David Ortiz is retired. The Red Sox haven't won a postseason series without Big Papi since 1999. When Theo Epstein plucked Ortiz out of relative obscurity prior to the 2003 season the iPhone was still four years away, the most recent Star Wars film was Attack of the Clones, and Mookie Betts was just ten years old.
So when Hanley Ramirez arrived in Fort Myers wearing an Ortiz shirt and talking about Papi as the past and himself as trying to fill those big shoes, he made a statement.
Hanley Ramirez on David Ortiz. "He is my mentor. He is my everything."— Ian Browne (@IanMBrowne) February 16, 2017
And that’s the key here: Hanley isn’t just trying to replace a bat, even in his final year Ortiz hit .315/.401/.620 while limping around the bases for each of his final 38 home runs. He’s trying to move on from his mentor and friend.
Hanley Ramirez's expectations for this season? "To win the World Series."— Ian Browne (@IanMBrowne) February 16, 2017
In some ways, Ortiz knows the Red Sox better than they know themselves. He wrote the book on Boston while winning three World Series.
Hanley said that Ortiz told him if he decided to make a comeback, one of the reasons would be their close relationship.— Ian Browne (@IanMBrowne) February 16, 2017
This IS his city. And Hanley will have to try to rally the team around a new strategy, although the same goal: a championship. With Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and the emerging Andrew Benintendi, combined with a reinforced pitching staff courtesy of Chris Sale, he might just be successful.
Sorry, but Hanley just said David is not coming back. "You got that Sox Nation? We are going to have to do it."— Ian Browne (@IanMBrowne) February 16, 2017
For his part, David Ortiz is leaving no doubt about it: he is retired. Although he will be back on June 23rd to see his number 34 retired forever on the walls of Fenway Park. Until then, his presence will be missed while the DH looks into some of his other interests.
Now that’s spring training, eh?