Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts blames offensive woes on absence of David Ortiz

Apr 3, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) take his cap off during the seventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) take his cap off during the seventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

Frustrated shortstop Xander Bogaerts claims the Boston Red Sox offensive struggles are due to the lineup no longer featuring David Ortiz.

We all miss David Ortiz, but did anyone expect that the Boston Red Sox would miss him this much?

Boston enters the day tied for the second fewest runs scored in the American League after being shutout for the third time in their last seven games in a loss to the New York Yankees last night. The Red Sox could only muster a mere three hits, all singles, against Masahiro Tanaka – an ace caliber pitcher to be sure, yet one who entered the game owning a 6.00 ERA through his first four starts and has historically struggled at Fenway Park.

Tanaka certainly didn’t struggle during his complete game effort last night and neither have most of the pitchers who have faced this Red Sox lineup this season. A powerhouse offense that led the majors in runs scored by a mile last year now has fallen to 12th in the league in slugging and ranks dead last in the majors in home runs.

So what changed? According to Xander Bogaerts, it’s something big. As in, Big Papi.

"“What’s the difference? I mean, David [Ortiz] is not here,” Bogaerts said after Thursday’s loss, per CBS Boston. “He was definitely a huge part of our team for the years I was here. We definitely miss him.”"

Any lineup would miss a hitter that led the league in RBI and OPS last year, so some drop off was to be expected when Ortiz slipped away into retirement. A juggernaut lineup was going to have to settle for being merely top-tier, yet instead they’ve collapsed into relative obscurity.

No matter how great Ortiz was – make no mistake, he was GREAT – his absence doesn’t completely explain the ineptitude of this year’s lineup. The Red Sox knew all along that Big Papi wasn’t coming back this season, so using that as an excuse now is a bad look.

"“We’ve got to do it without him. We’re trying. We’re trying to put up good at-bats and get guys on base. Having that 34 in the lineup was something opposing pitchers were definitely afraid of,” said Bogearts."

So without Ortiz, the Red Sox no longer have anyone in the lineup that opposing pitchers fear? There are three hitters on this team not named Ortiz who were All-Stars last year – including Bogaerts himself. The runner-up in last year’s MVP race is one of them!

There’s no shortage of talent on this team, so using the loss of one superstar as an excuse for why the offense is struggling is a troubling sign. It’s as if not having Ortiz protecting them in the lineup has caused young players like Bogaerts to lose confidence. Do they really believe that they can’t put runs on the scoreboard without Papi anchoring the lineup?

It sounds like that’s what Bogaerts is conceding. It’s not our fault we can’t score, we don’t have the big guy to drive us in anymore! But hey, at least we’re trying!

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Let’s see, who else can we blame – how about Dave Dombrowski for not finding a suitable replacement for the big bat of Ortiz? No wait, he signed Mitch Moreland to a bargain deal to take over at first base so that Hanley Ramirez could take Ortiz’s role as the DH. Moreland has been one of the team’s best hitters so far and currently leads the league in doubles. I think that move has worked out so far.

Should the Red Sox have splurged on a slugger of Ortiz’ ilk, such as Edwin Encarnacion? His four home runs are more than anyone on the Red Sox this season, although still below his usual pace and he’s hitting a meager .213 for the Cleveland Indians. Jose Bautista is a shell of his former self. Old friend Mike Napoli still has some pop in his bat, but his .150 batting average is the third lowest among qualified AL hitters. The free agent power bats that the Red Sox were rumored to have interest in haven’t been producing enough this season to have made any difference to this lineup.

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Boston could have traded for a power hitter – we all know how much Dealin’ Dave likes to work the trade market. They took a different path, cashing in their best chips to improve their rotation with Chris Sale. Can’t complain too much about that decision given Sale’s brilliance through five starts.

The players currently on this roster are the ones they will have to rely on for the time being, which should be more than enough to put this offense at least in the top half of the league. Nearly a month into the season, Boston hasn’t been anywhere near that level and that can’t simply be chalked up to Ortiz retiring.

As frustrating as this offense has been at times this season, it hasn’t been a complete disaster. Thursday’s near no-show at the plate dropped Boston out of the top spot in the league in batting average and on-base percentage, but they remain top-five in both categories. Getting hits hasn’t been the problem, it’s getting the big hits to drive those runners in. Obviously, Ortiz was a significant part of that aspect in previous years. Still, there’s plenty of guys on this team that can be run producers.

It’s time for the Red Sox to cut the excuses and start playing to their potential. David Ortiz isn’t walking through that door. We’re well beyond the flu epidemic that ravaged the clubhouse earlier this season. The weather is starting to heat up. There are a number of factors that contributed to Boston’s early season slump at the plate, but the loss of Oritz is the only one this team has yet to overcome.

Next: A tale of two pitchers

Everyone misses Ortiz now that he’s gone. The players that are still here are pretty good, but if they don’t stop looking back at what they lost then the road ahead won’t get any easier.