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The Sports Edge - In praise of Papi

October 5, 2016
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Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz tips his cap during a game at Fenway Park in Boston. Big Papi announced he was retiring after the close of the 2016 season. Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz tips his cap during a game at Fenway Park in Boston. Big Papi announced he was retiring after the close of the 2016 season. (AP photo/Elise Amendola)

What's your Big Papi moment?

It seems like every Red Sox fan has one and that's because the story of David Ortiz and his impact on his team and adopted hometown can't be measured simply in numbers, even though those numbers are remarkable.

Over 540 career home runs and 1700 runs batted in; a career .931 OPS and .552 slugging percentage - only the tip of the statistical iceberg. The problem is that many of those stats have been rendered less impressive by the inflated totals of the PED era. When guys like Sosa, Palmeiro and McGwire are occupying the penthouse apartments of the all-time leaders, the real estate has been devalued like it was owned by Donald Trump.

And really, the magic of David Ortiz was never about numbers as much as an unmatched ability to seize the moment. Submitted for your approval, a few of the best:

October, 2003: Staring an elimination from the playoffs in the divisional series with Oakland, Papi smacked a two-run double in the eighth to give the Sox a 5-4 lead, and they would eventually win that series.

October, 2004: A walk-off homer against the Angels propelled the Sox to the ALCS.

October, 2004 Pt. 2: Bottom of the 12th in Game 4, trailing the Yankees three games to none, his walk-off blast kept the Sox faint hopes alive.

October, 2004 Pt. 3: As Yogi Berra would say, 'Dj vu all over again' - another walk-off, this time in the 14th, made it a 3-2 Yankees lead in the series.

October, 2004 Pt. 4: In the first inning of the deciding seventh game with New York, a two-run homer by Ortiz gave the Sox a 2-0 lead and broke the spirit for good of those pinstripers.

April, 2013: Just five days after the bombing that shook the region, Papi took the microphone and became a Bostonian for life by dropping the most appropriate F-bomb in sports (or perhaps any other) history, announcing 'this is our (bleeping) city, and nobody's going to dictate our freedom.'

October, 2013: Down a game to Detroit in the ALCS, Ortiz belted a grand slam in the eighth inning to tie Game 2; the Sox would win it in walk-off fashion in the ninth.

October, 2013 Pt. 2: In Game 4 of the World Series against St. Louis, Ortiz went 3-3 with a pair of doubles, finishing 11-for-16, a .688 batting average in the Fall Classic.

And, of course, you could go on and on from there.

Look, I'm no Papi apologist. The guy has had his selfish moments along the way, storming into a post-game press conference like a petulant child to complain about a scoring decision and what seemed like his semi-annual whines about how the team was disrespecting him with their contract offers.

But he knew how to play to the fan base and he never disrespected them. Maybe that's why so many Sox fans who consider themselves baseball purists loved every single one of his countless bat flips while they would slam other guys around the league who did the same thing.

I don't believe he's the greatest player to wear a Red Sox uniform, but he embraced his role as team leader like no one else. And if there were advanced metrics to quantify memorable moments per career opportunities, David Ortiz would have locked up that record forever.

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