David Ortiz is the last Idiot standing. Ten seasons have passed since the Red Sox ended their 86-year World Series drought, since Ortiz first grabbed an October by the throat. When Ortiz clobbered a grand slam into the home bullpen at Fenway Park last night and changed the direction of the ALCS, it was at once astonishing and familiar. Game-winning, season-shifting hits in the playoffs never come for most players. Ortiz has been doing it for years.
Ortiz helped create this Red Sox era, and he has outlasted everyone from it. Gone is Theo Epstein, the general manager who signed him in one of the great free agent heists in history. Gone is Manny Ramirez, his partner in crime. Gone is Terry Francona. Ortiz is the only remaining link to the Red Sox’ first title since 1918, and at 37 he’s still lumbering to the plate, terrifying the hell out of pitchers and knocking balls all over Fenway Park.
The number of clutch hits Ortiz has piled up is the most remarkable thing about his career. A close second would be his longevity. Last night, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks told reporters he wasn’t all that shocked that Ortiz had drilled that game-tying grand slam – after all, he watched him clobber crucial homers as a kid. Ortiz debuted in 1997, at which time rookie Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts was 4 years old.
There were 50 players who suited up for the 2004 Red Sox. Along with Ortiz, only Bronson Arroyo and Kevin Youkilis appeared in a major league game this season. It’s hard to determine which is more amazing: what Ortiz has done, or the fact that he’s still doing it.
More MLB playoff coverage
Despite the upheaval surrounding Don Mattingly as the Dodgers trail the Cardinals, 2-0, heading into tonight, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Mattingly will receive a contract extension. Even with a comfortable lead, the Cardinals are thinking about what happened last year, when they let the Giants steal an NLCS they led, three games to one.
Tonight’s game: NLCS Game 3, St. Louis at Los Angeles, 8:07 p.m., TBS, WSPZ (570 AM)