What he couldn't get last offseason, David Ortiz seems on the verge of getting this offseason. The power-hitting designated hitter wanted a multi-year deal after the 2011 season, and he tested the market. He took his bat, his size, and his encroachment on historic home run totals and went shopping. He was looking for a team willing to show him the love of more than one year. But his shopping spree fell flat, and he landed back in Boston with a one-year deal. So after an injury-plagued season it seems strange to think that Ortiz would have better luck, but it looks like he will. He and the Red Sox are closing in on a two-year deal. And it's a great move for Boston.
The news broke yesterday. Despite his achilles injury, despite playing in only 90 games, the Red Sox are going to bring Ortiz back for two years. Maybe it's the turnover. They could be tired of it. They should be tired of it. There was manager Terry Francona's firing, Theo Epstein's dash to Chicago, there was Bobby Valentine's hiring, there was Josh Becket and Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez's trade, there was mutiny, and there was Bobby Valentine's firing. The turmoil in Boston feels like something from an epic novel, the type that becomes ingrained with the city's history. Paul Revere, the Boston Tea Party, and the fall of the Red Sox.
Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston says the Red Sox and Ortiz are closing in on a deal that would pay the 36 year old slugger somewhere near his desired $25 million. The team hopes to have the deal done by the end of the week. While Edes says that those in the organization caution that the deal is not done, the Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has continued to say he wants Ortiz back.
"As I said, we want to have David back," general manager Ben Cherington said Tuesday. "We've had good, amicable dialogue. I talked to Fernando (Cuza, Ortiz's agent) yesterday. We'll continue to keep talking. Our hope is to get something done. I'm sure we'll talk again this week sometime."
Boton's best shot at returning to the glory they had stolen from New York is stability and productivity. Ortiz gives the team both. As the Red Sox rose from the Yankees' doormats to legitimate contenders in the American League East, they did so with a changing clubhouse. The clubhouse meshed and became a band of brothers, of idiots as they called themselves. And while the team was winning, this was alright. However, blow a huge lead in September and miss the postseason, that changes people's opinion in a hurry. It's like the friend you had in high school. The one who you put up with because he could get you into all the best parties. When he ran out of mojo and you were left hoping to be back at those parties, that friend fell by the wayside. He wasn't worth it anymore. The Red Sox weren't worth it to a lot of people after the 2011 season. And the front office over-reacted.
Ben Cherington and the rest of the Red Sox front office has had the miserable 2012 season to take a step back and reassess. Perhaps they realized that the team needs to recapture some of the things that made them great from 2003-2010. Maybe they realized that dismantling the sputtering engine that was the core of two World Series titles was a mistake. A tune up was probably all they needed. So rather than continue the destruction, Cherington is looking to rebuild with Ortiz.
David Ortiz is the face of the current Red Sox. Think back to 2004, or 2007. Ortiz was there. He is the mainstay. He is the player who is has slugged his way to 343 home runs with Boston. He is the heart and soul of Boston, and if he is healthy, he could be the reason for their return to grace.
The health piece is key. Ninety games is not enough. If Ortiz battles injuries over the two years of this likely contract, it will be a bad deal for Boston. If he performs like he did in every year since coming to Boston, save for this season, Cherington looks like a genius. Ortiz says his achilles is healed and he is fully recovered. This may be true, but with age comes nagging injuries. With major injuries like his achilles injury comes doubt. But a multi-year deal is the right move for Boston. It's a sign of faith that will be respected by both Ortiz and the fans. And the fans are who they need to win back.
From reaction we've seen here, and reaction across the web, the fans want Ortiz back. Fans don't always know what's best, but this move is the best move. There's little doubt there. What else do the Red Sox have? Dustin Pedroia? Jon Lester? Ortiz will hit, and the fans will come to watch him hit. So if the Red Sox are not quite ready to pull themselves out of the depths of bad baseball, at least they will be able to attract fans with one of the fan-favorites.
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