David Ortiz deserves an extension (and your love)

Jared Wickerham

Big Papi is an easy choice for the extension he's clamoring for, regardless of what some in the media and calling in to radio shows might think.

I'll never understand people who don't like David Ortiz, who not only is a tremendous hitter, but the closest thing we have to a living Muppet in Major League Baseball. He looks like Sweetums would, if he suddenly became human. Sure, Ortiz is loud. Yes, his name was on the leaked list of players who tested positive for PEDs eleven years ago (and, by the way, we don't know which PEDs he tested positive for, or if he deliberately used them or not, and neither does Ortiz). Look at David Ortiz though. If you're not a Yankees or a Cardinals fan, how can you stay mad at a guy who plays this well, smiles this wide, and has never issued a boring quote in his life? Ortiz doesn't just make the Red Sox better, he makes baseball better.

Because of that, I don't blame Ortiz one bit for wanting to get paid and for being frustrated at "haters" in the media and on radio call in shows. Having to come into camp without it, Big Papi is understandably campaigning for some job security, hoping to stay in Boston beyond 2014. After eleven years and three world championships, there's probably not another player in the game today more closely aligned with the place where he plays, except for Derek Jeter in New York, and maybe Joe Mauer in Minnesota.

He is not asking for much either. By his own admission, he's a bad long-term investment, and he understands that nobody is going to back up the Brinks truck for a 38-year-old giant who can only DH. Just as any of us would, however, he wants to stay in Boston, where he's built a life and is generally beloved, for as long as he can. He's frustrated that it's not happening, and that he's getting criticized for wanting to stick around.

Should he have said, "I don't even know why they're bitching about me talking about contracts. Guys putting up my numbers, they're making $25, $30 million. I'm not asking for that. I'm asking for half of it. And they're still bitching about it? (Expletive) them. I'm tired of hearing them talk (expletive) about me when I talk about my contract. Hey, every time I talk about my contract, I earn it, (expletive). So don't be giving me that (expletive)?"

Of course not. Duh.

I can understand why he did, however. I can imagine being sick of feeling unwanted, when he's contributed so much to the Red Sox. I can appreciate how annoying it must be to hear over and over again that he's too risky, that he's "selfish, tone-deaf, and offensive," as Dan Shaughnessy said earlier this off-season when he argued "the Sox would be nuts to cave on this."

More importantly, I can see David Ortiz's point. Yes, he's 38 years old. Yes, he got hurt in 2012. He also has the fourth highest OPS in baseball since the start of 2010, behind only Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, and Jose Bautista, and is fifth in wOBA. He's as good a hitter today as he was back in 2006 and 2007, when led the AL in homers, RBI, walks, and on-base percentage. According to OPS+, these are the best hitters in the last 100 years from ages 34-37:

Player

OPS+

G

PA

HR

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Barry Bonds

221

541

2317

202

0.318

0.489

0.748

1.237

Babe Ruth

206

558

2515

182

0.355

0.478

0.699

1.177

Ted Williams

198

388

1555

94

0.353

0.497

0.663

1.161

Mark McGwire

180

494

2027

196

0.272

0.429

0.683

1.112

Hank Aaron

168

596

2486

158

0.302

0.385

0.583

0.968

Tris Speaker

167

534

2306

49

0.372

0.463

0.577

1.04

Edgar Martinez

158

604

2623

118

0.328

0.438

0.563

1.002

Willie Mays

155

598

2384

134

0.29

0.369

0.54

0.909

David Ortiz

154

518

2194

114

0.3

0.392

0.56

0.952

Stan Musial

154

579

2465

106

0.328

0.409

0.556

0.964

Here's how that same group did in their age 38 and 39 seasons:

Player

OPS+

G

PA

HR

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Barry Bonds

247

277

1167

90

0.351

0.572

0.78

1.351

Babe Ruth

169

262

1047

56

0.295

0.445

0.562

1.006

Ted Williams

206

261

1064

64

0.359

0.493

0.658

1.151

Mark McGwire

Hank Aaron

161

249

1010

74

0.282

0.395

0.574

0.97

Tris Speaker

123

291

1257

9

0.315

0.402

0.457

0.858

Edgar Martinez

155

296

1280

53

0.329

0.438

0.56

0.997

Willie Mays

133

256

1025

41

0.287

0.378

0.474

0.852

David Ortiz

Stan Musial

113

231

780

31

0.265

0.359

0.457

0.816

As you can see, while some of them fell off, all of them remained productive hitters (which, for Ortiz, is really all we care about) with the exception of Mark McGwire, who retired because of a knee injury. The overwhelming lesson of this admittedly unscientific comparison is that great hitters continue to be good hitters.

Ortiz has been worth between three and three-and-a-half wins per season since 2010, and it's all bat. Even if we assume he's going to be slowing down, and was only as good as, say, Billy Butler or Kendrys Morales, those hitters were still worth 1.5-2.5 wins above replacement. In a market where a marginal win is roughly worth around $7 million on the open market, Ortiz would still come in at or below market value if he was extended at his current salary. Once you throw the Red Sox's deep coffers and the presumed value of keeping a popular franchise leader and icon around, it seems pretty harmless for the club to toss their slugger a bone, and extend him through 2015. He's more than earned it and is almost certain to be worth it, if for no other reason than it will drive Dan Shaughnessy nuts. That's the kind of production you can't measure on the field, and that it's impossible to put a price on.

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