World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five
Updated: December 1, 2013 7:59AM
ST. LOUIS — You can build the farm system, make good trades and sign the biggest free agents.
But players such as David Ortiz don’t follow a blueprint. They defy convention, categories and boxes baseball executives like to check.
Ortiz always could hit for power. But the man who has done more to rewrite the Boston Red Sox’ postseason history in 11 seasons with the team than anyone since Babe Ruth wasn’t always ‘‘Big Papi.’’
He came with enough fielding and injury concerns early in his career that the Minnesota Twins made one of the worst decisions in franchise history in December 2002 and non-tendered Ortiz. Even then, it took more than a month before then-general manager Theo Epstein’s Red Sox decided to take a $1.25 million flier on him.
All of which is to say that while foundations for sustained success make admirable goals for any
organization, championships and history often are made by some of the most unexpected sources.
‘‘I was born for this,’’ Ortiz, 37, said matter-of-factly after delivering three more hits, including a run-scoring double in the first inning, in the Red Sox’ 3-1 victory Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals that gave them a 3-2 lead in the World Series and moved them to the brink of their third championship in the last 10 seasons.
Never mind his .733 batting
average (11-for-15), .750 on-base percentage and history-chasing 2.017 OPS in the Series. If the Red Sox win one of the next two games at home to close this out, history will say the turning point came in their dugout in Game 4 on Sunday, just before they batted in the sixth. That was when Ortiz gathered teammates for an impromptu, profanity-laced pep talk.
He was in the middle of a two-out rally in that inning that won the game and tied the Series, then continued one of the most torrid hitting stretches in Series history in Game 5. His .476 career Series
average is the best for any player with at least 50 plate appearances.
‘‘David’s the man,’’ teammate Dustin Pedroia said.
‘‘The epitome of a superstar,’’ winning pitcher Jon Lester said.
And a force that reaches far
beyond all the big hitting on the biggest stages, a rare player whose value transcends scouting reports.
‘‘He’s got a personality bigger than life,’’ said teammate Ryan Dempster, a former Cubs right-hander.
‘‘He relishes the moment,’’ manager John Farrell said. ‘‘He wants to be the guy they look toward.’’
‘‘When he talks, we all listen,’’ rookie Xander Bogaerts said.
Ortiz, who had two game-winning hits during the Red Sox’
miraculous comeback in the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees in their curse-busting 2004 title run, is the only player left on the roster from that first Red Sox title in 86 years. The team has had three managers and two general managers during that span.
And one Big Papi.
‘‘This guy’s building an unbelievable résumé for Cooperstown,’’ said teammate Jonny Gomes, who answered Ortiz’s call Sunday with a decisive three-run home run.
Dempster, who was on back-to-back National League Central champions with the Cubs in 2007 and 2008 but didn’t have a postseason victory to show for it, said he sees the difference a force of personality such as Ortiz can make when it’s time to win in October.
‘‘You look at some teams out there and they have superstars, but every personality is different,’’ Dempster said. ‘‘Sometimes there’s superstars who don’t bring that
element of team camaraderie to the game. And he does it.’’