Ortiz in elite company as he approaches No. 400

Ortiz in elite company as he approaches No. 400
June 26, 2012, 1:49 pm
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He provided half of the Red Sox offense Monday night, which seems about right when you think of it, since that seems to have been the case most nights this season.

On a team ravaged by injuries, he's been the one constant. There's been no Manny Ramirez to protect him, or, for that matter, no Adrian Gonzalez, or at least, not the Adrian Gonzalez (.722 OPS) he or anyone else expected.

Still, the numbers pile up for David Ortiz. On Monday, he belted two homers and three RBI in a 9-6 loss to Toronto.

The homers were the lone bit of excitement for the Sox, and if they didn't help the Red Sox win on this particular night, they did help Ortiz climb the historical ladder some.

The first one, rocketed into the bleachers in right, moved him out of a tie with Joe Carter, giving him 397 for his career. The second, a booming shot into the bleachers in straightaway center, was No. 398, placing him in a tie with Dale Murphy for 51st place on the all-time list.

For the season, the second homer was No. 20, making it 10 straight years in which Ortiz has reached that number since coming to the Red Sox, trailing only Dwight Evans and Jim Rice (11 each) and Ted Williams (16).

Since 2003, only one player has had more multi-homer games in all of baseball: Albert Pujols, who has 40.

The two-homer game was the 39th of his career and 37th in a Red Sox uniform, tying him with Williams for the frachise record.

Nearing four hundred homers, catching up to Rice and Pujols, and being linked with the game's all-time greatest hitter -- this is the kind of rarefied air that Ortiz is breathing these days.

"I must be,'' said Ortiz, breaking into a huge smile, "a bad mother-(expletive).''

Indeed he must.

This year, Ortiz is hitting homers at his fastest rate since 2006, when he snapped Jimmy Foxx's franchise record for most homers by a Red Sox in a season.

Before the season is at its halfway point, Ortiz is on pace to hit 40, something no Red Sox player his age (36) or older has ever accomplished.

And, no Red Sox player age 36 or older has ever hit 40 home runs in a season. Williams, naturally, holds the Red Sox record of 38 in 1957 when he was 38.

"When you attach your name to a legend like that . . .,'' said Ortiz. "It's just something that you never think about it. I never thought about anything like that. I came here to play baseball. Ted Williams is a legend. I never thought about (matching what he did).''

Sometime relatively soon -- perhaps before the Red Sox leave for their West Coast trip Wednesday night, given that he's homered five times in his last seven games -- Ortiz will become the 50th player to hit 400 homers in his career.

Even as the steroid era has devalued some milestones, the 400-homer plateau is an impressive one, and Ortiz confesses that he's taken a look at those who've joined that club, while noting some who didn't gain entrance.

"I was looking at a lot of big names,'' he said, ''and man, I mean, there were a lot of big power hitters who never hit four hundred. So I guess it's pretty good company.''

Ortiz would like to play another two years, and should he continue to pile up homers at the rate in which he's hit them the last few seasons, he might muster a run at No. 500.

Those numbers seem abstract for now, and because he's not finished, he chooses not to give much thought to his own standing, his own legacy.

That perspective will come later.

"Right now, I look at (No. 400) as just another number,'' he said. "But I'm pretty sure that when I stop playing and start focusing on different people's numbers and look at myself and where I stand with some great players, it's going to be pretty nice.''