What to Do With a Slumping Ortiz?


What to Do With a Slumping Ortiz? If you’re a Red Sox fan, July 30, 2009 was one of those days you’ll remember where you were when you first heard the news.

If you don’t have kids, you’ll tell your future ones how your heart sank and how you never wanted to believe it, but deep down it really didn’t surprise you.

July 30 of course was the day Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz’s names were leaked as part of "The List." The news made you sick to your stomach, but at least you can go on with your life, your job, whatever you do.

Ortiz can’t. Well, at least he can’t seem to.

That afternoon, Big Papi belted the game-winning, three-run home run in an 8-5 Red Sox win over the A’s at Fenway. He homered in his next game, on trade deadline day, too.

But since then, since the calendar’s were turned to August, Papi’s numbers have sunk faster than a cinder block tossed into the deep end. The news and backlash has obviously had a direct correlation with his offensive decline.

Papi is batting a dismal .114 (5-for-44) since Aug. 1 with just two runs, two RBIs and one extra base hit, a double which came back on Aug. 1. After swinging a hot bat in June and July, he’s gone back to being igloo cold. Papi-in-April-and-May cold.

But it’s not so much the declining numbers that have worried Red Sox Nation the most. It’s how he’s physically looked at the plate over his last 11 games. And to put it mildly, he looks like a lifelong righty swinging from the left side of the plate.

It’s the way he waves at pitches. He’s off-balance on every other offering. Off-speed stuff baffles him like he’s never seen a curveball before. He’s light years behind 91-mph fastballs.

If you think confidence is an overrated mental tool, you’re dead wrong. It’s obvious Ortiz has lost his. After every strikeout, down goes his head as he shuffles back to the dugout. He looks like a nine-year-old whose best friend just moved to Kansas.

Maybe Papi can turn things around before it’s time to bring out the pumpkins. No one thought he could before, and he did, temporarily. Terry Francona believes in him, even if you don’t.

But what if he continues to slide? Will he still bat fifth? Will Francona pinch-hit for him late in games, as he opted not to do in Thursday’s loss to Detroit? Will he ever sit out?

The addition of Victor Martinez and Casey Kotchman give Francona more options not named Ortiz. He has viable backups (Mike Lowell has to be considered one, at this point, since Ortiz, Martinez, Lowell and Kevin Youkilis all can’t be in the lineup at the same time) that can get the job done.

Now’s not the time to pull the plug on Papi. But in the midst of a pennant race, this team can ill afford to have an automatic out in the middle of its lineup. That’s what they’ve had all month long. It’s why they’re 5-7 since Papi’s last home run, ironically the same day they acquired Martinez from Cleveland.

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