As much as he’s done for us over the years, it’s becoming achingly apparent that David Ortiz – Big Papi as he is affectionately called around these parts – will never regain his feared slugger status.
It’s okay to admit it. Great players aren’t great their entire careers. It happens to everyone. Age, injuries and declining skills put Willie Mays in a Mets uniform his last two seasons. Ken Griffey Jr hasn’t been a great player in nearly a decade. Jim Rice led the league in double plays hit into for the last three seasons of his career. Believe me, I know. I witnessed the frustration first hand.
You know what? Papi was never as good as any of those players I just mentioned. Yes, he had a streak of clutch hitting the likes of which we have never seen. He led us to two World Series titles in four years. It was a ride I wouldn’t trade for anything. But would you consider him a Hall of Famer? Even with this four to five season rampage he was never what I consider an all time great.
Feared? You bet.
Clutch? No doubt.
All time great? Sorry, don’t think so.
Which should make this transition easier, wouldn’t you think? We’re not asking a sure fire Hall of Fame player to move aside for the young guns.
Only it’s much more difficult than that. This is Big Papi! The man who won not one, but two games against those hated Yankees in 2004. The man who dragged Red Sox Nation into the winner’s circle whether we were ready or not. It wasn’t just him, of course, but he became the symbol for the team that did the impossible.
It doesn’t help that he’s one of the few remaining players from that 2004 team. Manny, Johnny Damon, Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar have been gone for years. Hell, Pedro, Dave Roberts, Orlando Cabrera and Derek Lowe were gone before the champagne dried on the floor. Only Papi and Varitek remain and Tek has already assumed (been forced into) a backup role.
Before you jump all over me, I know Tim Wakefield and Youkilis were on the team, as well, but let’s be honest – neither had much impact along the way. If I’m not mistaken (and I could be), I think one or both of them were left off the playoff roster in one of the series.
The problem facing Terry Francona and Red Sox management is not Papi’s current performance (which screams in pain for itself) but how to tell a living legend it’s time to get in the back seat.
Allow me to do it for them. It’s time to sit, Papi. Look, we will always love and appreciate you around here. You’ll probably never pay for another meal the rest of your life while you’re in Boston, but you’ve been hindering the potential of this team for two straight years. Yes, you had a good second half last season, but there is no time to wait for that again this year.
Go relax, enjoy the single best seat in Fenway to watch a game. Let Hermidia or Varitek (2 HRs in his first game!) or Bill Hall take some DH duties for a month or so. You’ll still be able to pinch hit when there is a righty reliever in. You’ll still get a chance to hit a blast into Pesky’s Pole nearly 310 feet away. You’ll still get those ovations you crave.
You just won’t be killing your own team at the same time. You’ve got three hits all season. No home runs for a second straight April. You’re not even the lovable teddy bear we love, turning into a grizzly and nearly taking a reporter’s head off when he asked the same question every other person has been wondering for two years now: Are you done?
You’ve always prided yourself on being a team guy. Now, more than ever, is the time to man up and do what’s best for the team. This Red Sox team has the pieces in place to win it all. What it can’t survive is a having a designated hitter who bats .230 with 20 something home runs for a second straight year.
Go back to being the lovable, cheerful, Big Papi Boston loves. Just do it on the bench. You can joke with your teammates, be the first to congratulate someone when they hit a home run, learn managerial tricks of the trade from Francona and begin adjusting to the new phase of your career.
Either that or get back on the juice.
Just stop killing this team.
Today’s distraction: The latest Super Heroes that should get their own movies. We all know these dipshits and are the main reason many of us don’t go to graduate school.