On cusp of retirement, David Ortiz bids Minnesota ‘goodbye’

David Ortiz, in the midst of one of the greatest seasons ever for a player 40 or older, makes his final stop in Minnesota this weekend. He’s on a retirement tour and Minnesota, of course, is the place where it all started.

The Twins gave up on Ortiz because they had Jose Morban ready for the big leagues. Or so they thought.

The old crowd, including Torii Hunter, will take part in a ceremony honoring Ortiz tomorrow night at Target Field.

Ortiz played here when the Twins were very bad. He played in an awful baseball stadium. But he didn’t play before terrible baseball fans. Losing is never an attendance booster, true. But Ortiz’ comment to USA Today about the local baseball environment stings just a bit.

“What was funny is that when I played in Minnesota, they didn’t even know they had a major-league baseball team,” the future Hall of Famer said. “I used to walk around the street and people didn’t know who the hell we were. Nobody used to come to the Metrodome to watch games. Going to the Metrodome to watch a game was like sacrificing one of your kids.”

Let’s check on that.

In 2002, Ortiz’ last season in baseball Siberia, the Twins drew an average of 23,000 fans a game, 20th place in Major League Baseball. That’s roughly the same as 2016, in which the team resides in 22nd place on the list.

A year earlier, the team drew 22,000 a game. Not great. But the team didn’t play anonymously, either.

The low point, however, was 2000 when the team drew only 1 million fans in the last of four straight 90-loss seasons, during which Ortiz spent most of his time in Salt Lake City. The days of Kirby Puckett, Ortiz’ mentor and the man for whom Ortiz still wears number 34, were over.

The Pohlads had trimmed the payroll to just $17 million, just about Ortiz’ current salary. That year, Ortiz’ first full season with the Twins, he was pulling down a $220,000 salary.

Ortiz’ emotional bond with Minnesota fans is pretty thin. He wasn’t here very long. He wasn’t that impressive (only 58 of his career 519 home runs were hit in a Twins uniform), and his historical significance is as the centerpiece of an ongoing debate about whether he would have been this good had he stayed here.

But tomorrow night, people will sacrifice their children, give him polite applause and then, like Ortiz, move on.

(h/t: Paul Tosto)

  • Gary F

    And he’s hit a homer in every game. We might as well start Jepson and get it over with in the first inning.

      • Gary F

        I got tix for Twins v Red Sox in Boston this July. What do you recommend for ball park food, food outside the stadium?

        • I haven’t been to Fenway since it was a nice old ballpark (I used to live a block away). I wouldn’t recognize the ballpark or the entire area of the Fens neighborhood anymore. It’s all big money now.

          • KenB

            Plus they put in The Big Dig between Back Bay and Fenway.

          • The Big Dig is downtown

          • KenB

            Sorry. I meant the turnpike that’s west of and goes into the Big Dig.

            I’ve always (mistakenly) thought of that whole project as the Big Dig.

  • Erik Petersen

    Ortiz would have been this good eventually here. Some guys are just too good for the Twins to screw them up, IE, Johan Santana, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau.

    The reason Boston has won WS (plural) is because of Ortiz. The Twins would have won a WS if he had stayed, I’ll say in 2006.

    • I think it depends on whether the astroturf at the Dome would’ve destroyed him before Target Field opened.

      Also, let’s give my favorite ballplayer of all time — Manny Ramirez — his due for the ’04 World Series championship. God knows Boston never will.

      • Erik Petersen

        Right on, you are talking about combining Ortiz with another of the world’s best hitters in a given season. In 2006 Ortiz would have been w/ prime Mauer and Morneau and very good Torri Hunter and Michael Cuddyer.

        They would have gone to WS and won.

    • Mike

      I am sure the twins would have tried to stick him in as the everyday right fielder…what could have gone wrong, right?

  • Ortiz is just salty that he was never featured in the “Minnesota Twins: Get to know ’em!” campaign.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxnOudKdvj8

  • Rob

    Regarding Ortiz, Dan Hicks said it best: How can I miss you if you won’t go away?

  • Matthew Becker

    My favorite Ortiz moment in a Twins uniform:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bimM_hmu4Yg

    Those runs turned out to be game winners since Everyday Eddie tried his best to blow it in the bottom of the 9th.