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Big Patience with Big Papi

Posted By "Baseball Brenda" Sepanek On Apr 15 2010 @ 4:24 pm In Boston Red Sox | 21 Comments

It was only a matter of time before I addressed this topic. David Ortiz is struggling and struggling hard. It brings me great pain to write about someone who has been my favorite player since the Sox signed him in ’03. I will never forget the night Ortiz became #1 in my book. Living in San Diego at the time, I drove up to Anaheim for the Red Sox series. It was the Sunday, April 27th, rubber match game. Anaheim tied the game up in the bottom of the 9th, forcing extra innings. Fast forward to the top of the 14th. Ortiz stepped to the plate on a pinch hit appearance, and notched his first home run of the year and as a Red Sox (at the time he was batting .188). After Varitek hit his own blast, the sox won 6-4. Back in 2003, the Anaheim fan base was non-existent. Sox fans dominated in numbers. That night was a joyous occasion and groups of Sox fans gathered at the entrance by the giant helmets. Complete strangers were chanting, cheering and dancing for our new hero; David Ortiz. That moment marked the beginning of my 7-year obsession for Big Papi. We even share the same birthday.

Now that we know where my loyalties stand, it’s time to face reality. I have mixed feelings, but my main feeling is “Relax people, Tito will take care of it!” I know the rest of you have an opinion so here is your chance to be “Manager of the Day”. To me, this isn’t a black and white issue. There are so many factors, other than just stats.

Here are the facts: Ortiz is 4-26, batting .154, with 2 runs, 2 RBIs, 3 walks and 13Ks. Yikes! On paper, that is NOT GOOD. It’s a no brainer he should be benched, right? Not so fast!  Big Papi is a hero in this town. The fans adore him, the media loves him and he is the glue in the clubhouse. Not to mention he was the best clutch hitter Boston has ever had and he carried the Sox to 2 World Series Championships. Is Tito supposed to give up on a man that has given so much to this city and team after only 8 games into this season? Sports radio (WEEI) fans wanted him benched after 2 games when he was 0-7!!! Come on, that is absurd.

Is Papi on the back 9 of his 18 hole career? Yes. Is he getting older? Yes. But did he finish last year’s season strong after struggling throughout April and May? Yes! So give him a chance to get going. Last year, fans wanted to give up on him from the start, but he finished the season with 28 HRs and 99 RBIs. That tells me he is not ready to hang up his cleats just yet.

I want to know if New York fans are searching for  Mark Teixeira’s replacement because of his poor start. Let’s compare stats, shall we?

David Ortiz:        4-26, batting .154, with 2 runs, 2 RBIs, 3 walks and 13Ks

Mark Teixeira:   3-31, batting .097, with 5 runs, 4 RBIs, 7 walks and 7 Ks

Neither is impressive! So why is Papi taking all the heat? NY fans, I am curious. Is Teixeira being thrown under the bus as well? We all know that NY and Boston are tough media markets to face as an underachieving pro athlete. But something tells me that NY is not planning on Teixeira’s departure anytime soon. The one stat that jumps out at me are the strikeouts. Papi, is leading the league in Ks. Could that be the problem? Papi used to be one of the best 2 strike hitters in the game. Now when he gets behind in the count with 2 outs, people get up start heading for the bathroom. Something is off and thank God for Tito. Tito will give him the chance he so well deserves. Other managers might not have as much patience, but Tito certainly does. I was speaking to someone yesterday and his outlook was simple. “In Tito, We Trust!” I couldn’t sum it up any better. We aren’t even 2 weeks into the season and Soxs fans want to jump ship on the team, players, and the coach. That is no surprise. I am more let down with the fans, than I am with David Ortiz. Where would the Red Sox be if Terry Francona gave up on Dustin Pedroia the start of the 2007 season? May 1, 2007, Dustin was batting .182. No one wanted to give him a chance and why should they have? After all, he was just a rookie and barely tall enough to ride a roller coaster. Terry stuck with him and look what happened. He won AL Rookie of the Year , helped the Sox win their 2nd World Series and went on to win the AL MVP in ’08. I am talking about a “no-name” (no offense Dustin) player that had not earned the respect of the fans, the media and clubhouse the way David Ortiz has. Ortiz is a Boston legend and he has earned the respect and patience that Francona is giving him today. Would Belichick bench Brady after continuous poor performances? Brady wasn’t exactly the stud this year he was in the past but he still was our QB game after game. Speaking of legends, Gordon Edes reminded us all today of the great Ted Williams who at age 39, was “batting .225 with just five extra-base hits in his first 116 plate appearances. He wound up hitting .328 that season.”

I wonder if all this lack of support for Ortiz has to do with the Red Sox powerhouse bench. It is no secret Mike Lowell is an equal crowd favorite at Fenway. I am a big Mike Lowell fan and it is tough to see him on the bench. I can also see the simple logic of when one of your starters is struggling, why not switch him out with a former World Series MVP that still has plenty of pop in his bat. This topic is another grey area. Mikey can hit the snot out of the ball but he can’t outrun a toddler. Let’s not all forget the only reason Mike Lowell is still a Red Sox, is because the trade with Texas fell through. I think all of Boston assumes that with Papi struggling, it is a no-brainer to replace him with their beloved, Lowell. It is a tough situation all around. I wouldn’t want to be Francona. Mikey is in the lineup today and he is 1-2 after being robbed of a single to left field. If Papi doesn’t get it together we will see Lowell, but I predict Papi will still have a couple weeks to work his issues out.

The only compliant I have regarding Ortiz, is where he hits the ball. I have said for years,  he needs to take advantage of the infield shift and go to the opposite field. Unless they pitch him inside EVERY pitch he should be able to get on base every time with a simple inside-out swing. Or why not lay down a bunt? If they are going to put the switch on him every time, hit it where they are not. What happened to fundamental baseball? Yes, I know, they are not paying a home run hitter to drop bunts, but if that is what it takes to get on base and start forcing the defense to play him straight away, do it. If he can start going the opposite way on a frequent basis it will immediately get his confidence back. In the long run, he’ll eventually start seeing the ball better. I played college softball. Being able to hit to the opposite field, and dropping a bunt are expected of you. I am not saying I could do what is expected of a MLB player. However, if I could do it as a college athlete, I expect it to be done at the professional level. I have never understood why certain MLB players can’t lay down a bunt or hit to the opposite field, when expected of them. How do they get to that level if they can’t/won’t execute a fundamental skill? We are talking about professionals! These guys are the best of the best. The fact that Ortiz is a PROFESSIONAL baseball player, I expect him to drive an outside pitch (and even and inside pitch) EVERY time to the location he desires, especially when they are giving him the entire left side of the field.

Right now, everyone is giving up on him; the media and the fans. Frustration is showing and pretty soon he is going to give up on himself. He has verbalized his frustration to the medi and to the umpires by getting tossed last friday night. Eventually he will start shutting down towards the fans. I hope that doesn’t happen because Boston and the fans adore David Ortiz because of his upbeat, positive nature on the field. I know playing time should not reflect on how “upbeat and positive” you are, but this man has certainly earned some hard core patient from Tito, his teammates, the media and the fans.

This fan right here, is not giving up just yet. Tito will make the right decision in the end. Let’s try giving Papi a little support and less hate. Where do you stand on this topic?

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