As we count down until the 2016 All-Star Game begins, it has become increasingly evident that everyone would love to turn this into a showcase for David Ortiz, who has said this will be his final season. Heck, Miami Marlins starter Jose Fernandez even said he'll groove some fastballs to Ortiz if he gets a chance to face him.
"I would love to face David," Fernandez told ESPN's Marly Rivera on Monday. "It would be a dream come true for me.
"I told him yesterday that I am going to throw him three fastballs down the middle. I want to watch him hit a home run."
That's going to get Fernandez into trouble, but it speaks to the respect the players -- especially the Latin players -- hold for Ortiz, the game's wise old veteran who is having the best season of his career at age 40. He is hitting .332/.426/.682 with 22 home runs, and he leads the majors in OBP, slugging and doubles.
During player availability on Monday, the largest media throngs -- by far -- crowded around Big Papi. Many of the players spoke of their admiration for him. While he is a rival to most of them, even players on other teams seek him out for advice. During the Home Run Derby, National Leaguers such as Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant made sure to get their picture taken with him. When we asked Bartolo Colon to say goodbye to Ortiz for a social video we were shooting, Colon declined; it seemed as if he couldn't bring himself to say the words. Mike Trout took a different route, suggesting Ortiz is hitting too well to call it quits. "We know you're not retiring," Trout said.
As for Ortiz, he certainly came to Petco Park dressed like a man going out in style:
Diamond studded watch that David Ortiz wore to the All-Star Game pic.twitter.com/joBFO6YOUk— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 12, 2016
Ortiz has no ties to San Diego, but I expect Padres fans to give him a big ovation. It's admittedly interesting that Ortiz has risen to this level of admiration, given that he reportedly tested positive for PEDs back in the initial screening year in 2003. He has spoken in the past about how he worries that leak -- the tests were supposed to be confidential -- will affect his legacy.
"If one day I'm up for the Hall of Fame and there are guys who don't vote for me because of that, I will call it unfair," Ortiz told the Boston Globe in 2015.
It certainly hasn't affected the attitude of his fellow players. From a game standpoint, I'd love to see AL manager Ned Yost keep Ortiz in the entire game. The National League has only two left-handers in the bullpen, Jon Lester and Drew Pomeranz, so there's a good chance the American League batters will see a string of righties. More likely, I suspect Ortiz will get his two or three at-bats, and as he steps up to the plate one more time, Yost will then remove him from the game to a standing ovation from the fans and the players in the dugouts.
And if Fernandez grooves him one? Well, that would make for a fun moment.