fb-pixel Skip to main content

David Ortiz’s age-defying feats are extraordinary

David Ortiz is piling up the extra bases, with 19 doubles, 1 triple, and 11 homers through 44 games.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Picked-up pieces while watching 40-year-old David Ortiz on a pace to do something done only by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig — who did it in their mid-20s.

■   Big Papi is on a pace to produce 114 extra-base hits. That would be the third-highest extra-base hit total in baseball history, exceeded only by the Bambino and Gehrig. Ruth struck 119 extra-base hits when he was 26 in 1921, and Gehrig produced 117 when he was 24 in 1927.

At the age of 39, Barry Bonds hit .362 with 45 homers, 101 RBIs, and a 1.422 OPS. At the age of 41, Ted Williams hit .316 with 29 homers, 72 RBIs, and a 1.096 OPS. Ortiz, who will turn 41 in November, is on a pace for .329, 40 homers, 136 RBIs, and a 1.092 OPS.


Much as we’re enjoying the show, some folks find this difficult to believe.

When news leaked in 2009 that Ortiz had tested positive for PEDs in 2003 — a test sanctioned by the Players Association that was supposed to be secret and used only to determine the extent of the problem in baseball, Ortiz admitted only that he’d been “a little careless” when he bought supplements and vitamins over the counter in the US and in the Dominican Republic.

He apologized to Sox fans, owners, teammates, and his manager for the distraction. MLB issued a statement acknowledging that “the names on the list . . . are subject to uncertainties with regard to the test results.’’

Ortiz has since repeatedly stated that no one would tell him what he tested positive for.

In May of 2013, I interviewed Ortiz in person and asked him about PEDs. It was a taped conversation. Among other things, I asked him if he understood why people might be suspicious of his performance and bat speed at his age. A few of his answers are worth repeating now:


“I don’t care what people say, bro. That’s the bottom line. If you struggle, it’s bad. If you do well, it’s bad, too. I don’t care. I got nothing to hide, bro.

“Testing is not my problem. Being tested — I ask to go in and get it done. I got no problem with that. I’m not going to screw everything that I have done in my career because I test positive for steroids. That’s not going to happen.

“I guarantee you that later, you are not going to find out that I tested positive for some [expletive]. It’s not happening. Guaranteed. Guaranteed.’’

Ortiz is a smart guy and certainly knows it would be foolish to do anything to tarnish his legacy at this stage of his career.

Meanwhile, here we sit, watching Ortiz at 40 slugging like Ruth and Gehrig in their 20s.

■  The Red Sox did a nice thing by putting Larry Lucchino into their Hall of Fame last week, but they continue to erase Lucchino in Kremlin-like fashion. His name has been deleted from the sentence in the 2016 press guide detailing the John Henry group’s purchase of the team in 2001. CEO Sam Kennedy now references “the Henry-Werner era” when speaking of past, present, and future decision-making by Red Sox management. It’s as if the days of “Larry Lucchino runs the Red Sox” never happened.

■   My head explodes when Tom Werner is characterized as an advocate for making baseball games go faster. An owner can’t control the pace of the game, but with their emphasis on running up pitch counts, the Red Sox probably have done more to make the games longer than any other team in baseball.


This year, Sox games are averaging 3 hours and 15 minutes, second-longest in baseball. Werner has power with network broadcasts, which also extend the length of the games. Breaks between innings are 2:35 for network games, compared with 2:05 for local games. That’s more than eight extra minutes per game right there.

MLB could shorten all the games by shortening the breaks, but the cash is too enticing. NESN is one of the few regional networks that crams four 30-second spots into the 2:05 between innings. Remember that next time you miss a pitch coming back from commercial.

■   Do not approach Jackie Bradley Jr. and ask him about his 27-game hitting streak before Tuesday night’s game with the Rockies. I made that mistake with Nomar Garciaparra in 2003 and put the juju on him.

Nomar was up to 26 games. The Sox were in New York. I called the great Dominic DiMaggio to get a comment. Dominic (who died in 2009) holds the Sox record with a 34-game streak. I went on NESN and talked about it before the next game. I told Nomar that Dominic was rooting for him. And then Nomar went 0 for 4 and the streak was over. Leave it alone, people.


