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The last time we saw David Ortiz in a Red Sox uniform, at Fenway Park, he was hoisting the 2013 World Series MVP trophy firmly over his head. It was a well-deserved reminder that Ortiz had been the best player through the six-game series that ended abruptly on a crisp October night in Boston.
That night has long lingered in the minds of Red Sox Nation throughout a quiet offseason riddled with faint whispers of a trade here or a pickup there. By all accounts that imagery should have a stranglehold on our short-term memories. Of course, it’s one of many that Sox fans catalog under the auspices of ‘David Ortiz.’
Ortiz has seemingly found himself playing the main character in a variety of key Red Sox narratives - moments that have captured the heart of numerous fans who are inclined to look at Big Papi as an irreplaceable demi-god instead of a long-term business decision.
And isn’t that the problem?
In recent days Ortiz has begun to rumble (publically) about his present contract situation. With one year left on his current deal, Papi is playing the part of scorned divorcée looking to collect additional funds before the relationship is completely severed – whether by retirement or release.
But should Red Sox management entertain his current discourse?
Before I answer that question it’s only appropriate I acknowledge the fact that I, along with many Red Sox fans, are caught between head and heart. The heart views Ortiz through the red and navy colored glasses littered with moments of Red Sox lore that are reserved for only the few that reach such status. However, the head acts like a heartbroken teenage boy after seeing his ex with her new beau - daydreaming about the old while simply saying, “Really, him?”
The heart shares an emotional connect with Ortiz. Nostalgia sets in as flashbacks to 2004, 2007, and now, 2013 flood the mind like a New England basement during the rainy season. All forms of logic and foresight take a backseat to an epic foundation filled with memories of days past. The heart rarely considers the future, and blinds itself to a day when Ortiz no longer dons the Red Sox uniform.
On the other hand the head is calculated, and by extension, cold. It acknowledges the past with a slight nod but realizes it's just that, the past. It clings - with disdain - to the fact that its job is to look to the day Ortiz is no longer a part of this team, and in doing so, must prepare for that uncertainty. Plus, let's be honest, the head accounts for the full financial weight loaded on a team searching for new prospects and top-tier talent.
It's with that understanding that we arrive at the problem many are facing. We love Ortiz but is he worth another extension?
Look, I get it. Ortiz will always have a special place in Boston sports for what he's done. For some of you that assertion will cloud any form of judgement that would suggest Ortiz is not worth what he's asking. Nonetheless, it's time we start looking at Ortiz with our head instead of our heart.
As much as many of us might fight it, there will be a day when number 34 no longer dons the word "Boston" across his chest. And here's the thing, that time is coming sooner than we think. It's time we start viewing Ortiz as he is - an aging late-30's slugger in the twilight of his career.
At the risk of sounding like a heartbroken teenage boy, if the Red Sox give Ortiz another extension I have to ask, "Really, him?"