BALTIMORE — David Ortiz stroked his 30th home run Friday night and now has seven 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons in his 17-year career, all in his 11 seasons with the Red Sox.
Want to put that in some kind of perspective? In 19 seasons with the Red Sox, Ted Williams also had seven 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons (and eight 30-homer seasons all together). So in eight fewer years, Ortiz tied Williams in the 30-100 category.
Both Williams and Ortiz played half their games at Fenway Park, with the deepest right field in the league, not easy for a lefthanded hitter even though Ortiz learned to go the other way later in his career.
“Huge honor to be mentioned with one of the greatest to ever play the game. Keep the line moving, keep producing for this ball team,” Ortiz said.
For a player who had heel problems so severe that people wondered whether he’d come back at all this season, Ortiz not only came back after missing the first 16 games, he came back with the Ortiz stroke of old.
In the past, Ortiz had said he enters every season thinking 30 homers, 100 RBIs, but he changed his tune over the last year or two.
“Not really, I just go day by day,” he said. “Power hitters, when we talk about hitting home runs, it doesn’t happen, especially the way pitchers pitch you in this league. When I had the heel problems it was tough to see this kind of year, but we have a great medical staff. They told me I’d be better. It took a long time, but it worked out and now I feel great. I don’t even feel it any more.”
He also credited John Farrell with trusting him to return when his heel felt better.
“I know things happen for a reason, but we have a great manager,” Ortiz said. “Everything that’s good for us is because of John. He’s the No. 1 reason why everything has changed around here.
“When I had a setback in spring training he came to me and said, ‘Hey, I need you, but I’m not gonna rush you. Take your time. When you’re good to go, let me know and we’ll go from there.’ He always thinks positive and makes you feel like you want to come back as soon as possible so you can go out there for that guy and win for him. He’s been incredible.”
Ortiz’s homer, a three-run shot in the Sox’ 12-3 win over the Orioles, tied him with, coincidentally, Cal Ripken Jr. at 431 (good for 45th on the all-time list).
“First you mention Ted and now Cal. That’s another great name right there. I enjoyed him so much growing up and watching him as a young player. I have great respect for him. He played every day. I don’t think you’ll ever see anyone do what he did,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz’s homer was allowed by former Boston College standout Mike Belfiore in his first major league appearance.
“Welcome to the big leagues, kid,” kidded Ortiz. “He’s from Boston [College] too, my boy. He already knows, man.”
Ortiz is hitting .308, which will be his fifth full season at .300 or better.
Just looking randomly at 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons, Alex Rodriguez has had 14 of them, Babe Ruth and Manny Ramirez had 12, Albert Pujols has 11, Hank Aaron 10, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Schmidt nine.
When Ortiz looks at Rodriguez, he’s amazed.
“I don’t know what will happen when it’s time for the Hall of Fame given what’s happened, but when you look A-Rod’s numbers it’s just, you can’t believe it,” Ortiz said. “What an amazing career that guy has had. Like I said, don’t know what the voters are gonna think, but that’s a career that very few people will ever have. That’s one of the greatest careers in the history of the game. We’re talking over 650 home runs, over 1,800 RBIs. I look at what Barry Bonds did and, oh my God, the numbers are just incredible.”
As for Cabrera, Ortiz said, “Look how young he is. When he gets to be 36 or 37, what are his numbers gonna be? Like Albert Pujols probably and maybe better. There are some great players still playing this game. I had a good year and I expect that of myself every year. That’s why I play. I want to do the best for my team. I want to win games with my bat. That’s what they paid me to do. That’s why they re-signed me here for two years.”
Ortiz is the only lefthanded hitter in the majors to achieve seven 30-100 seasons since 2003.
It’s been an amazing run for a hitter Theo Epstein took off the Minnesota Twins’ scrap heap. The rest is history.
“The way pitchers pitch to you in this league, to get that many opportunities to hit that many home runs and drive in that many runs is difficult,” Ortiz said.
“It’s gotten tougher and tougher because the pitchers get nastier and nastier. There are guys out there now with big velocity and nasty stuff. It’s tough being a hitter than it was even five years ago.”
If you go by OPS to measure offensive production, Ortiz entered Friday at .956, the fifth-best in the majors this season, behind only Cabrera, Chris Davis, Mike Trout, and Paul Goldschmidt. At 37, Ortiz is certainly the oldest of that group.
“I feel I can still do the job,” Ortiz said. “It’s been a fun year. I feel relaxed with this team. We feel we have a great chance in the playoffs. The way we’re swinging the bat, we should be tough.
“We all want another championship in here. We feel good about ourselves.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.