■   Quiz: Carlos Beltran last week became the fourth big league switch-hitter to hit 400 homers. Mark Teixeira (397) will be the next. Name the first three (answer below).

■   Here’s an NBA Draft haul that is certain never to be duplicated. With his first three picks in 1956, Red Auerbach selected Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, and K.C. Jones. All went on to enjoy Hall of Fame careers with the Celtics and all eventually coached the Celtics to championships.

Russell won 11 championships as a player, two as a head coach (while he was still playing). Heinsohn won 10 rings, eight as a player, two as a head coach. Jones won eight championships as a player, two as a head coach, and one as a Celtics assistant head coach.

That’s 32 Celtics championship rings; 34 if Russell counts for two in 1968 and 1969. Jones also bagged a ring as an assistant coach with the championship Lakers in 1972.

■   The increasingly unhinged Curt Schilling, who was paid $60 million over five seasons by the Red Sox — including $8 million in 2008 when he did not throw a pitch — said this about Henry on his Periscope platform: “Yeah, John Henry is not a good person.’’

■   Starting Thursday night, Lou Merloni gets to look at the right-field facade and see his number 26 retired alongside Williams’s 9, Yaz’s 8, and the rest. Merloni is one of many players who was issued Wade Boggs’s number after Boggs went to the Yankees in 1993. No one has worn Roger Clemens’s 21 since the Rocket went to Toronto in 1997.


■   Slump-busting in 2016: Cavaliers win the NBA championship, giving Cleveland its first title of any kind since the 1964 Browns. Then the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years.

■   Speaking of the great Midwest, sorry to see the end of Joe Louis’s name on the Red Wings arena in Motown. “The Joe” will close after next season, then the Wings will move into brand-new Little Caesars Arena near Ford Field and Comerica Park. It’s bound to become known as “Caesar’s Palace.” The last homage to the Brown Bomber will be the 30-year-old “The Fist” sculpture at the intersection of Woodward and Jefferson.

■   Russell Wilson gave the commencement address at the University of Wisconsin and said, “I’m here to share some things I’ve learned . . . If you’re playing the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl and you’ve got 26 seconds left and you’re down by 4 and it’s second and goal on their 1-yard line, try not to throw an interception.’’ He could have added, “Don’t listen to Pete Carroll.’’

■   Would love to see Joe Thornton (San Jose) and Phil Kessel (Pittsburgh) in the Stanley Cup Final and would love to see Jumbo Joe get his name on the Cup.

■   It’s easy to forget that Bartolo Colon pitched for the Red Sox in 2008. Colon was 4-2 in seven starts, but quit and went home to the Dominican Republic when Terry Francona tried to move him to the bullpen. The Sox suspended Colon without pay and went on to the seventh game of the ALCS before losing to Tampa Bay.

■   There were new problems with the infamous visitors’ dugout bathroom at the ancient Oakland Coliseum last weekend. The Yankees experienced leakage there Friday and Saturday, reminding folks of an unfortunate incident from 2013 when raw sewage flooded the A’s dugout and leaked into the coaches’ clubhouse bathroom.

The visitors’ dugout was made famous in the late 1970s when Earl Weaver tried to hide in there after he was ejected by umpire Jim Evans. Suspicious that the Orioles manager had not retreated to the clubhouse, Evans knocked on the door and said, “Earl, I know you’re in there.’’ Weaver’s response: “Yes, I’m in here because your umpiring made me sick.’’ After the episode, Evans called Weaver “baseball’s Son of Sam,’’ and was disciplined by the American League office.

■   Detroit’s Andre Drummond may go the Wilt Chamberlain/Rick Barry route and try shooting his free throws underhanded next season. Drummond shot 35.5 percent from the line this past season.

■   I get it: It’s good to be Gronk. Gronk is one goofy guy. Gronk likes to party.

■   Warning: Watch out for the Yankees.

It was easy to laugh at them a couple of weeks ago, but they may not be buried for good. They’ve won five in a row, climbed into third place, and are only a game under .500. If you want to beat them, you’d better have a lead after six innings. New York’s closing trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman might be the most fearsome in the history of baseball.

■   We all love Kevin Faulk, but his place in the Patriots Hall of Fame ahead of some obvious omissions casts a shadow on the Foxborough shrine.

■   Quiz answer: Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), Chipper Jones (468).

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.