Papi thinks Sox have what it takes to repeat

Ortiz: 'This ballclub looks so good'

March 2nd, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With three World Series rings in his possession, Red Sox legend David Ortiz knows what a championship team looks like.

And that’s why the retired slugger positively beams when talking about the 2019 Red Sox, a squad he thinks has a strong chance to repeat.

Ortiz, who arrived in camp Friday and will be here through the weekend, loves the talent.

But more than that, he loves the attitude they possess. He loves that every time he walks by a collection of hitters, they are talking about, well, hitting.

“To be honest with you, this ballclub looks so good, man, from head to toe,” Ortiz said. “It's like you walk into that clubhouse and you can feel the good vibe, you can feel that. If there's one person who can explain that, it’s myself because I was in the clubhouse for a long time, and I have an even better feeling this year than the feeling I had last year.

“And I told you guys how good I felt about the ballclub last year. But it's because you can see on the players' faces the experience they went through in the playoffs, what they learned, how confident you feel about how you did and the result and everything. I mean, as a player, I can tell you that plays a big role for the following season.”

During Ortiz’s memorable run with the Red Sox, one of the few things he never was able to do was win it all in back-to-back seasons. He’d love to see this group become the first Sox team to win in consecutive years since 1915-16 and the first team in MLB since the 2000 Yankees.

Sure, he thinks they can do it.

“Why not?” Ortiz said. “And the confidence level is even better than last year. You look at these guys. I've been talking to the hitters side, J.D. [Martinez], Mookie [Betts], [Xander] Bogaerts, [Jackie Bradley Jr.]. I had a five-minute conversation with all of them and all they want to do is listen. They are in that beast mode where it’s beautiful. I love seeing that.

“Because I know how they feed each other with information and how to get better. I was making fun of them because while they were stretching, I was going to go [talk] with them and I take a couple of steps and I was like, let me just listen to what they talk about. They talk about nothing but hitting.

“I remember before while you were stretching, you’d mess around, talk trash. These guys are locked in. I was standing up right there just listening to the conversations for about half an hour. Didn’t say anything. They were talking about mechanics, hands, how to approach and this and that.”

Instead of resting on their laurels after last year’s 119-57 crusade (including postseason), Ortiz senses the group wants it even more this year.

“What that tells you is that these guys, they’re not trying to miss a beat. They’re not trying to waste their time,” he said. “These kids are acting like they finished the season in last place last year. I love that because that means they’re still hungry, they want more and they will get nothing but better and better and better.”

Ortiz is particularly fascinated and impressed by Martinez’s hold on the group.

“J.D. is like the center … the mother hen, he’s the one who everybody is like getting feedback from, you know what I’m saying because he’s a psychopath,” Ortiz said. “This dude is on another level of being good and wanting to be better. That’s one thing I enjoy the most when I’m around here is just watching the way he handles himself and the way he helps the rest of the squad.”

Then there are the players Ortiz once nurtured, and now he watches like a proud father as they take their games to another level. Take, for example, Bradley.

“JBJ, he hasn't stopped training since last year,” Ortiz said. “I'm not saying that Spring Training matters, but you can see his body language, you can see how confident he can be this season, how he can take things to that one level that we all expect.”

And what more can you say about Betts, who is coming off an MVP season?

“You have a conversation with Mookie and I was telling him, ‘You know how hard it is to do what you did last year? You stayed hot for seven months,’" Ortiz said. "I’ve never seen anybody do that, stay hot for seven months. I don’t remember Mookie being in a slump last year.

“He was hitting .340 all year long last year that is hard to do. But the only way you can accomplish something like that is No. 1, staying health which is one of the most important thing, and No. 2, pay attention. Begin surrounded by people that do nothing but give you that positive vibe. Plus, you know Mookie. Mookie, he doesn’t want to be good. He wants to be perfect. That’s what makes him so good.”

As for how good the 2019 Red Sox will be, Ortiz urges people to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

“I’m happy with what I see, to be honest with you,” said Ortiz.