BOSTON (AP) — David Ortiz heard the chatter early in the year, questioning what he had left, and responded with another strong season.
Entering Boston’s Fenway Park finale on Sunday, the 39-year-old Ortiz was hitting .270 with 36 homers and 104 RBIs. The homers and RBIs gave him six seasons with at least 35 and 100 with the Red Sox, passing Jimmie Foxx and Manny Ramirez for most in team history.
This month, he became the 27th player to reach 500 homers. He also passed Hall of Famer Ted Williams for most seasons in team history with 30 or more homers. It’s his ninth season with the club; Williams had eight.
But a slow start had critics wondering if time had caught up with Big Papi. At the end of May, he was hitting just .224 with six homers and 18 RBIs.
Done? Nope. He just proved them wrong — again.
“They sounded very disrespectful because they forget about just about everything I have done here,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press, sitting at his locker before the game Sunday. “They just throw that in the garbage. It’s not like they’re talking about somebody that just got here. Sometimes it’s hard not to (pay) attention to it when you heard the same thing over and over. It’s crazy. But, like I say, it’s a long season. The season ain’t two months and I know how to hit. It seems like they wait for me to struggle so they can start talking trash.
“Whenever this time of the year shows up, I just laugh,” he said, breaking into a grin and chuckle.
Ortiz has certainly enjoyed his share of winning with the Red Sox. He’s one of four players with 500 homers and three World Series rings, along with Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson. But for the second straight year, the club is heading for a last-place finish in the AL East.
“The beginning of the season was hard for everybody. I’m the one person, being here the longest, that everybody knows. I heard some people talk about the team is struggling and blaming it on me,” said the 2013 Series MVP. “At the beginning of the season, our pitching was struggling big time. It struggled so bad it was affecting the offense.
“The reality is — sure we’re not contenders this year — but you can see the future can be bright coming up next season. We have a new CEO (Dave Dombrowski) that understands the importance of putting a good ballclub together, especially in this division. Plus, you see the future of the organization with all these young players performing at a high level already.”
With another home season about to close, Ortiz says he reflects more each year.
“I always appreciate the fact I got through another season. You’re not getting any younger,” he said of his 17th season in the big leagues. “I put a lot of hard work into it. I believe in myself.”
He knows the end of his career is somewhere down the road. He’s proved again that he’s not done yet.
“I guess something happens at some point where you decide to not play anymore. This is a job — even us playing 20-something years — you’re not going to see that too often anymore,” he said. “It’s not like I have much longer to play.
“I feel good, and if I can finish the season healthy, I’ll prepare for next year and see how it goes.”
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.