John Tomase

David Ortiz has a warning if Red Sox want to be like Rays

Big Papi thinks the Red Sox should be emulating a different AL competitor.

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David Ortiz has a word of caution for anyone hoping to emulate Tampa Bay's success: The Rays Way works great for 162 games, but it's inevitably exposed in seven.

With the Red Sox hiring Chaim Bloom from Tampa and implementing similar organizational philosophies -- building through the farm, signing short deals in free agency, churning through the waiver wire -- the Tampa North takes are easy bordering on lazy.

But Ortiz believes Tampa's zero championships owe to roster limitations that he hopes the Red Sox can avoid.

"Everybody is trying to do it the Tampa way," Ortiz said Monday at Fenway Park before presenting eternalHealth's community champion awards to a number of local healthcare workers. "I really like the Tampa way, the way they function during the regular season or whatever, but it hasn't worked for them during the playoffs.

"Like, every year they're in the playoffs, every year they dominate the division -- it has been happening since way before I retired -- but with no results. The (ultimate) result is winning it all. So even with the perfection that they've got going on, there's still something missing."

That "something" is missing on the Red Sox, too, a fact that became glaring during Mookie Betts' return to Boston over the weekend. He led the Dodgers to two victories in three games by going 7 for 15 with a homer and earning ovations before his first at-bat of each game.

The Red Sox traded Betts rather than pay him market value, but he's exactly the kind of player a team needs to win in October, and Ortiz would know.

"The kid is just sensational," Ortiz said. "He's on another level."

Outside of Rafael Devers, who signed a $313 million extension, the Red Sox lack star power. That's a problem in a sport dominated by the heavy-hitting rosters in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Houston, to name three.

"I think moving forward, we have learned our lesson," Ortiz said. "We as an organization, we're not going to take things for granted because we know what it takes to get a good player and good players are needed."

Ortiz noted the trend in the game towards youth. The Red Sox traded Betts rather than pay him deep into his 30s. They watched Xander Bogaerts depart in free agency once he turned 30. They moved on from Nathan Eovaldi and J.D. Martinez and really only replaced the latter.

But youth means sacrificing experience, especially on the biggest stage. That's why the team Ortiz would rather emulate is the one across the diamond that beat the Red Sox 13-4 on Monday.

"Teams and organization nowadays, they are going young, they are going with guys from the farm," he said. "A lot of teams have won with guys from the farm. Look at the Houston Astros. That is an organization that I will copy, based on what they're doing. Because they know how to figure it out during the regular season, and they know how to figure it out during the playoffs."

When Ortiz played, the Red Sox never lacked for stars. From Pedro Martinez to Manny Ramirez to Dustin Pedroia, from Jon Lester to Betts to Xander Bogaerts, Ortiz's Red Sox featured stacked rosters. That has changed considerably since Bloom's arrival, with the brightest hope for the future playing mostly at Single- and Double-A.

That creates an additional problem, which is giving fans a team to identify with year after year.

In an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with John Tomase, David Ortiz explains why he thinks star players are so important in Boston and how it led to the team winning four World Series titles in a 15-year span.

"The decade that I played, we had people who got used to winning," Ortiz said. "It's hard to walk away from having fun. It's hard to walk away from having a group of 25 studs out there just ready to leave their skin on the field for you.

"That's how you build your fan base. That's how you build what we had going on, selling out this stadium every day. You don't want to walk away from it. Because the fans here, they went through a time that was tough for 86 years. Then all of a sudden the front office, the owner was John Henry and the rest of the people that worked here in this organization, figured out how we can win, putting the pieces together, winning four World Series in two decades. That's pretty damn good. And people don't want to walk away from that.

"I mean, the last time we won the World Series was in 2018, and for fans like the ones that we have built, five years already is a crazy (amount of) time. So we've got to find a way to go back onto that track and start winning again."

And that brings us back to the Tampa Bay Way. It's built to blitz through the regular season. It has yet to result in a World Series title. Perhaps there's a lesson there.

"Everybody wants to act like that? Be careful," Ortiz said. "I want to dominate during the regular season, yes, so I can be in the playoffs, but I also want to dominate during the playoffs.

"I don't want all that sacrifice and all that good momentum during the regular season to disappear once the short time shows up."

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