The Boston Red Sox won the World Series in three of the last 13 seasons and the big bat right in the middle of it all was David Ortiz.
Welcome to 2017, and the Red Sox beginning life after Big Papi, the spiritual and statistical leader of this baseball team.
The Sox pulled off another last-to-first run last season but, amid the Ortiz celebrations, stumbled into the playoffs and were swept by the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series.
Now, Ortiz has retired and club president Dave Dombrowski spent the winter churning the roster with an aim at another run to the top of the American League East. He made several moves, none bigger than trading super prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to the Chicago White Sox for ace left-hander Chris Sale. The farm system has been heavily tapped by the Dombrowski regime, and the time to win is now.
On paper, the acquisition of Sale gave the Red Sox a killer trio atop the rotation, with Sale joining aces David Price and Rick Porcello, the latter the 2016 Cy Young winner. But Price threw a scare into everyone in Boston when he went to see Dr. James Andrews earlier in the spring about an elbow problem. The bad news is Price will not open the season on the active roster, but the good news is he should be back by May.
Replacing Ortiz in the lineup ... well, you don't replace Ortiz in the lineup. But rookie Andrew Benintendi showed enough during last year's stay to let the world know he's going to be a quality player, Pablo Sandoval is in shape and back from shoulder surgery and Mitch Moreland was acquired to provide power and also give the Sox a true fielding first baseman thus allowing Hanley Ramirez to move to designated hitter.
Dombrowski quickly announced John Farrell would be coming back as manager for 2017. Now, the folks who set the odds on the coming season have the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians as the teams to beat in the American League.
"I think that when you have a good club, those expectations don't really bother them," Dombrowski said. "I think you just really have to go about taking care of your business on a daily basis, and that's how you deal with expectations."