For what he's done, Ortiz has earned two years.
After several weeks of trying to figure out why so many people are adverse to giving a contract extension to David Ortiz, merely the best big-game player in Red Sox history, I think I've finally put my finger on one of the key reasons -- one that might be locked deep in the subconscious of many naysayers.
Mo was once the man for Boston.
Before Pedro and Papi and Petey and Red Sox Nation and the sellout steak, Vaughn was the best and most popular everyday player on the Boston team -- a guy who, like Ortiz, loomed large at the plate, in the clubhouse, and everywhere else he went including the Jimmy Fund Clinic. Then Mo chose to take his talents elsewhere as a free agent, and within a couple years injuries and too many trips to the postgame buffet did him in.
Sure, Red Sox fans hated to see Mo go, but based on the final numbers they probably thought it wasn't such a bad move. Personally, I think that like Bruce Hurst a decade before, Vaughn's heart was never quite in the game after he left the intense atmosphere of Boston for come-late-leave-early Southern California. Fleeing town earned Mo plenty of cash but also may have cost him a shot at Cooperstown. (Before you laugh off this claim, consider his OPS of .936 through his Red Sox years. He's in pretty good company there, with a figure not too far below Willie Mays among the career leaders.)
Mo moped a lot in Anaheim.
Ortiz has a body type much like Vaughn, so it's natural to assume he's going to lose his bat speed and skills quickly as well. But Papi is already seven years older than Mo when he went to Anaheim, and that's just according to his "official" age (in reality, he might be one or two years older). Even taking his recent injuries into account, there is no sign of a Vaughn-like decline.
In fact, based on last year's World Series, Ortiz looks nearly as good as ever.
Now let's suppose that he does start to slip this year, and the second season of a multi-year deal winds up being largely a bust. If there was ever a player who deserved a bit of a golden parachute and victory tour, isn't it this guy? I know it's not my money, but seriously, hasn't this guy earned the street cred of the 1983 broken-down but beloved version of Carl Yastrzemski if it comes to that?
Broken down, still beloved.
Let's look at it another way. If Carl Crawford is worth a seven-year deal worth $142 million from Boston after winning his first Silver Slugger award, isn't Dave Ortiz worth two seasons at $30 million after earning his sixth -- along with the World Series MVP?
Back in 2004, Ortiz did something that neither Ted or Yaz or Pudge or Rocket or Mo could do in Boston -- he led his team to a World Series title. This alone would have been enough to earn him "never pay for a meal again" status in New England, but then he went and did it again. And again.
Three championships in a decade. Sure, Ortiz didn't do it all himself -- but he was a huge cog in the wheel, perhaps the hugest. Larry Bird won three titles for Boston as well, but if he had asked for a two-year pact, even during the Lying Down When Not Playing Era when his back had the durability of cardboard, would anybody have protested?
Down but never out.
Unless they wanted to be yelled off the air on WEEI or booted out of the old Garden, the answer is a resounding NO. Larry Legend was worth whatever he wanted for what he meant to the team.
I say lay off Papi's back and give him the extra year he's seeking. And if he manages to keep playing at a high level through 2016, give him one or two more if he so desires.
The thought of Ortiz coming to town in Yankee pinstripes or any other uniform is far more sickening than when Damon or Clemens or Boggs did the same. Really, there is no comparison. All of them were great players, but Ortiz took the Sox where nobody since Babe Ruth did before: all the way.
Three is worth two.
For that, he deserves at least two more years -- and fans deserve at least that long to cheer him.