Papi confirms he will retire after 2016 season
BOSTON -- Red Sox slugger David Ortiz celebrated Wednesday -- his 40th birthday -- by confirming that he will retire after the 2016 season.
"I thought a lot about it," Ortiz said in a two-minute, 26-second video on The Players' Tribune website. "Every single one of us, athletes-wise, we run out of time at some point. Life is based on different chapters and I think I'm ready to experience the next one in my life."
This isn't a case of an aging player who has dropped off much from a production standpoint. In fact, the 37 homers and 108 RBIs Ortiz produced in 2015 marked his highest totals in those categories since 2007.
But the iconic left-handed hitter -- who in 2004 helped guide the Red Sox to their first World Series championship since 1918, plus two more, in '07 and '13 -- is ready to enjoy one more year and then walk away from the game he loves.
Considering Ortiz has continued to play at such a high level in the latter stages of his career, it was somewhat surprising that he made the decision already that 2016 will be his last season. Ken Rosenthal of FOXsports.com reported the news first on Tuesday.
Ortiz seemed at peace with the decision while relaying his message.
"I picked this day to announce that after next season, I'm going to be done with my career and playing baseball," Ortiz said. "I would like people to remember me as a guy that was just part of the family. A guy that was trying to do the best, not only on the field, with everyone around him."
While Ortiz decided to forego a traditional news conference and relay the information his way, he was typically heartfelt with some of his words.
"Baseball is not just based on putting up numbers. This is our second family. Whoever is around you on a daily basis, this is like your second family, and I always had good thoughts for everyone around me," Ortiz said. "Baseball, besides God, it just has flipped my whole life over. Not just mine, my whole family. I see how people struggle out there.
"I struggled before and I know how hard it is to make it to the top, you know what I'm saying? It's something that I thank God every day for. I'm really proud of what I have accomplished through the years. I'm very thankful for having fans like you guys who have supported me throughout my career. I wish I could play another 40 years so I could have you guys behind me, but it doesn't work that way. After next year, hang this up. So let's enjoy next season."
The 2016 season will be Ortiz's 20th in the Majors, and 14th with the Red Sox. Ortiz will earn $16 million in the coming season. If he had decided to keep playing, the Red Sox held a $10 million club option on him for '17.
When Ortiz signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract with the Red Sox on Jan. 22, 2003, nobody could have imagined the impact he would have on the franchise. After all, he had just been released by the Minnesota Twins, and to that point, he had been only a platoon player.
But after general manager Theo Epstein traded Shea Hillenbrand in late May 2003, opening up the logjam at corner infield and designated hitter, Ortiz at last became an everyday player. And he almost instantly became one of the most impactful power hitters in the game. Ortiz would also get a moniker "Big Papi" that matched his gregarious persona.
"It is difficult to adequately convey what David Ortiz has meant to the Boston Red Sox," said Red Sox principal owner John Henry. "For his teammates, he has been the one constant force underpinning what it means to play for this organization and making it fun. For the fans, he has been the one consistent force behind three world championships, lifting all of us on his broad shoulders exactly when we needed it.
"For the community, he has been the hero providing leadership off the field in ways that consistently make a difference -- often completely unseen. And for those of us who have had the honor of knowing him all these years, he has been exactly what you hope to see in a man who has been the face of this organization.
"As he concludes his illustrious career in this, his final season, we look forward to joining everyone in the game of baseball in showing him just how much Big Papi has meant to all of us."
On Sept. 12, 2015, Ortiz belted career home run No. 500 at Tropicana Field against the Rays. Before 500, there were so many others that will go down in the annals of Red Sox history, and there will possibly be a few more to come in '16.
"David's first home run in a Red Sox uniform set the tone for the rest of his career," said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. "It was a go-ahead pinch-hit home run in the top of the 14th inning against the Angels. In that summer of 2003, David became the best slugger in all of baseball and carried the team on his back for the last three months of the season -- a trend we would come to see time and again throughout his career. He has been in a Red Sox uniform nearly as long as we have been here, and he has been integral in all of the successes that we have all experienced."
Ortiz's career will be remembered for a barrage of clutch hits, including two walk-offs in the 2004 American League Championship Series that helped the Red Sox become the first -- and still only -- team in history to overcome an 0-3 deficit in a postseason series. In Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS, Ortiz clocked a game-tying grand slam with two outs in the eighth that helped the Red Sox overcome a 5-1 deficit against the Tigers. He'd go on to hit .688 in a six-game conquest of the Cardinals in the World Series that year.
"David Ortiz transcends numbers, home runs, and wins," said Red Sox president Sam Kennedy. "He is one of the game's greatest players -- and greatest champions -- and he has been there for the city of Boston through thick and thin every step of the way. He has been a pillar of our team and a pillar of our city.
"We look forward to a final season of raising our heads to the sky looking for his long ball, and watching him point to the heavens when he arrives home one final time."
The final regular-season game of Ortiz's career is set for Oct. 2 at Fenway against the Blue Jays. But Ortiz hopes to play some more games in October after that in pursuit of a fourth World Series ring.