Boston's big problem: Big Papi past his prime, no longer everyday DH
The first week of the baseball season wasn't much fun for
Big Papi, Mr. Walkoff, struggled mightily out of the blocks and a portion of Red Sox Nation is ready to give up on Ortiz as the club's everyday DH.
Ortiz went hitless in the Sox first two games against the Yankees, then took issue with a postgame question about his slow start, peppering his short answer with seven expletives. This only heaped more pressure on his enormous head, but he finally silenced some of the critics with an RBI single off
He was happy to get out of town for a weekend in sleepy Kansas City, but things only got worse at Kauffman Stadium. Last Friday night Ortiz was ejected by home plate umpire
The Red Sox are in Minnesota this week and return to Fenway Friday night. Ortiz begins the week batting .111 (2 for 18) with no homers and one RBI. He has struck out nine times in five games.
It's an awkward situation for Ortiz and his manager, the ever-loyal
For starters, let's dismiss the notion that it's unfair to question Ortiz' place in the lineup after only one week. This is not a five-game sample, folks. It's a three-year trend.
Ortiz earned his reputation as the greatest clutch hitter in Sox history, carrying the Boston offense (along with
In 2004, '05 and '06 he knocked in 139, 148 and 137 runs respectively.
But he's been trending downward in dramatic fashion, starting with the 2008 playoffs in which he hit .186 in 10 games against the Angels and Rays. Then came his abysmal start in 2009. Ortiz did not hit a home run last spring until May 20, a stretch of 149 at-bats. He finished the season with 28 homers and 99 RBIs, but he hit only .238 and his slugging and on-base percentages were way down. He hit only .125 on fastballs up in the strike zone, .212 vs. lefties. Then he went 1-12 with no RBIs in the playoff sweep against the Angels. The day after the Sox were eliminated, GM
Which brings us to now. Ortiz showed up at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., significantly smaller and told us he had nothing to prove. He reminded us that he's traditionally a slow starter.
So why the fuss over a bad first week?
Because Ortiz will never again be the slugger he once was. Good pitchers toy with him. Lefties dominate him. The
There's also speculation that he used performance-enhancing drugs. Last summer
The 2003 season was the one in which Ortiz went from ordinary to spectacular after being dumped by the Twins. Ortiz will always be one of the most popular players ever to wear a Red Sox uniform. He's been Mr. Clutch, the Dominican Yaz. Since coming to Boston he's also been thoroughly professional and friendly, bringing nothing but joy to Sox fans and teammates. But the Sox can't wait two months for him to get untracked this year. Boston lost
This creates a nightmare for Francona, who loves those veterans of '04 and '07. Tito stayed with
"I don't want David looking over his shoulder a game and a half into the season,'' the manager said after Ortiz's outburst with the media during the Yankee series. "I want him to walk up there and feel comfortable ... He's done a lot of good things here and I think he thinks some people bailed on him last year. Being reactionary isn't my job.''
It's time to react.