Suppose the Red Sox’ offense is a shell of its 2016 self to start the 2017 season. Suppose Hanley Ramirez, despite looking as though he’s added 90 pounds of pure muscle, has zero power. Suppose Pablo Sandoval, the likely No. 5 hitter behind Ramirez in the lineup, looks ready for retirement instead of a rebirth. Suppose either Mitch Moreland or Andrew Benintendi aren’t ready for the bright lights of Fenway.
Suppose the Red Sox desperately miss David Ortiz.
You better believe that after that first 4-0 shutout loss, the WEEI and 98.5 airwaves will be flooded with callers begging Red Sox management to throw an obscene amount of cash at Big Papi to come out of retirement. Ortiz hasn’t helped matters this offseason. After the Sox acquired Chris Sale in early December, Ortiz tweeted, “My god. My boy Sale to Btown? You guys got me thinking.”
There’s also the stories of Ortiz lifting weights at Fenway Park in the immediate days after the Sox fell to the Indians in the playoffs.
Close friend and former teammate Pedro Martinez fueled the “Ortiz return” fire last month as well.
“David says he’s retired,” Martinez told WEEI. “But I still believe David is going to give it another try. I don’t know why I have that feeling that David might want to do that. I just don’t see David, having the season that he had, and having the success that he was still having, sitting at home and wasting it.”
Ramirez recorded the best season of his career last season, belting a career-high 30 home runs and driving in a career-high 111 runs. But those numbers came with Ortiz hitting in front of him.
The responsibility of filling the enormous void left behind by Ortiz will fall on the entire Sox lineup, but since Ramirez will be the DH on most days – his production will be under a microscope, particularly early on in the season.
Ramirez’s power numbers just weren’t there early in the season last year as he had just one homer in April, three homers in May and four homers in June. Ortiz – on the other hand - was exceptional in that stretch as he hit five homers in April, nine in May and four in June for a total of 18. Needless to say, Ramirez needs to get the ball out of the ballpark early and often for there not to be nightly “Papi” chants on Lansdowne Street.
So far in spring training, Ramirez is at least saying all the right things when it comes to taking over as the team’s DH.
“[Ortiz] told me, ‘somedays you’re going to go crazy,” Ramirez said, according to CBS Boston. “Because the only thing you can do [as a DH] is hit, and when things are not going good, what else can you do?
“[Ortiz] left everything here, we’re just going to keep grinding,” he continued. “Everybody knows that David was a winner, a great teammate – who kept everybody together, and we’re gonna do the same thing this year.”