2004 World Series Game 1
There was some debate recently about clutch hitters. In an interview with the EEIdiots, John Farrell was asked about the idea that “clutch hitters” don’t actually exist. Statheads generally subscribe to this theory. There are no clutch hitters. They just perform to their normal levels all the time. Farrell tended to agree with this, and said that David Ortiz was just able to stay calm and do what he always does in clutch situations.
One of the problems I’ve always had with the “clutch” hitter discussion is defining just what, exactly, a clutch hitter is, and what constitutes a clutch situation. Most people refer to clutch situations as being late and close. Games after the seventh inning with a one run lead, for instance. Or, if the batter is the tying run. Whatever it may be. But, sometimes, I would argue, clutch situations don’t fit a historical definition. Sometimes they can show up in the middle of games. Or, maybe the first inning?
Take the first inning of the 2004 World Series. Is that a clutch situation? The Red Sox had just come off a huge series win against the Yankees. (Some of you may remember just how that all went.) There was talk that the ALCS was really the biggest win in franchise history. It may not have been that, but it was a huge win. A huge emotional roller coaster. Some worried that the Sox would be completely drained by the time they faced the Cardinals. It had happened to the Yankees just the season before. After an emotional seven game series against the Sox, they had nothing in the tank for the Marlins, and they were pushed aside.
Would that happen to the Sox? After all, the Cardinals had the most wins in the league that year. They were a good team that would require all the Sox had in order to be defeated. Was there anything left?
Then David Ortiz hits a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning. Yup. There was something left in the tank.
An absolutely clutch first inning home run. It proved to the entire team, and the Cardinals for that matter, that he wasn’t done. He was still there to carry the Sox if they needed him. He wasn’t spent.
It was just the first inning of the first game, but it absolutely set the tone. The Sox would go one to hold the lead for at least some of every inning that series. (How crazy is that. Not only did they never trail. But, it was hardly ever even tied. The Sox led at some point during every single inning.)
So, today’s Papi memory is a clutch first inning home run. The crazy part about Papi is, that this wasn’t even his most clutch first inning homer. I’d say that happened a few days prior.
But that’s another story.