NESN just published a piece about David Ortiz titled “Where Does Twins Cutting David Ortiz Rank Among Worst Sports Decisions Ever?” They rank the decision by the Twins to cut Big Papi behind only the Steelers cutting Johnny Unitas in 1955 and the 1919 sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The list is obviously Boston-centric given the host site and even features the 2004 cutting of Wes Welker from the Chargers (he became a breakout star with the Patriots in 2007). It has, however, also become a common theme among Minnesota sports fans to cite Ortiz as another huge blow in a long line of mistakes by the local franchises.
I will forever argue that this “mistake” is hugely overblown. As a 27-year-old, Ortiz was supposed to be in the prime years of his career and he did put up decent numbers in his final season as a Twin, but constantly clashed with (two-time World-Series winning) manager Tom Kelly (Ron Gardenhire was the manager in Ortiz’s final season in Minnesota) and didn’t really seem to care enough to play to his potential. There was a notorious struggle with Kelly to get Ortiz to take the ball the other way. In six injury-riddled seasons (544 games), he hit .266 with 58 home runs. He would hit 54 in the 2006 season alone, for the Red Sox. On a new team, with a new nickname, and new PEDs he turned into what we know him as now: the MVP, World Series Champ, and the Big Papi.
The way some people in Minnesota view this ordeal is similar to the way they connect Ricky Rubio and Steph Curry. The Wolves had the 5th and 6th pick in the 2009 draft. With pick #5, they chose Ricky Rubio, a reasonable selection at the time that has turned out well. With pick #6, David Kahn selected Jhonny Flynn. Curry of course went to Golden State at #7 and back to back MVP awards later, here we are, with the Warriors fighting for their second stright NBA title and the Wolves in the lottery, once again. Flynn was a bad selection not only at the time, but especially in retrospect. The incredible 6 OT game that he played against UConn in the Big East Tournament (RIP) was enough to move him up to a high lottery selection. Rubio and Curry should have been the choices, but it remains not a bad pick to take Rubio and I will defend that forever. Obviously, with hindsight Curry is the (much) better player but Ricky is very far from a bust. It’s worth noting that Ricky held Steph to 0% shooting as a primary defender when the Wolves gave the Warriors only their second loss of the season in Oracle Arena on April 5th, 2016.
With Curry and Ortiz, it’s hard to even be mad at this point because the cynical Minnesota sports fan in me says that it’s likely neither of them would have been as great as they are if they would have been here. Curry would probably still have bad ankles and Ortiz never would have got on the juice, making him a middling to above-average DH on a team that valued slap hitters and defense. It also would have certainly prevented the arrival of Karl-Anthony Towns in Minneapolis, who completely makes up for the disaster that was the David Kahn era by himself. Or maybe I’m just trying to rationalize our catastrophic failures in MN sports for the last two-and-a-half decades.
Thoughts About the Thoughts
Brian: I’ve always been a Ricky Rubio fan from the one season I played fantasy basketball. Assists were worth two points and he had a stretch of eight-out-of-ten games with 10+ assists. With more scorers around him now, I suspect he might flirt with averaging 10+ a game in 2016-2017 if he gets even a minute or two more per game.
Brock: I think the effect of and reaction to his steroid use is a bit exaggerated here, but that’s also coming from the artist who formerly ripped up a Sammy Sosa cardboard cutout in a sobbing fit after he found out Sosa was on the stuff, so take that as you will.
Ben re: Brock: Maybe. Change of scenery definitely seemed to help as well.