What a Walk Off

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What a Walk Off

The best part of any walk-off home run is the celebration.

Its bigger than the home run itself. Its bigger than the victory. The walk-off celebration is bigger than baseball!

OK, the same size as baseball. But either way, theres nothing cooler than watching a guy round third base the musics blasting, the crowds going bonkers, the losers are walking off the field staring down at their cleats as rowdy teammates wait at the plate. Ready to party like its 2099.

Its pretty rare to see this kind of group celebration in baseball. In the NHL, it happens after every goal. In the NFL, it happens after every touchdown (for some teams, after every play). In the NBA, you see it after big timeouts.

In baseball, you need a walk-off. Its the only time a team ever collectively lets loose.

And when they do, its awesome.

For instance, last night at Fenway.

Forget how big of a win it was for the Sox. Forget that theyve now won five of seven games since the All-Star Break, are only one back in the Wild Card and are getting healthier by the day. For me, the highlight of last night's walk-off was still the celebration.

Cody Ross tossing his helmet and diving into the pile. Shredder Punto ripping off Ross's shirt. Alfredo Aceves sneaking up from behind and dumping a bucket of Gatorade on everyone's head. (Quick note: The Gatorade shower is what stood out the most when I watched the celebration live. And afterwards, I immediately set out to figure out the dumper's identity. When I learned it was Aceves, I felt stupid for ever asking. Of course it was Aceves. That's textbook Aceves!)

Anyway, like I was saying. The celebration was amazing. More than anything, just the chance to see these guys care about something. And to see them do it together. That they were having fun! That maybe some things are more important than how many years are on your contract and whether the manager gives you a heads up before a day off.

Who knows what will happen next, but this series against the White Sox really feels like it could be a turning point for this team. And last night's celebration was the capper.

All in all, it was just a great night to be a Red Sox fan.

Coincidentally, it was an awful morning to be a human being.

It's hard to write, talk or even care about sports in light of what happened at that movie theater in Colorado. It's so beyond screwed up that I'm not sure why I'm even attempting to talk about it. What good will any of these words do?

But I felt like I had to say something. Even if it's just out of guilt for the fact here in Boston, 2,000 miles away from the tragedy, we have things like baseball and walk-off celebrations to temporarily take our minds off what happened. That as time goes on, we'll always remember the events of today, but we'll never truly understand the aftermath.

We'll go out tonight. We'll watch the Red Sox. We'll get wrapped in errors and at-bats. We'll move on with our lives. Meanwhile, people in Colorado will be dealing with this for years. Their lives are forever changed . . . or just plain over. What a mess.

Thoughts go out to everyone involved.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

McAdam: Despite all the talk, Ortiz is still the retiring type

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McAdam: Despite all the talk, Ortiz is still the retiring type

CHICAGO -- Will or won't he?

It's the first week of May, and already the question is being asked. Sure, David Ortiz said he was retiring after this season. But will he stick to his word or change his mind? Inquiring minds want to know.

The questions get louder with every homer hit, every run knocked in, every milestone reached.

When Ortiz homered off Carlos Rodon Wednesday night, becoming the first lefty hitter to ever do so, the chatter began again.

It's unlikely to stop much in the coming months, especially if Ortiz continues to hit at this sort of pace. If Ortiz continues to produce like he has in the first five weeks, like he did a year ago, why would he walk away from a game he can still dominate?

But that's missing the point.

Ortiz isn't retiring because he can't perform any longer. Remember, he made the announcement last November, weeks after he finished 2015 with 37 homers, the most he's had in a single season since his club-record 54 in 2006.

Ortiz couldn't have had any sense that he was nearing the end after what he achieved last year. And he can't be motivated financially, either; the Red Sox hold a $15 million option for 2017, meaning he knew he was walking away from that when he decided to quit.

So maybe, just maybe, Ortiz is retiring because he doesn't want to play any more.

He may still love the game and enjoy the lifestyle, but he's played professional baseball for the last 23 years, or more than half of his life. That's a lot of plane rides, bus rides and time away home and family.

And even though he's essentially been a DH for virtually all of his Red Sox career, there's still a physical price to play. The Achilles injury he suffered several years ago still affects him.

It was telling that Ortiz was out of the lineup for both games in Atlanta, a National League city where the Red Sox can't use the DH. In the past, he would have started at least one game at first base. But this time he pinch-hit in the first and didn't appear at all in the second.

Then there's the matter of the hype surrounding The Long Goodbye. Three franchises -- including the White Sox Thursday night -- have held ceremonies to honor Ortiz's last visit to their ballpark. In the coming weeks there will be pregame tributes in Kansas City, San Francisco, and Minneapolis, with many more to follow.

It would be pretty awkward for Ortiz for shrug his shoulders, announce he's had a change of heart, and give back those gifts.

There are planned promotions at Fenway, with sponsors cued up to take part in various events.

Ortiz has also agreed to be the subject of a season-long documentary by a production company that followed him around on Opening Day, the home opener at Fenway and will be around periodically throughout the season. What happens to that project? Does it become an inside look at the next-to-last season for David Ortiz? Would anyone watch "A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Year David Ortiz Gave Careful Consideration To Retiring Before Changing His Mind?''

And while it's true Ortiz has developed a good relationship with president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in a short period of time, and Dombrowski would undoubtedly welcome Ortiz back next season, it's highly unlikely Dombrowski's presence could bring about a change of heart.

After all, Ortiz has had a very good relationship with John Farrell and enjoys playing for him. So if Farrell, whose history with Ortiz dates back to 2007, can't sway Ortiz, it's highly doubtful Dombrowski could.

Mostly, this talk has surfaced because of the Sports Talk Industrial Complex, a business that traffics in conspiracy theories and is in dire need of debate and hot takes 24-7.

Noted player evalautor Sigmund Freud, however, once sagely noted: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

And sometimes, a retirement is just a retirement.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

QUOTES

* "Where five days ago, he was able to harness things and command the baseball a little better, tonight that was not the case.'' - John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "That was a momentum shift for us.'' - Farrell on the inning-ending double play that ended the fifth, with Mookie Betts throwing out Brett Lowrie at the plate.

* "They've done outstanding work, when our backs have been against the wall with some early exits by starters.'' Farrell on the bullpen contributions.

* "It's disappointing, (after) working hard on my mechanics the last five days.'' - Owens on his command struggles.

* "It's good to win a series, for sure, against this team.'' - Xander Bogaerts on the win.

NOTES

* Seven different Red Sox hitters produced an RBI.

* The Red Sox are 9-2 in their last 11 and 11-4 in their last 15.

* Hanley Ramirez, who homered for the second time in his last two games, has nine RBI in his last nine games.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games.

* The Sox became the first team to beat the White Sox two games in a row at home.

STARS

1) Matt Barnes

Barnes picked up the win in relief, contributing five big outs in the middle innings and stabilizing the game for the Red Sox bullpen.

2) Dustin Pedroia

After going hitless Wednesday night in the cleanup spot, Pedroia was back in the No. 2 hole and got the Sox off on the right foot with a solo homer in the top of the first. He later added two more hits.

3) Hanley Ramirez

Returning from a one-game absence, Ramirez belted his second homer in as many games and also worked two walks, a good sign for someone who not long ago was too often expanding the strike zone.