Hitting a round tripper on Opening Day, like hitting one in the World Series or an All-Star Game, is not considered unusual, but doing it more than once is noteworthy in some respects. In the ninth inning of Tuesday afternoon’s 6-2 win for Boston over Cleveland, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hit what proved to be his fifth career home run on Opening Day, his third with the Red Sox after hitting two with the Minnesota Twins earlier in his career. After what was a quiet spring (4-for-35 with three extra base hits), the sight of him launching one into the bleachers was a welcome sight to Red Sox fans looking for a positive start to the 2016 season.
The home run also proved to be number 504 in Big Papi’s career, which ties him with Eddie Murray for 26th all-time in MLB history. After Murray, his next target on the all-time list would be Gary Sheffield (509), followed by Mel Ott (511), Ernie Banks (512) and Eddie Matthews (also 512). He now also has 446 home runs with the Red Sox, which puts him six behind Carl Yastrzemski for second place (452) and well behind Ted Williams with 521, whom he has a chance to catch only in the career total category.
With the trade of Jon Lester to Oakland this past week, so departs one of the best left-handed starting pitchers in Red Sox team history, with 110 wins, a no-hitter, and two World Series championships to his credit. Among southpaws in team history, his 110 wins is second-most behind the legendary Mel Parnell and his 1386 strikeouts leads all others.
There is no question from anyone who has watched him over his eight-plus seasons with Boston that he has been an invaluable contributor to its recent success and there’s a possibility that we have not seen him pitch for the last time in a Red Sox uniform. So how does he compare to others greats who have pitched for this franchise?
Should David Ortiz appear tonight for the Red Sox against the Yankees at Fenway Park as the designated hitter, and by all accounts he will, he will set a new Major League Baseball record for most appearances as a DH with 1644 games, surpassing former slugger Harold Baines. Ortiz already holds the record for most starts in league history by a DH with 1625, well ahead of Baines at 1565 starts.
Big Papi is far and away the leader in most offensive categories as a designated hitter: most plate appearances (7188), most hits (1779), most doubles (450), most home runs (385), and most RBI (1256). Counting only players with at least 2000 plate appearances as a DH, his OPS of .941 ranks second to Edgar Martinez (.959).
Out of the nearly 1700 players who have appeared for the Red Sox through the 2013 season, there have been almost 800 players that have worn a Boston uniform for just a single season. Some may be remembered for one fleeting moment in the spotlight, like Billy Rohr, who was one out away from a no-hitter against the New York Yankees in his first major league start in 1967 but made just eight more starts that season and won only one other game (his next start, also against the Yankees). Others may have been aging former All-Stars looking for one last season under the sun, like Carlos Baerga or Mark Lemke.
Then there are those who use that one season to showcase their talents, performing at a level perhaps unexpected. Every plate appearance seems to produce, every play in the field seems fluid and flawless, and the sportswriters and fans watch in awe and amazement.
Last week, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced that he would retire at the end the 2014 baseball season after 20 years in baseball. The Yankees captain and future first ballot Hall of Fame candidate has been a fixture in the New York lineup since 1996, playing an average of 144 games per season; that figure jumps to 153 if you discount his injury-plagued 2013 campaign in which he managed just 17 games due to injury.
His career appearances at shortstop is by and far the most by a player in a Yankees uniform; Phil Rizzuto is a distant second with 1647 appearances, while Frankie Crosetti is third with 1516. He has also played the most games of anyone in a Yankees uniform, 2602, which is over 200 more than the great Mickey Mantle.
In contrast, over the same time period, the shortstop position has been remarkably fluid for the Boston Red Sox, especially since 2004 when the team traded away perennial All-Star Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs at the deadline. Since 2005, no player has held that role for longer than two seasons and only one player has started at least 150 games in a single season.