Popular opinion? Ortiz’ days with Sox are numbered
|04.28.10 at 2:40 pm ET|
When Terry Francona decided to pinch-hit Mike Lowell for David Ortiz on April 20 against Rangers left-hander Darren Oliver, Ortiz summed up the move in one word: embarrassing.
If that was his sentiment then, you have to wonder how he feels Wednesday, one day after he was pulled for Lowell with the bases loaded Tuesday night in a tie game against the Blue Jays. The Jays predictably brought in right-hander Kevin Gregg to face Lowell, who delivered by drawing a walk to force in the winning run. This time, the Red Sox can’t hide behind the fact that a lefty was on the mound. Ortiz was lifted simply because the Red Sox needed to get a hit, and Francona obviously felt that having Lowell at the plate gave his team a better chance at doing that.
Is this the final curtain on Ortiz’s career with the Sox? National columnists are certainly acting like the apocalypse is around the corner, with multiple headlines claiming something along the lines of, “The end is near.”
Even if Ortiz claims he wants to play two or three more seasons, it is becoming increasingly apparent that his career is winding down. Not that it wasn’t apparent last season, when similar stories littered national headlines about Ortiz’ decline before he picked things up in the second half.
Ortiz’ struggles have been a hot topic even for those outside Boston all season — see here and here — and he had to carry the burden of myriad questions concerning his issues at the plate into this season. He has been under the microscope all year, and not even Boston’s struggles with starting pitching can overshadow his paltry numbers: a .154 average, .241 OBP and just one home run in 58 plate appearances this month.
The talk has seemed to shift from whether Ortiz can turn things around to what the Red Sox will do with Big Papi. Last year, Ortiz had the luxury of waiting to get out of his slump. But this year his struggles are not new and the Red Sox have capable alternatives — Lowell and even Victor Martinez — to go to instead of Ortiz.
How bad have things gotten for Ortiz? When Ryan Howard signed his extension with the Phillies earlier this week, a lot of the talk concerned whether the Phillies would come to regret the move when their first baseman becomes the next Big Papi and suffers a steep decline.
People seem to be looking at this as if Ortiz’ career is already over, taking measures like pondering his Hall of Fame credentials or wondering what Ortiz’s place amongst the best hitters in Red Sox history, as WEEI.com’s Kirk Minihane did a few weeks ago.
Calling Ortiz’ career over might be a little drastic, even though he clearly is not the same player he once was. But one thing is clear: National opinion seems to be that Big Papi’s time as a member of the Red Sox is coming to an end. It might not be the apocalypse, but if and when that times comes it likely will be a disaster in Red Sox Nation. Brace yourselves.
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