Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Stressed-Out David Ortiz Melts Down On Reporters

David Ortiz went on a profanity-laced tirade against reporters who questioned his 0-for-7 start this season. Ortiz is the only Red Sox regular without a hit after two games.

But that's just it; only two games have been played and perhaps it's premature to question Ortiz after just seven at-bats.

After everything he gave the Red Sox and their fans over his first five years in Boston, Ortiz feels that he's earned the benefit of the doubt.

However, while Ortiz can expect goodwill for his past exploits, it won't buy him acceptance for his current failures. Sports are a "what have you done for me lately?" business. No one would give the love to Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, or Mo Vaughn if they suited up tonight and took a spot in the lineup–unless they produced.

All of Ortiz's problems over the past two seasons are evident once again after just two games. The left-handed hitter is still pull happy, and a simple infield shift thwarts him. If he simply went the other way and hit the ball to left or center, his problems might be solved.

However, for long stretches last season, in the ALDS, and in spring training this year, Ortiz couldn't catch up to the fastball. And he's consistently fooled by the change-up as well, so his timing is off, leading him to pop up and foul off l too frequently.

Clearly, Ortiz is feeling the pressure, something he seemed immune to for many years.

You can't help but feel bad for him. For some guys, it all just slips away so quickly. I truly hope he recovers and he may, to some degree. But my bet is that Ortiz will never again be the hitter he once was, and he can't stand living in his own shadow. He raised the bar so high that he can't get over it any more.

Sure, writing him off at this point seems premature. After all, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester had rough outings this week as well, and no one is talking about jettisoning them.

But had Beckett or Lester been on a two-year downward trend, the media and fans would be a lot more concerned today due to their poor performances. However, based on their recent histories, we're all confident that those games were just aberrations.

And Jacoby Ellsbury was 0-for-5 on Opening Night. Yet, there were no worries due to his progression over the past couple of years.

Though Ortiz was solid after June 1 last year, he still slumped again in July, and batted .083 (1-for-12) with no walks and four K's in the ALDS. Including spring training, his two-year trend reveals a regression.

We're all pulling for the guy. The team really needs him to perform to achieve success, and avoid a desperate trade early in the season. The concern is that the last two years are not just an aberration. We can't forget that Ortiz batted .238 last season.

Unquestionably, Ortiz still has power; he just has to hit the ball cleanly for it to leave the park. The Red Sox would be better served if Ortiz hits .280 this season with just 25 homers, than if he hits .240 and somehow manages to smack 35 homers. The former would likely result in more runs than the latter.

Unfortunately, neither seems very likely.

After what we've seen the past two years, we can remain hopeful, if not optimistic.

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