You know how David Ortiz had that great career with the Boston Red Sox? Well, it almost didn’t happen.
Sure, you know that the Red Sox signed the first baseman that the Minnesota Twins released kind of as a favor to Pedro Martinez and he started the year on the bench (behind Kevin Millar and Shea Hillenbrand at first base and Jeremy Giambi at DH) and that it didn’t go well for him early on in. But did you know he actually wanted to leave Boston in 2003? No joke.
“David Ortiz hit all of two home runs in the first [two months] of the 2003 season and in mid-May had his agent come and ask me for a trade to somewhere he could play more regularly,” Theo Epstein said on a recent MLB.com podcast. “Fernando Cuza came to talk to me and I told Cuza at the time that David was someone we wanted to get everyday at-bats, but we just needed to pare down the roster a little bit. We ended up trading Hillenbrand instead of David Ortiz, so I guess that was a good decision in hindsight. David got regular playing time and ended up hitting close to 30 homers in the second half of the season and was off and running as Big Papi.”
So there you have it. Giambi wasn’t nearly as good as his steroid using brother, so Ortiz got some reps because of that by June and then he started hitting which resulted in the team trading away Hillenbrand. From there, Ortiz just kept hitting. He had a monstrous second half in 2003 and in 2004, him and Manny Ramirez both blasted over 40 home runs as the team won the World Series.
Just goes to show Theo Epstein is a genius--or just got really lucky.