It seems like David Ortiz’s fall from grace will never end. The once-proud slugger and fan favorite now can’t even hit a fastball down the middle of the plate. To say that Ortiz has regressed is an understatement; every time he has been at the plate it looks like he’s forgotten how to hit. A kid playing tee ball can probably make better contact than Ortiz. So is it time to bench Big Papi? Should the fans and team give him more time?
Last season, Ortiz struggled through the first two months of the season. Fans had to wait until May 20 to witness his first homerun and another three weeks to see his second. During this time, Ortiz struck out 48 times in 178 at-bats, which averages to about four strikeouts per game. These numbers might be nauseating, but his batting average in the first two months will make you actually grab the barf bag. Ortiz hit an embarrassing .185, which is good if you are Julio Lugo or Brian Anderson, but not if you are Ortiz. Granted he did have a good June, when he hit over .300, but he came back to Earth in July and hit below .250 the rest of the season. Any other player would’ve been benched for putting up such disgusting numbers, but because the Red Sox really did not have a replacement for Ortiz the team had to ride it out with “Big Papi” as their DH.
Fast forward to this year; Ortiz is batting .154 in 26 at-bats. He’s already stuck out 13 times, most of them coming against right-handed pitching. However, unlike last year, Ortiz can be replaced with either Jeremy Hermida or Mike Lowell. Hermida has been hot so far, batting over .300 with six RBIs in 14 at-bats, and Lowell has been good when hitting against left-handed pitching most of his career, something Ortiz has always struggled with regardless of the season.
The Red Sox can easily platoon Hermida and Lowell as DH, but manager Terry Francona has not given up on Ortiz yet, despite the fact that Ortiz’s very presence in the lineup is hurting everyone. For example, pitchers are now pitching around Kevin Youkilis to get to Ortiz since he has been an easy out. Sure, Youkilis gets on base, but Ortiz can’t advance Youkilis if he’s striking out all the time. Plus, Ortiz used to be able to hit inside fastballs with authority. No pitcher would dare throw a ball inside to him; now pitchers can throw their fastballs inside because they know Ortiz can’t catch up to it. He makes average pitchers like Carl Pavano and Gil Meche look like Cy Young, because he stares at pitches he can crush and swings and misses at bad breaking balls in the dirt.
If we are going to judge Ortiz by comparing his past performance with what he is doing now, then the Red Sox should bench him. However, Ortiz will still be in the lineup until late April or early May. Lets hope that he figures out how to hit again. The Red Sox need Ortiz to show some signs of life if they have any chance of being competitive in the A.L. East.
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