David Ortiz is done with the Home Run Derby. And that’s quite alright.
Ortiz, a five-time participant and winner of the 2010 Home Run Derby, told WEEI.com recently that he won’t partake in this year’s competition if he’s asked by American League captain Robinson Cano. While Ortiz continues to be one of baseball’s most prolific sluggers, everyone should be encouraged by his decision.
Ortiz’s reasoning for skipping out on this year’s long ball contest is simple and extremely reasonable. As the 37-year-old put it, “You have to be young with a lot of energy.” Ortiz, who leads the Red Sox with 14 dingers this season, appears to have plenty of energy while mashing balls all over the place, but a home run hitting contest is obviously a whole other beast. It does require a great deal of physical effort, particularly in the later rounds, so opting for additional rest isn’t just the logical move; it’s the right move.
It’s the right move for Ortiz. It’s the right move for the Red Sox. And it’s even the right move for Major League Baseball.
Ortiz has never been a victim of the “Home Run Derby curse” — or whatever you want to label it. The competition hasn’t hindered his second-half performance in the past, so a drop-off if he participated this time around would be the exception rather than the norm. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, though, especially since we’re talking about a guy who missed the tail end of last season and the beginning of this season with a leg injury and who has consistently stated this year that his swing still isn’t exactly where he wants it to be.
Ortiz is an extremely important component of the Red Sox’ offense, so while Boston fans may love watching Big Papi jack moon shot after moon shot on the national stage in the middle of the summer, they mustn’t lose sight of what’s really important — the Red Sox’ sustained success. Ortiz and Co. are more likely to achieve that success with a clean bill of health, and Ortiz participating in the Home Run Derby only adds risk for what essentially amounts to a meaningless, temporary high.
And besides, do baseball fans really want to see Ortiz participate in the Home Run Derby for a sixth time? Sure, he’s exciting to watch and can hit home runs with the best of them, but shouldn’t we desire something new, especially if he doesn’t have the energy that he used to? Ortiz would be nice, but younger AL players like Chris Davis, Yoenis Cespedes and Mark Trumbo (who competed last year) have tremendous power and could offer some freshness to the competition.
So, as Ortiz supposedly closes the book on his Home Run Derby career, we should all support the decision. His participation in the annual event was fun while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end.