The Red Sox should quickly and quietly lock up their icon for the rest of his playing career and gage his interest about working for the club after his playing days are done.
Ortiz is to this generation of Red Sox fans what Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski were to theirs, the hard working and blue-collar face of the franchise that fans from Hartford to Caribou could relate too.
Unlike those legends, Ortiz comes across as warm and lovable. He has become a man of the people and the Red Sox should not even tempt fate to see if he would sign any place else.
If you thought the fan base soured on Jacoby Ellsbury after signing with the New York Yankees, the reaction to Ortiz heading towards the Bronx would cause fans how to spell the word “traitor” properly.
Ultimately, whatever the two sides agree to has to make financial sense for the Red Sox. If Ortiz limps off into the sunset hitting .225 and can no longer power the ball anywhere, then he should no longer be expecting $15 million a year.
Ortiz’s value to the team, however, is more than pure statistics.
It was Ortiz’s mid-game meeting in the dugout during Game 4 of the World Series in St. Louis that turned things around. After losing Game 3 in such a controversial way, his pants-kicking pep rally fired up the Sox and they won the last three games of the Series.
When New England needed a collective hug after the Boston Marathon bombings, it was Ortiz that provided the right words and drew the huge standing ovation when the club returned home.
He is high strung. The poor dugout telephone in Baltimore can tell you first-hand what happens when Ortiz loses his temper. He may or may not have done steroids during his years in Boston. A god, he is not.
Ortiz does bring to the table two important roles that cannot be easily replaced. He has the respect and admiration of the clubhouse and he has perhaps one of the best batting eye’s in the history of the game.
The Sox have to be careful, on the other hand, that they do not hang on to players past their prime. While the Tim Wakefield perpetual option sounds like the ideal solution for both sides, Boston let Wakefield stay too long and it hurt the club.
Once that bat speed starts to slow again, they will gently need to show him the door as an active player.
The future of the club is bright. There are no prospects Ortiz is holding up from playing every day as a designated hitter. The Sox need to take care of this before it becomes a distraction.
Make him a Red Sox player for life.
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