Those gaudy/then gaudier/then gaudiest/then less-gaudy/then not-gaudy-at-all numbers are David Ortiz’s OPSes since joining the Boston Red Sox in 2003. (Joe Morgan has stopped reading already.)
This year has been Big Papi’s worst since 1999 when – at the age of 23 – he got 20 at-bats for the Twins.
In the 20 months since Boston’s seventh World Series title, Ortiz has mustered a paltry 23 home runs (including a nice round zero through 17 percent of this season). This after knocking 288 dingers in his first five (substance-free, fingers crossed, jinxjinxjinx) Sox seasons.
David Ortiz is still our DH. There’s no questioning that. But continuing to allow him to bat third for a team that’s vying for its eighth world title (and its third in the past six years) is unconscionable.
He’s batting third out of respect. He’s batting third because of the past. He’s batting third because many believe he’s still a power hitter. A big bopper. A bash brother.
Ortiz is entering the twilight of his career. One of the best hitting careers the city has ever seen. The great athletes change with the times. Quarterbacks who could once scramble all over the field become stand-up pocket passers when the hips start to ache. Go-to slashing swingmen become spot-up shooters and fade-away artists when the quickness dissipates. And power hitters become just plain old hitters when that power starts to fade.
Big Papi shouldn’t be swinging for the fences anymore. His knees are bone-on-bone at this point. We, as New Englanders, have two choices: We can start up a cartilage collection drive, sponsored by Hood milk. Or we can convince Coach Tito to slide him on down the lineup.
And the fact is, I think Ortiz would understand. He’s always been an affable, extroverted, kind large man. He wouldn’t take it as an affront against his manhood like many former superstars would. He would see it as a challenge. Instead of swinging for the Monster every night out; just spray some bloopers over the infield. Take advantage of that shift. Hit to both sides of the field like Ichiro (a much much slower Ichiro; Slowzuki?).
The 3-4 hitters are arguably the most important two men in your lineup. To have one of those slots filled by a man well past his prime is not helping anyone. Leave the 3-4 dinger-hittin’ to Youk, Bay and Lowell. Slide Ortiz down to seventh – let him hit in front of the Captain – and see what happens.
Who knows? Maybe he’ll hit a couple dingers.