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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #4: David Ortiz’s historic farewell season

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

David Ortiz actually announced his retirement in November 2015, nearly a year before he’d play his final game. The mere announcement was itself a big story — I ranked it the #20 story of the year — and his retirement still would’ve been notable if, like most players, he went out with a whimper in his final season.

He did not go out with a whimper.

At the age of 40, Ortiz put up numbers which wouldn’t have looked out of place a decade earlier. His batting line: .315/.401/.620, leading the majors in OPS, while smacking 38 homers and 48 doubles while driving in 127, with those latter two totals leading the American League. He won the Hank Aaron Award, the Edgar Martinez Award, the Silver Slugger Award, made the All-Star team and came in sixth in MVP balloting, all while powering an offense that helped the Red Sox win the AL East with a 93-69 record. It was probably the greatest season a 40-year-old player has ever had.

It may also have served to put him over the top when it comes to his Hall of Fame candidacy. Personally, I think Ortiz was a Hall of Famer no matter what he did in 2016, but many had reservations due to his being a DH — even the greatest DH ever, Edgar Martinez, is on the outside looking in for some dumb reason — and because he was allegedly one of the players who tested positive in the 2003 survey drug testing conducted by Major League Baseball in order to determine if mandatory testing should be implemented.

In early October, Rob Manfred seemed to nip that latter point in the bud, saying that the Hall of Fame should not take 2003 survey test results into account. Whether the voters will listen to him is an open question, but those comments, along with a greater thawing of anti-PED sentiment we’re witnessing in current Hall of Fame voting, may negate PEDs as an issue for Ortiz by the time he’s up for election in 2022.

As for the former: by the time David Ortiz is up for election, the DH will be half a century old and one would hope people would be over it by then. That aside, they will be faced with the candidacy of a man who was the biggest star on the best Boston Red Sox teams in the franchise’s history. A man whose name could not be left out if one wished to tell the story of baseball in the first part of the 21st century. A man who went out on top as one of the biggest fan favorites the game has ever seen while hitting 541 career homers, posting a career line of .286/.380/.552, winning three World Series rings, appearing in ten All-Star Games and compiling numbers better than the average for a Hall of Fame hitter.

I think that’ll do.

Red Sox to extend protective netting at Fenway Park in 2018

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The Red Sox are the latest team to extend the protective netting at their ballpark this winter. According to a statement by club president Sam Kennedy, the exact dimensions of the netting have yet to be determined, but it will likely stretch “all the way to Field Box 79, down the left field line and then all the way down to almost Canvas Alley in the Field Box 9 area.”

Fenway Park received additional protective netting prior to the 2016 season, when the netting behind home plate was lengthened to the home and visitor dugouts. Per Kennedy’s statement, the current expansion should cover everything but the outfield corners, making it nearly impossible for a line drive foul to reach fans in the lower boxes.

After a toddler sustained serious injuries from a 105-MPH foul ball to the face at Yankee Stadium last September, over half of all MLB teams decided to take more extreme preventative measures in advance of the 2018 season. The Brewers, Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Twins and Indians are among the organizations to address the issue over the last several years, while others have yet to take significant action.