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The Rise And Fall Of David Ortiz

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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.

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About Anthony Tobis

  • Minderbinder

    No one in their right mind ever considered Ortiz a future hall of famer, but at least he has a couple of rings. A-Rod destroyed his legacy and he doesn’t even have any bling to show for it.

    I’m 31 years old and I would bet that I have never seen a World Series champion that wasn’t tainted by steroids. Jeter and Griffey are the only two big name players of the last 25 years that I would be surprised to see linked to peds.

  • Tony

    I’m not saying Ortiz was considered a future Hall of Famer like he has done enough to be eventually be a lock. I meant it as the guy hit 50 plus homers, was posting OBP’s way ove .400, hitting for average and winning rings. If Jim Rice makes it on his 4 or 5 good years Ortiz presumably could have.

    Every team probably has had players that used but very few had player as high profile as Manny and Ortiz that used.

  • Minderbinder

    Jim Rice played in the 70s and early 80s and David Ortiz is playing now. I would take Jose Canseco’s best 5 years over Jim Rice’s but I’m pretty sure Jose doesn’t have to worry about being invited to Cooperstown.

    You don’t think Clemens and Petite are as high profile as Manny and Ortiz?

  • Tony

    High profile was the wrong way to put it. They don’t play every day and affect as many games as Ortiz and Manny. Not to mention Clemens was horrible in ’99 and only ok in 2000. Also, if you believe the currently accepted version of the truth, Pettite didn’t take the HGH until 2003, when he was injured which was 03-04. I usually wouldn’t believe that but he wasn’t exactly Nolan Ryan out there so maybe…I don’t know.

  • Minderbinder

    If you think Roger Clemens was the only Yankee during their championship run that used peds and Petite only did in 2003 when he was injured then I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.

  • Tony

    I’m sure there were tons of guys who did steroids but where as that is your own basis for making that statement I base my evaluations of things like positive tests, testimony (the Mitchell Report), stat spikes, and even Jose Canseco.

    Show me where the stat spike is for Jeter, Posada, Tino, Paul O’neil, El Duque, David Wells, Mariano Rivera, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Scott Brosius. Show me where, and I mean anywhere, those guys have been associate with steroids.

    Every team had them. From that Yankees team Knoblach was juicing. But the Yankee won a World Series with Pat Kelly and Mariano Duncan platooning at 2nd. They could win without Chuck. There is no way in hell that Boston wins without Ortiz and Manny.

    And look at Simmons’ article at the stat spikes. Bill Mueller wins a batting title? yeah right. Bronson Arroyo just basically admitted he’s on the ’03 list, Nomar totally fell apart, Foulke fell apart, Pedro fell apart, Schilling fell apart, Millar fell apart. It’s amazing how a bunch of nobody but up such good stats for like a three year period.

  • Tony

    Maybe Pettite took the junk his whole career. I highly doubt it, but maybe he did. But if that’s the case, he needs to find a better dealer because he lost velocity thoughout his career and never got big, nor has he stayed injury free, nor will he have an elongated career.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Stats spikes aren’t the only indicator. Where was Jason Grimsley’s? Alex Sanchez’s?

  • Tony

    I didn’t say they were the only indicator. It’s obviously harder with two players like those who were in the majors because they did juice. I would say that the fact that neither player is even in the league anymore is proof enough that the stat spike was the stats they posted, which would have been worse had they not been juicing.

  • Kevin

    How stupid does this blog entry look now? Everyone’s got an opinion. Ortiz is killing it, and nobody has questioned Boston’s rings from 04 and 07. Comical reading this 3 years later.

  • Tony

    Yeah, so stupid. Especially since he still hasn’t even sniffed 40 homeruns since 06, didn’t hit over .300 for three straight seasons (until last year’s .309), struck out 145 times in 2010, 134 times in 09, and has yet to post an .OBP over .400 since 06. I know 66 ab is huge sample size that indicates he’s obviously back to form but we should still probably see how the season plays out. And maybe no one in Boston has questioned those rings but the fact remains, questioned or not, the two main cogs on those teams were on steroids, end of story.