We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. 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.
The Boston Red Sox of the past 15 years or so have had no shortage of superstars, but when the story of their three World Series championships between 2004 and 2013 is told, David Ortiz is now and always will be the star of the show. This coming season will be his curtain call, however, as he announced his retirement, a year in advance, in mid-November.
Ortiz started slowly in 2015 and, at 39, you never know when a slow start is more than just a slow start. Ortiz showed that he still had quite a bit left in the tank, however, finishing the year with a .273 batting average, 37 homers, 37 doubles, 77 walks, and a .913 OPS in 146 games. Ortiz also joined the 500-homer club late in the season.
Ortiz may not be as productive in 2016 — eventually all players decline — but even if he isn’t, it will be a year of farewells and retrospectives. As was the case with Derek Jeter, concerns about any present ineffectiveness will, most likely, be eclipsed by nostalgia. With Ortiz there is quite a bit of nostalgia to go around. Red Sox baseball of the past 15 years is unthinkable without Ortiz, both for his on-the-field exploits and his larger than life personality and leadership of both his team and his community.
There will likewise be a lot of debate about his Hall of Fame case. From this writer’s perspective, Ortiz is a no-brainer Hall of Famer. To date he’s a career .284/.378/.547 hitter. He has 503 homers and 1,641 RBI. His OPS is .925 and his OPS+ is 139. These numbers place Ortiz comfortably within the range of current Hall of Famers. Indeed, there are many worse hitters than Ortiz in Cooperstown whose primary argument for induction was their offensive output. And that’s before you get to the “fame” arguments, which clearly favor Ortiz’s induction. Some will deduct points because Ortiz is a designated hitter. This is lunacy, of course, as there have already been DHs inducted to the Hall of Fame and, more to the point, DH will have been an established position in baseball for nearly a half century by the time Ortiz is eligible for induction.
That’s an argument for another day, however. For now, we prepare for our farewells to Big Papi.