“Big Papi” Leaves With Respect as the Rival

By Rich Mancuso/Sports Editor

There was David Ortiz Thursday night in the Bronx. One last time with those 53- career home runs against the New York Yankees as a rival with the Boston Red Sox. He has called it a career after the season with more games to be played in October with the Red Sox clinching the AL eastern division Wednesday night.

It has been a rivalry, Yankees and Red Sox. And with Ortiz, “Big Papi” even more so because of that home run presence and what he has meant to the Red Sox and their fans over the years. Yankees fans were accustomed to giving Ortiz the wrong Bronx cheer, but Wednesday night it was different.

They cheered their rival, quite unusual but this was more about the appreciation to what David Ortiz delivered for the game of baseball. He was honored by the New York Yankees in a pre game ceremony and the Red Sox faithful in the Bronx made this moment sound like Fenway Park of the Bronx for a moment.

The PA announcer Paul Olden said, “The Yankees would like to put the rivalry aside to honor Big Papi.” That got cheers, and they were louder because the all-time leader in saves,Mariano Rivera, a longtime Ortiz friend and rival on the mound, presented a huge oil painting to Ortiz that depicted the slugger.

Moments after the Red Sox lost 5-1 to the Yankees, Ortiz in the visitors’ clubhouse said about Rivera, “He’s one of my idols. We have the same agent. Having him here was very special.”

Of course the cheers were mixed, and nothing like the obscenities and boos that Ortiz heard when this Yankees-Red Sox rivalry meant more in late September. He appreciated the ceremony and thanked the Yankees for their professionalism.who invited his wife Tiffany and daughters to be on the field.

However, this was a Yankees crowd in the Bronx with something to root for, Their team still had that fight and would not go away easy with their slim hopes to play on next week.

One of two gifts presented to Ortiz, perhaps respect granted  for how the Red Sox honored the Yankees Derek Jeter in his last Fenway Park appearance a few years ago ,was the oil painting. David Cone presented a custom-created one-of-a-kind leather bound book with personal messages from current and former Yankees.

It was a class act by the Yankees organization and their fans, a memorable moment in the Bronx of the David Ortiz era.

Ortiz waved his cap in a brief on field ceremony. That got an ovation and he walked off the field, into the dugout, to the tune of a Fenway Park favorite, “Sweet Caroline.”  Of course the few Yankees fans, loyal to the rivalry, booed in displeasure.

“Impressive man,” he said about the ceremony and fans.”But the comment about those cheers from the fans got a laugh from the assembled media.

Ortiz said, “The way they cheered me everybody was happy I was leaving.” Of course, Ortiz has been a baseball ambassador up in Boston and in the Bronx. Despite the rivalry there was never any doubt as to how competitive he was against the Yankees.

So, with 31 of those Ortiz home runs hit in the Bronx, second most ever by a visiting player, he slowly came to the plate in the second inning. With two previous home runs against Yankees starter CC Sabathia, Ortiz went after a 2-2 slider. He swung and missed.

“CC has always been a great competitor,” said Ortiz.

That got cheers again from the Yankees fans who were more enthused about their team having some hope and looking for the three-game sweep over the rival Red Sox.

Fourth inning would be the last at bat for Ortiz at Yankee Stadium. Five pitches from Sabathia and Ortiz went to first, replaced with pinch -runner Brock Holt. The final career stats against the Yankees: .303 at the plate, 150 runs, 75 doubles, 171 RBI,  and 142 walks in 243 games. By far the most impressive, those 53 home runs, one less on that meter before his move to Boston.

David Ortiz slowly took  his trot to the opposite dugout. This time Yankees and Red Sox fans cheered and Ortiz firmly tipped his cap. For now, that long rivalry was over in the Bronx and you wonder if there will ever be one of this magnitude ever again.

Yankees eliminated from postseason despite sweep of Red Sox: There were no cheers or tears, but a half hour or so before the Yankees completed a three-game series sweep over the Red Sox with a 5-1 win, they were officially eliminated from the postseason when Baltimore beat Toronto.

“Not what we wanted,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “It came to an end tonight. It was difficult. There were some good things that happened.”

Those good things were how the Yankees got themselves back in the thick of the things. They were 6.5 games behind in the division on August 1st and eight-games away from one of the AL wild card spots for the postseason at .500.

“You work a long time to try and get to this point in the playoffs and when you don’t get there it’s difficult,” Girardi said. “We didn’t score enough runs and gave up too many..”

One of those impressive points was CC Sabathia. The lefthander tossed 7.1 innings Thursday night, gave up four hits and a run. His last start of the season was a victory and he completed 2016, 9-12 with a 3.91 ERA. Sabathia also made his 30th start, the most since 2013 and this has to be considered a comeback year as the fastball had velocity and command.

When asked why the Yankees came up short, also attributed to a 9-13 start, Girardi said it was the inability to come from behind and failure to stay close with a bullpen that had struggles. In the end, a resurgence was attributed to rookie Gary Sanchez and his record 20 home runs in 51 games.

Three games remain on the Yankees schedule. The Orioles fighting for one of two wildcard spots visit the Bronx and Girardi plans to give some of his regulars time off, including Brett Gardner.  It will also be the final three games for Mark Teixeira who closes out his career as a New York Yankee

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