The 2016 Major League Baseball season has come to a close. As the long, dark days of winter slowly creep in, ballparks across the country sit lonely and empty until springtime.
Although there aren’t any games being played, the league’s front offices remain hard at work. Now is the time when teams begin shifting their focus to the year ahead. With franchises setting their sights on building contending rosters for 2017, there are trades to be made and free agents to be signed.
One player on the open market batted .315 with 38 home runs, 127 RBI and a .620 slugging percentage (the best in baseball) last year. He’s a 10-time All-Star with three World Series rings, coming off his most productive season in nearly a decade. Every club in the majors would love to have his bat in the lineup next year.
Unfortunately, David Ortiz says he is retired.
Considering the physical condition of his body and the fact that he’ll turn 41 years old later this month, it’s no surprise that Ortiz decided to call it a career. But from the perspective of a sports fan (and a life-long Boston Red Sox diehard), it simply doesn’t seem right for a guy to hang ’em up after putting together a season like Big Papi just did. Legends are supposed to retire when they are no longer able to compete with the game’s rising stars–not when they’re still performing at an MVP-caliber level.
The above photo is the view from our WHOOP office in downtown Boston. In the foreground lies a display case depicting the evolution of the WHOOP Strap, beginning with the very first prototype. It overlooks Fenway Park, which is currently draped with a giant “Thank You” banner featuring Ortiz’s image and uniform No. 34.
Seeing this every day is a constant reminder of the pleasure it’s been to watch Ortiz take the field in a Red Sox uniform for the past 14 years. In particular, the 2004 championship is one of the single greatest memories of my lifetime (which I’m sure is the case for a large number of sports-crazed New Englanders).
But as I pass by this window each morning, I can’t help but wonder, is there a chance Ortiz might decide to come back? And what if WHOOP could play a role in prolonging his career?
The first thing the Red Sox should do is offer him a one-year deal with a blank check. Name your price, Papi. $25 million? Done. Obviously it’s not all about the money though, Boston would have to present Ortiz with a strategy to help his body withstand the rigors of another MLB season.
One option might be to suggest he only suit up for roughly 100 (of 162) games next year. The Sox could plan to rest him on days when the team travelled the night before, as well as for afternoon contests when they played the previous evening. Ortiz could also be removed from games for a pinch runner whenever he gets on base in the later innings.
Last June, Big Papi told ESPN Deportes “Everything hurts. It even hurts to think. Last time I reached second after a double, I almost called for a timeout so they would get me out of the game. I can barely run because my feet hurt so much. I am in severe pain. One often tries to live in the moment, and even when your body is saying no, you say yes, even when your body says not to. Only mental strength convinces you that you can continue. Mental strength tells you that you can keep at it. But the body is a machine; it will give out and will send you a bill.”
WHOOP has the potential to help Ortiz avoid paying that bill just yet. Gaining a better understanding of his Sleep, Strain and Recovery could go a long way towards maintaining the mental (and physical) strength needed to continue playing the game he loves.