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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.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.