Mar 24, 2014; Sarasota, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox dh David Ortiz (34) greets Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz (23) before the start of the spring training exhibition game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

All-star voters picking Nelson Cruz over David Ortiz as game’s best DH


I’ve never particularly liked Nelson Cruz — one of those puffy, slugging outfielders who is constantly on the shelf with some pull or strain usually acquired trying to play defense. Nothing personal; I just don’t like him. When the veteran was outed last year in the Biogenesis scandal, I thought, “that’s it for him.”

But Dan Duquette, leaping lord of the scrap heap, convinced Cruz to DH for the Orioles on a one-year, $8 million deal and he’s produced like never before. In fact he’s only nine homers and 24 RBI off his career-highs on June 26. He’s been healthy. He hasn’t had to play the field. And with the All-Star Game less than three weeks away, Cruz leads the voting for American League designated hitter by 800,000 votes over David Ortiz.

It’s shocking for a player coming off a suspension for performance-enhancing drug use to garner more votes in a popular vote than the face of the defending World Series champs and a nine-time All-Star who’s one of the more amiable personalities in the game. Maybe other fan bases throughout baseball have tired of Big Papi.

But ultimately, Cruz is having a huge season while Ortiz just hasn’t played up to his standards.

At .256 with 18 home runs and 49 RBI, Ortiz’s power has been there, and he’s had a flair for the dramatic with several key hits and walk-off bombs. But he hasn’t been the same hitter as in recent years. Maybe it’s the pressure of hitting in the middle of an historically anemic lineup. He could be trying to do too much.

His batting average and on-base percentage are at their lowest since 2009, when he slumped due to the lingering effects of a 2008 wrist injury. Further, his strikeout rate of 18.9%, while not at Napoli-an levels, is his highest since 2010, when he struck out a career-high of 145 times. The Big Papi of the last three years has been one of the best contact hitters in the game, with much-improved patience and fewer punch outs.

It’s not like his numbers have fallen off the table, as they did at the time of the wrist injury. But the cleanup hitter for the Boston Red Sox hasn’t performed at his customary All-Star level in 2014. Nelson Cruz has been the best DH in the game. Maybe it’s time to recognize that our hero is nearly 39 years old, hopefully on a gentle downward slope.

And while the underachieving Red Sox will likely send a couple of players to the All-Star Game (Jon Lester and John Lackey are solid candidates among starting pitchers; Koji Uehara should be a shoo-in), Dustin Pedroia won’t be among them, and Big Papi might have to punch his ticket to Target Field via the “Final Vote.”

Next Red Sox Game View full schedule »
Saturday, Aug 2323 Aug1:35Seattle MarinersBuy Tickets

Tags: Boston Red Sox David Ortiz Mlb All-star Game Nelson Cruz

  • Rick M

    The Diva will be appointed official scorer.

  • http://bosoxinjection.com/ Pete Sonski

    2013 headlines: Cruz suspended for PED use. Ortiz earned World Series MVP. 2014 headlines: Cruz leads majors in HRs & RBI. Ortiz complains and complains. There’s really no mystery here.

    • Sean Sylver

      As I mentioned last night on the Yanks Go Yard show, Ortiz does this stuff every year: throwing bats on the field, interrupting press conferences, destroying a dugout telephone. If the team were winning, it wouldn’t be the focus.

      • http://bosoxinjection.com/ Pete Sonski

        You’re correct. There are plenty of Ortiz haters who will always point fingers and whine. There are plenty of loyal Red Sox fans who will blindly overlook his antics and cheer every HR. It’s the rank-and-file baseball who make the difference in the Al Star vote. With them its about production: stats and W’s.

  • offsetred

    This doesn’t erase the fact that Cruz got that miserable jump on a catchable ball in the playoffs vs. NYY. Cost them the series. O’s are smart to keep him as DH.