When David Ortiz retired from Major League Baseball this past October, the Boston Red Sox didn’t just lose their best power bat. They also lost a proven leader who had been a staple in the Red Sox’s clubhouse since 2003.
Speaking with NESN.com’s Michaela Vernava on Friday at the Play It Forward Summit at Boston University, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski discussed the void Ortiz’s departure left and how the 2017 Sox are attempting to fill it.
“Well, I think he led these guys for a long time period,” Dombrowski said. “So they were in a position where, for years, having him around, they saw how it was to prepare for games, how to bounce back from losses, how to be in a position where you celebrate your teammates together, and just how you play the game day in and day out.
“So I think that presence is always there, as I’m sure it was passed on to Big Papi by some of the longtime guys — a guy like Pedro Martinez. So that type of presence is there, but I think our players are also smart enough and have learned from that that they’re in a position where they know, ‘Big Papi’s not walking in the door anymore, so we need to take those steps and our younger players along those same lines.’ ”
Though teams typically look toward veterans to provide leadership to their less experienced teammates, Dombrowski said some of Boston’s younger stars also have helped replace Ortiz’s clubhouse presence, as have seasoned vets like second baseman Dustin Pedroia and first baseman/designated hitter Hanley Ramirez.
“Well, Big Papi definitely was a leader and had a lot of that capability, but I think a guy like Dustin Pedroia also has been a part of that also for years,” Dombrowski said. “And we have others in the clubhouse. I think a lot of times when you have young players, then all the sudden when a Big Papi leaves, you’ll see a Jackie Bradley Jr. or a Mookie Betts (step up). Of course Hanley Ramirez of the more veteran capabilities, and some of the pitchers, (as well).
“I think that they all grab that and sort of lead by example, and now that Big Papi’s (gone), there’s, of course, a void. You never really replace a guy like that. But I think we have guys that are capable of doing so.”
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images