The Boston Red Sox have been ice cold at the plate for many games, this season. Designated hitter David Ortiz is partly responsible. For the $16 million that the team is paying him, Ortiz finds himself dead last in terms of batting average (.219) for all DH players in the American League. He is also in ninth place in RBIs (21), compared to the 16 DHs with at least 86 at-bats.
However, does it mean that Ortiz should call it quits?
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Gordon Edes ofESPN
believes that “Ortiz, because of his eminence, becomes the object of the most scrutiny.” If the team hits poorly, Ortiz takes the heat. “While he has put up numbers against right-handed pitchers consistent with his past performance (.278 batting average, .387 on-base percentage, .879 OPS), he is only 8-for-70 (.114) against lefties this season, which has skewed his overall numbers to an unrecognizable place: a .219/.297/.372/.670 slash line.”
When asked about being ‘washed up’, Ortiz said, “What can I tell you, man? … A lot of people looked at me like that [six] years ago, and here I am still. I don’t have no timetable for [retirement]. I don’t think anybody has it, either.”
Instead of looking at more statistics, let us just pause for a moment. Throw out the hero worship. Throw out the bad play, at present. Throw out the name David Ortiz, just for a second. Where is all of this talk coming from?
When you look at Ortiz, you see a lumbering man, who only comes out a couple of times a game to hit. He almost never plays defense. The Red Sox and their fans want to see everyone trying their best to turn their season around, but can only watch as this man is getting paid for poor play. He can’t vindicate himself with an excellent glove, when he has someone else playing first base for him. Ortiz can’t earn more at-bats, if the entire team seems to be slumping as heavily as he is. What’s the face of the franchise to do?
Can it be possible for a player to be a scapegoat as much as a hero, depending on how the team is doing? That’s the point. When you become the hero, everyone expects you to save the day, everyday. That’s what you take on when you wear the mantle. Ortiz’s frustration is justified, but he likely is clearly aware that we don’t look to him only during good times; he’s the leader when times are tough, too.
The 2013 championship is over. Boston’s executive brass cannot look at past glory to make decisions about the future. Ortiz will continue to play and work hard at his hitting as long as they allow him to do so.
However, let’s look at the difference between playing poorly and being ‘washed up’. Ortiz is tied for 64th place in terms of RBIs for all batters in the American League, ahead of other top-name players like Melky Cabrera, Mike Moustakas, and Robinson Cano. Evan Longoria has only five more than Ortiz, and yet he sits in 43rd place. Chase Headley and Carlos Beltran are only a few RBIs ahead of him. Should all of these players think about retirement, too?
Even if he isn’t producing like everyone expects, Ortiz is still producing. Maybe he works out of the slump, and maybe he doesn’t. That doesn’t mean the media should be hounding him about retirement plans. His numbers are not good. They may not be good enough to return next season. To say that he should stop right now, however, seems a bit ridiculous. Besides, with much of the trade talk being around fans wanting another starting pitcher, requiring position players to be offered in return, who else is going to cash runs? Ortiz is tied for second place on the team for RBIs in the last seven games.
The Red Sox could use all the runs that they can get, right now. Instead of focusing on Ortiz’s future, why doesn’t everyone focus more on the other eight starters whom left their hero capes at home, too? That’s why baseball is a team sport.
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