This is a post I’ve delayed writing for two reasons: 1) I can be silly and superstitious and I don’t like to jinx things and 2) I’m not much of a gloater.
Since Big Papi burst on the scene in 2003, I’ve been telling people it wouldn’t last. I’ve annoyed Red Sox fans by referring to him as Mo Vaughn. My reasoning? Those big and unathletic sluggers, especially in the “steroid era,” tend to have a short shelf-life.
Well, it’s starting to look more and more like I’ve been right. Things really came to a head last night, as Ortiz went 0-7 with 3Ks and left 12 men on base in a game the Red Sox lost in extra innings. Maybe Ortiz will snap out of this slump, but it looks like the bill may have finally come due for Big Papi.
The funny thing is, last night wasn’t the moment when, for me, Ortiz looked like he might be done.
That was Sunday night. Here was the scene: National television, Fenway Park, against the Rays. Big moment, men on base, middle of the close game. The fans were going nuts, trying to will Ortiz to a big hit.
Well he got one. As soon as he hit it, I said “that’s over the monster.” But it wasn’t. Even Carl Crawford in left field seemed fooled – it was just a double off the wall. In fact, it hit so low off the wall that if Crawford really made a leap at it, he might have got it. It was Ortiz’s biggest hit of the season. He drove in some runs and the Red Sox won.
But Papi really got into that ball. He hit it on the screws. And it barely got to the wall. Any other ballpark in the land and that’s an easy out. Red Sox fans went nuts and got to applaud one of their favorite players, but I couldn’t help but think that if I was a Red Sox fan, I’d be depressed by that hit in the long run.
We’ll see how this all plays out, but as a Yankee fan I can’t say I’m upset to see the legend of Ortiz finally collapse. While it’s easy to say steroids could be in play here, I don’t know if that’s the case. The thing about steroids is you don’t just take them and then sit on the couch and get ripped. You have to work your butt off. Let’s just say Ortiz isn’t exactly a gym rat. And I think that’s really the issue here – you can’t be that out of shape and continue to play a professional sport at a peak level past your prime. It just doesn’t make sense. Maybe if you’re a rubber armed pitcher like David Wells, but a power hitter like Ortiz? I don’t see it.
Will Francona finally move Ortiz down in the lineup? What happens if Ortiz just can’t cut it anymore? Either way, it’s good to see the Yankees aren’t the only team whose players age.