It's funny how rational and sensible reality eventually plays itself out over inexplicability, especially in baseball.
A line drive, opposite-field, inside-out hitter, cast off by the Minnesota Twins, lands in Boston and immediately becomes one of the most powerful and prolific sluggers in baseball. A man who had never reached 30 home runs in his career, never collected 100 RBIs, and never had an OPS over .839 suddenly crushed out 31, 101, and posted an OPS of 961 during his first year in Boston (2003). In his second season with the BoSox he ripped out 41 homers, 139 RBIs, and hit over .300 for the first time in his career (.301), powering Boston to their first World Series championship in nearly a century.
And the big man didn't stop there. Ortiz continued his metamorphosis into a Babe Ruth facsimile, climaxing in his destructive 2006 season. That year David would nearly tear old Fenway down with his blistering clouts, smashing out a league-leading 54 home runs and 137 RBIs and finishing with an OPS of 1.049. Along with Manny Ramirez, Ortiz was one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball and a king in his home town of Boston, with two World Series rings gleaming from his proverbial crown.
But then suddenly it all fell apart, and fast. At age 31, one season removed from his 54-homer year, Ortiz hit 19 fewer home runs and drove in 20 fewer runs in his follow up campaign. He was still an offensive force — posting a career high .332 batting average, .445 OBP and a 1.066 OPS — but it was clear that the power David displayed in 2006 was suddenly depleted.
2008 furthered the slugger's power outage, as Ortiz dropped from 35 dingers in '07 to 23 in an injury-plagued '08. He managed only 89 RBIs and hit a meager .264. His once touted bat speed seemingly vanished. Even David's OBP fell to .369, tying his lowest mark during his run with Boston. Coupled with his mediocre .877 OPS, it was clear that something was different about David Ortiz. Many felt it was the absence of Manny Ramirez and the protection he provided in the lineup. An interesting hypothesis, but hardly a valid explanation for his massive decrease in output.
And then came 2009. For the entire season the once-devastating slugger has been mired in the mother of all slumps. Batting under the Mendoza line for most of the first half the season, even Ortiz's recent "hot streak" has left him with a feeble .224 batting average, a dismal .311 OBP, and a comical .720 OPS. The debate has raged on with many factions spouting various theories as to Ortiz's sudden and massive decline at only 33 years of age. Now the debate has officially ended, the questions have been answered, and the mysteries have been solved.
Throughout his career David Ortiz has found himself on many different lists. List of All Stars … check. List of all-time Boston heroes … check. List of potential future Hall of Famers … check. And now list of players who tested positive for PEDs during the MLB testing of 2003 … a big, revelatory, "check."
Like his fellow bash-brother Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz cheated the game. Now his and Boston's accomplishments throughout their championship run will be forever questioned and tainted. These were not two fringe players with minimal impact, they were two men who made up the focal point of the Boston's quasi-dynasty over the past few years. Now, whenever one remembers Boston's two championship teams, whenever one sees the banners hanging from from the facade at Fenway Park, the tint of dishonestly, corruption, and deception will forever accompany the sensory perceptions of that experience.
The as-of-yet still unreleased (in its entirety) 2003 postive test list has already given the public explanations for Manny's astronomical stats and Ortiz's meteoric rise to prominence. As Sox fan and ESPN columnist Bill Simmons pondered long before the Ortiz news came out, the amount of time before this same explanation applies to many others on a team whose tainted culture is becoming evident as names from the 2003 list continue to spill out into the public sphere. It's time for the MLB to release the rest of the names on the list and stop this slow leakage of information that is constantly distracting from an otherwise oustanding baseball season … whether Boston fans like it or not.