David Ortiz Living In The Shadow of Big Papi
Let's get right to it. David Ortiz was pinch hit for during a critical moment in the eighth inning against the Blue Jays Tuesday night. The bases were loaded in a 1-1 game. The man once honored as "The greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox History" (complete with a plaque) was asked to take a seat, while Mike Lowell stood in his spot. The same Mike Lowell who was traded in the off-season but sent back after Texas didn't like what they saw in his physical.
It was a long and sad walk back to the bench for Big Papi. He watched Lowell walk on four pitches; the result was the go-ahead, game winning RBI. Ortiz will sit out the Wednesday game against Toronto. So is this it?
Certainly Ortiz will get more starts so he isn't going anywhere... but what about Big Papi - the legend living (and dying) in David Ortiz's big frame? Is he gone? A mere mortal?
Ortiz was larger than life in his prime. His performance in the 2004 playoffs will never be forgotten.In or out of Boston, and no one should overlook the fact that he single-handedly brought the Red Sox out of the gutter against the Yankees. This, following the walk-off, series winning homerun against the Angels in the American League Division Series, was quite a start to the love affair with one of the friendliest faces in all of baseball.
Sure, he started in 2003 and he was lovable then too, but in 2004 he made "The Jump." Slowly but surely his batting average has dipped over the past seven years. However, he averaged 37 home runs a season (peaking in 2006 with 54) and about 118 RBIs (peaking with 148 in 2005).
These numbers would be welcomed by any team. So why does it feel like Big Papi has lost his mojo? Well, other than having the highest strikeout total of his career last year (134) and having a terrible start to the season, there is also the Thing That Cannot Be Spoken that hung over his head last year, (rhymes with "Sir Norman's Entrancement Rugs").
So that doesn't help. But above all, I think the fans just expect a Roy Hobbs moment everytime he walks to the plate, puts one leg outside the box, bat between his legs, the rhymic spit-clap-clap, and gets in that ever so slight crouch.
It hasn't happened in a long, long time. And now, Terry Francona (a player's manager if there ever was one) may have stopped believing in the magic of Big Papi. We may see a lot more David Ortiz the DH this year, but a lot less of the fabled Big Papi.