David Ortiz eyes home run milestones in terrific start to final season
David Ortiz is retiring after this season, but not soon enough for the Yankees' benefit. On Sunday night, the Red Sox' longtime designated hitter clubbed two home runs off New York starter Luis Severino to help Boston avoid being swept during its three-game series in the Bronx. In doing so, Ortiz climbed into a tie for the 22nd spot on the all-time home run list and continued a personal hot streak that has included six homers in his last nine games. The 40-year-old slugger has put himself in position to collect several more milestones before he departs.
Ortiz's first home run of the night was the 511th of his career, tying Mel Ott, and was estimated by StatCast at 422 feet. His second, No. 512, moved him into a tie with Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews and was estimated at 398 feet. Here's a supercut of the pair:
As ESPN play-by-play announcer Dan Shulman noted on the broadcast, the first homer was Ortiz's 453rd for the Red Sox, moving him past Carl Yastrzemski for sole possession of second place on the franchise's all-time list. Barring a reconsideration of his retirement plans—not unreasonable, given that he's hitting .308/.393/.673, ranks second in the AL in slugging percentage and is tied for second in homers—he's not going to catch Ted Williams's mark of 521. Nonetheless, the Splendid Splinter is in Ortiz's path, as that career total shares the 19th rung of the all-time list with Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas.
Including his home run from Friday night's loss, Ortiz has now hit 52 regular-season homers against the Yankees in his career, all but one of them with the Red Sox. Jimmie Foxx is the record holder with 70, followed by Williams (62), Ramirez (55) and Hank Greenberg (53). Ortiz's 51 since moving to Boston are third all-time against New York, trailing Yaz (52) and Williams, and he has 13 games left against the Yankees to add to that total.
What's more, with just one more homer in his six remaining games at Yankee Stadium, Ortiz can surpass Williams for the most homers by a Red Sox player in the Bronx. The pair are currently tied with 30, with Williams mashing all of his in the original Yankee Stadium and Ortiz splitting his equally between the renovated version of the old stadium and the new one, which opened in 2009.Jim Rice (22), Yastrzemski (21) and Ramirez (18) round out the top five of that list, in case you were curious.
With nine homers in Boston's 31 games, Ortiz is on pace for a 47-homer season. He probably won't maintain that—last year's 37 homers represented his highest total since 2006, the year he bashed a league-leading 54—but he would appear to have a good shot of topping the record for a player in his age-40 season or beyond. Here's a quick look at the top 10:
|Ted Williams||1960||Red Sox||41||29|
|Dave Winfield||1992||Blue Jays||40||26|
|8||Harold Baines||1999||Two teams||40||25|
|10||Eddie Murray||1996||Two teams||40||22|
If Ortiz does set the record in that capacity, it will mean that he'll also at least match the record for the most homers by a player in his final season:
|Ted Williams||1960||Red Sox||41||29|
|5||Jermaine Dye||2009||White Sox||35||27|
If Ortiz were to reach 35 homers, it would push his career total to 538; that would move him past Foxx (534) and Mickey Mantle (536) into 17th on the all-time list. Next up after that would be Mike Schmidt at 548, but for Ortiz to get there would require his maintaining something very close to his current pace.
While Ortiz's performances in 2015 and '16 have left no doubt that he can still swing the bat well enough to justify continuing his career, he's maintained his stance that he's retiring at the end of this season so as to move on to the next chapter of his life, which includes spending more time with his family. The good news is that he's hardly limping to the finish line, as Derek Jeter did in 2014, and that Boston is off to a strong enough start (18–13) that he may get another chance to add some postseason heroics to a resumé that already includes three World Series rings and a .295/.409/.553 line with 17 postseason homers. Perhaps he'll lead the Red Sox on another October run. Or maybe he’ll homer in his last regular-season plate appearance (scheduled against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Oct. 2), as Williams did in 1960. Who would put such a dramatic exit past Big Papi at this point?