Ortiz’ story is a unique one. Unlike Nomar, he didn’t come up with the Red Sox – he spent the first six seasons of his Major League career in Minnesota.* Unlike Pedro and Manny, he wasn’t a star in another city before being acquired by the Red Sox, as the Twins used him largely as a part-time player. He did play a reasonably full season in 2000, but his .282/.364/.446 line was nothing special at the height of the Steroid Era, and a first baseman/designated hitter with league-average offense isn’t all that valuable. Before the Red Sox picked him up, he was just another guy with a bat.
*You might know that Ortiz wasn’t originally supposed to be a Twin, either, as he started his pro career in the Mariners organization. Thanks to a mistake on Seattle’s part, he was actually listed as David Arias – “Arias” being his mother’s maiden name, which appears last in the Spanish naming convention. Upon arriving in Minnesota as a player to be named later, he informed the Twins that he’d prefer to be called David Ortiz, making him quite literally a player to be “named” later.
In many ways, I think that story makes Ortiz all the more compelling to Red Sox fans. Nomar was a star in Boston, but as a high-average, power-hitting shortstop, he almost undoubtedly would have been a star anywhere else. With Pedro and Manny, even that shadow of a doubt is gone: They were stars in Montreal (where Martinez won his first Cy Young Award) and Cleveland (where Ramirez made his first three All-Star squads).
Nomar, Pedro and Manny were great players who happened to be Red Sox. David Ortiz was, and is, a great Red Sox.