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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.

A 30-year-old rookie won his major league debut

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The Dodgers beat the Twins last night thanks to a Cody Bellinger three-run homer. But Bellinger was not the only Dodgers rookie who had a notable game. A far more unconventional one is worth mentioning as well.

That rookie is reliever Edward Paredes, who made his big league debut last night. What makes him unconventional: he’s 30. Turns 31 in September, actually. Paredes pitched professionally for 12 years before making it to The Show. Most of that time was in the affiliated minors in the Mariners, Indians, Angels and Dodgers organizations. He spent time in the independent Atlantic League in 2013-15 as well.

Paredes did not do anything heroic last night. It was more of a right place/right time kind of appearance, retiring the side in order with a fly out, line out and a ground out and remaining the pitcher of record while Bellinger hit that three-run homer. That’s enough for a W, though. A W that Paredes waited a lot longer for than most pitchers who notch one in the bigs.

The Nationals could pursue Sonny Gray

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Jon Morosi of MLB Network says that the Nationals could pursue Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray if Stephen Strasburg‘s forearm issue lingers. Strasburg left Sunday’s start early due to forearm tightness, saying he was unable to get loose. Sometimes that’s a sign of a major injury. Sometimes it’s just a thing that happens and then goes away.

The Nationals will have to make a determination as to how big a deal this all is pretty soon, though, as a lot of other teams, including the Yankees, Brewers and Astros have all been linked to Gray. It seems inevitable at this point that the A’s will move their ace before Monday’s trade deadline.

Gray is set to start tonight. It may very well be his last in an A’s uniform.