Big Papi

I’ve largely avoided commenting on David Ortiz’s slow start, mostly because I figured we are looking at too small a sample size to worry.  But after Thursday’s game, where he left more men on base (12) than the entire Angels team did (11), I think it’s time for a change.

It could just be mental, he might be injured, or worse, he might just be old.

My favorite all-time baseball was Jim Rice.  To watch him fade so quickly at just age 34 was so disappointing.  For whatever reason, Rice had a short, albeit great, career.  Perhaps Ortiz falls into this category.  I don’t know.

Now let me delve the darker possibilities of Ortiz’s situation.  On talk radio and message boards (I believe everything I read on message boards), there are 2 main avenues of focus on David Ortiz’s plight:  Steroids and Age.

To date, David Ortiz has not been accused of, linked to or caught using steroids.  Other than his association with Manny Ramirez while both were in Boston, there has been no talk aside from the “you have to be juicing to hit 54 home runs.”

As for his age, many wonder if Ortiz is really just 33 years old.  Many international players (and perhaps homegrown players) have taken steps to conceal their actual age for obvious reasons.  Again, no smoking gun.

My feeling is I want to believe he is 33 and has always been clean, but as Peter pointed out a few days ago, no baseball fan can really overlook the fact that steroids greatly impacted baseball over the past 15 years without being considered naïve and no one can be removed from speculation.

No matter what the reason for his struggles, the fact is, he is terrible right now and hurting his team.  He is occupying a very important spot in the Red Sox line-up hitting 3rd and producing with a .208 average, .318 OBP and .300 SLG.  To put that in perspective, a .300 SLG means he is getting only 3 tenths of the way to first base per at bat.  That’s a convenient distance as a 90 degree right turn takes him directly into the dugout.

Sean McAdam is reporting that Ortiz will be given the game off tonight and when he returns, Terry Francona needs to put him farther down the line-up, low enough to take expectations off of him, but not too far as to humiliate the guy.