for at least a Game 6. So far this postseason, Boston is 5-2 at home compared to 4-3 on the road.
• David Ross will be back behind the plate in Game 5, according to Farrell. Ross has caught all four of Lester’s starts this postseason, including Game 1 where he went 1-for-2 against Wainwright. It will be Ross’s second consecutive start since regular starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia made a throw that led to the obstruction call that ended Game 3.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell announced Monday that left-hander Jon Lester will start Game 1 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
Farrell said the final roster and other lineup and rotation decisions have not been finalized but expects to have everything in order by Tuesday afternoon. The manager did say veteran designated hitter David Ortiz will play first base when the series shifts to the National League park, but Farrell hasn’t determined how many games Ortiz will play. If Ortiz started at first base, it would send Mike Napoli to the bench.
“With David going to first base, which he will when we get to St. Louis, how many days he’ll play in those three days there remains to be seen,” Farrell said. “Losing the DH is different for us. Personally, when we go into National League ballparks we’re at a greater disadvantage than the reverse of that when the National League teams come in here.”
Also, it appears Farrell will stick with Jonny Gomes, who started Games 5 and 6 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. Farrell called it a “hunch” for Game 6 and it proved a smart choice. Gomes produced with a leadoff double in the Sox’s four-run seventh inning.
“We haven’t made out Wednesday’s lineup, but can’t go away from a little bit of momentum that a certain lineup provided for us,” Farrell said. “Daniel Nava is certainly not forgotten, nor is any guy.”
As far as Lester’s batterymate for Game 1, Farrell normally has David Ross behind the plate but the manager said he hasn’t decided.
If the Red Sox stick to the same rotation as the ALCS, Clay Buchholz would start Game 2, with John Lackey in Game 3 and Jake Peavy in Game 4.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny announced Adam Wainwright, a 19-game winner who was injured in 2011, and rookie Michael Wacha as the starting pitchers for Games 1 and 2, but didn’t go further. Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn are likely to go in Games 3 and 4, given St. Louis general manager Mozeliak anticipates rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller will stay in the bullpen for emergency long relief duty.