When a legend continues to play deep into his career, the inevitable discussion of retirement arises. When is the time right? When does a player understand it’s time to hang up the cleats? It’s a very difficult prospect to consider, especially when it comes to David Ortiz.
When Boston needed it most, Big Papi always delivered. Whether it was 2004, 2007, or 2013, Ortiz was a pivotal and clutch player throughout his career. When the city was attacked by the Tsarnaev brothers, Ortiz declared emphatically that this city was ours and could not be shaken by radical ambitions.
David Ortiz is now 40 years old. He is a nine time all-star, won three World Series titles, and hit for 514 home runs to date. Before this season began, he announced it would be his farewell tour.
So far it has been a year for the ages. Ortiz is not slowing down, but actually having a career year. His slugging percentage of .684 is the highest of his career. Ortiz’s OPS is also a career high of 1.092. Forty games into his farewell tour, Ortiz is on pace for 44 home runs, 200 hits, and a ridiculous 76 doubles.
Two hundred hits would beat out his personal record of 182 in 2007. Forty-four home runs would be his highest total since 2006 when he belted 54 homers. His doubles pace would blow away his personal record of 52.
So with these numbers, why would Ortiz retire? Could he come back for another year and be the $25 million dollar man that some want him to be?
When the prospects of retirement come, some have trouble moving on from their respective professions. An example of difficult retirement decisions can be examined through Brett Favre’s career.
Favre held records, won super bowls, and excelled at the position for years and years. He played 20 punishing seasons in the National Football League. In 2006, it was first speculated that Favre would retire. A year later he was still playing with Aaron Rodgers behind him on the bench. Failing to make the Super Bowl in 2007, he would announce his first retirement in on March 4, 2008.
Favre failed to fight the itch to play again. He felt that he still had the ability to perform despite the fact he was 38-years-old. When he picked up the phone to call Packers head coach Mike McCarthy he was informed, “Oh, God, Brett. You’re putting us in a tight spot. Playing here is not an option.”
When a team finds out a player intends to retire, change sweeps through the organization as they plan for the future. The Packers had their future superstar quarterback already ready to play. Favre’s inability to decide between playing and retiring would distract the team, take time away from planning for the season.
The Packers decision turned out to be for the best. Aaron Rodgers is an elite force at quarterback in Green Bay. Favre still wanted to play though. The Packers offered him $25 million to remain retired and he rejected them. Favre was subsequently traded to the New York Jets.
Favre’s time with the Jets was originally great for both parties in the 2008 season. By week 12, the Packers were sitting at 8-3. They would then go on to lose four of the last five games while Favre threw eight interceptions and only two touchdowns. Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum informed Favre that, “it may be time to look in a different direction regarding the quarterback position”. Again, Favre would retire on February 11th, 2009.
Incredibly enough, Favre made another comeback. Minnesota signed him and the Vikings would finish 12-4 in 2009. The gunslinger would reach the NFC Championship game but fell to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Saints. He was 40-years-old.
Favre would have one season left in him, but age caught up in 2010. He would fall victim to multiple injuries during the season including a sprained AC joint and concussion. In a game against the Chicago Bears, Corey Wootton delivered a punishing blow that would ultimately end his career.
In 2013, Favre was asked again to return from retirement to play for the Rams. He declined. The extra years of abuse had reached a critical mass. The countless concussions had caused him to suffer from memory loss.
Favre’s career didn’t end with a bang. It certainly wasn’t the farewell tour that Ortiz has started to compile through 40 games. There were no career leading statistics or personal records broken, just concussion protocol and tests to pass. A protocol that Favre would never escape.
While football and baseball are two tremendously different sports — and quarterback and designated hitter are vastly different positions — both games still take a tremendous toll on the body after long careers. Father time catches everyone eventually, no one is safe. With the success that Ortiz is currently having, it’s in his best interest to stay committed to his postseason retirement plans.
The team has to eventually move on from Big Papi, as much as the fans and ownership might not like it.
So David, continue to end your career with the nuclear explosion of offense you’re consistently providing. Go out on top before you become a former shell of yourself. Spend every single ounce of energy on this season, and expend your ability now before you’re tempted by $25 million dollar speculation to return.
The City of Boston and Red Sox fans are forever grateful for the effort and heroics you have provided. Make the last ride of your career the most memorable: Bring the World Series title home in 2016.