2004 Player Reviews: DH

Ellis Burks came back to the Red Sox at the age of 40 for one last go-round before he retired and took a managing job to eventually become a manager at the major league level. He had just come off an injury-marred season with the Cleveland Indians, in which he amassed 198 AB, hitting .263 with a .360 OBP and a .419 slugging percentage. The year before, at 38 years of age, he had had a full season in which he hit .301/.362/.541 with 32 HRs and 91 RBI for a team in full rebuilding mode. The Red Sox were hoping Burks could provide punch off the bench and slot into the lefty-pitching DH role, something David Ortiz had trouble with.

Alas, it was not to be. On April 27th, 2004, Burks was put on the 15-day disabled list with a medial meniscus tear in his left knee. That kept him out all the way until September 23rd, when they finally activated Ellis Burks off the DL. Ellis Burks only amassed three at-bats in September/October (30 in April) and ended up with a line of .182/.270/.273. A lousy way to go out, but the classy Ellis Burks was in the dugout all year long, being a friend, mentor, and coach. I was fortunate enough to attend the game in which he returned from the DL and got a hit, and to be at the game in which the Red Sox saluted Ellis. The 2004 year was a lost year for Ellis, and never became that power-hitting DH we imagined him to be. The Red Sox are expected to give him a managing job in the minors.

David Ortiz … what can you say about this man? There’s so much that can be said, that’s already been said, that deserves to be said, that will be said. David Ortiz had a monster year this year, the first time he got over 500 at-bats (552, to be exact). The 28-year old hit over .300 for the first time since he was 23, and got 476 AB in Minnesota’s AAA affiliate, Salt Lake City. David Ortiz mashed 41 home-runs to end up with a line of .301/.380/.603 and created possibly the most dangerous tandem in baseball history along with Manny Ramirez. (A case could be made for Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, but this duo did things even the Babe and the Iron Horse can only aspire to.)

Ortiz, lest we forget, is not just a DH. He played 115 games as a DH, and 34 games at first base, and that doesn’t include two games in the postseason, in St. Louis in which he was a vital part of a play that will be replayed for years to come. The Suppan blunder. A groundball that is thrown to David Ortiz for the out, in which Jeff Suppan “got tied up trying to think too much and got nailed off of third.” (Those are my words in case you are wondering.) It was the only play I’ve seen in which the third-base coach gave up in the middle of the play and walked away.

There’s not enough you can say about Ortiz. 94 runs, 47 doubles, three triples, 139 RBI, 75 BB, 4 HBP, 8 sacrifice flies. Fortunately, we will be able to see more of this, possibly through 2007. Ortiz signed an extension giving him in total less money than Manny Ramirez makes in a year. I was talking to someone, I can’t for the life of me recollect who, but this person and I were talking about how Ortiz signed on the cheap, and how Pedro urged Ortiz to sign on the cheap. Perhaps Pedro did that so there would be more money for Pedro, hm? But this isn’t about free agency, this is about looking back on a glorious 2004 season. Did you guys realize that yesterday, Saturday, was the one-month mark of winning it all?

A big part of that had to do with Ellis Burks’ leadership and David Ortiz’s bat. Thanks, guys.