Intern: Wonderful thing, pain. Without pain, no race could survive.
4th Doctor: I’m well aware of that.
Intern: Autonomic defence mechanism.
Doctor Who, The Hand of Fear 1976
Although the Red Sox have been on a rough patch lately there has been one constant factor this season. David Ortiz is the reason they are in the race for the pennant.
Ortiz is 40 years old yet his numbers this season have been phenomenal:
He currently leads the league in doubles, slugging percentage, Extra base hits, total bases and intentional walks.
He also leads the league in some less known stats such as: adjusted batting runs, adjusted batting wins, OPS, OPS+slug, base out runs added, situational wins added,
And he is in the top 10 in all of these following categories
Batting avg 3rd
Home Runs 6th
On base percentage 2nd
Runs Created 2nd
Times on base 7th
At Bats per HR 3rd
Wins above replacement 10th
Offensive wins above replacement 3rd
This would be quite an accomplishment for a player in his prime, for a 40 year old player in what should be his final season, that’s ungodly.
Additionally he is being well compensated for these achievements. This year he is making $16,000,000 and while he has announced his retirement the team has a $10,000,000 option for next year if he was to change his mind.
That being the case an observer might think that postponing retirement for another year or two might be a wise decision after all he continues to be a productive player and baring injury it is highly likely that he will suddenly become a mediocre player in the next year or two.
Furthermore there is that $10,000,000 option. Even if he is hired by the Red Sox as a permanent batting instructor, by MLB in whatever capacity they choose, hired by ESPN or MLB network as an analyst and get endorsements high and low he will likely never see any like that kind of money ever again in his life.
But for all those numbers, including the dollar signs some things are just more important
“Big Papi” arrives at the stadium before any other player to start the long process of preparing for a game, particularly when it comes to his feet. He said he feels pain in his feet every day, and they are the main reason he guarantees he will never change his mind and come back for another season.
“Everything hurts,” he said. “It even hurts to think. Last time I reached second after a double, I almost called for a timeout so they would get me out of the game. I can barely run because my feet hurt so much. I am in severe pain.
“One often tries to live in the moment, and even when your body is saying no, you say yes, even when your body says not to. Only mental strength convinces you that you can continue. Mental strength tells you that you can keep at it. But the body is a machine; it will give out and will send you a bill.”
And David Ortiz is wise enough to know that no amount of cheers, honors or money will pay that bill for him and is acting accordingly.
That’s an important lesson and I suspect more than one older pro athlete is nodding their head wishing that at the end of their career they were wise enough to do the same.