Monday, June 8, 2009
Big Papi on the verge of disappearing
David Ortiz is having an awfully tough time this year. As a matter of fact, if he performs at the same terrible level that he has been at for the last few months, I think his career could be doomed. We're talking about a guy that used to appear nearly impossible to get out at one point. Big Papi is tremendously strong and his huge body just engulfs the plate, which normally makes it very hard for a pitcher to keep it away from him. But those things are only going to help you if you're seeing the ball well and making contact. And in that regard, he's in a real rut. This guy couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat.
Ortiz already has 55 strikeouts this year in just 51 games. He had 74 total strikeouts all of last year in 109 games. Big Papi is striking out at an alarming rate and it's not like he's making the most of it when he avoids the strikeout. He's batting just .197 with 2 home runs. Instead of being neck-and-neck in home run totals with the likes of Teixeira, Pujols, or Howard, he's simply trying to smack more out of the ballpark than smurfs like David Eckstein and Scott Podsednik. The point is that Ortiz's numbers are awful on paper and actually watching him up at the plate is even more brutal.
The reality of his season is pretty cut-and-dry: he's doing poorly. But there's a secondary issue that annoys me; it can't be helping Ortiz's situation either. The Red Sox, the fans, and the media seem to consistently make a point of coming up with new excuses for Ortiz's struggles. Really, the answer is simple...the guy is rapidly declining. I've heard it all this year about why Big Papi is struggling...injuries, pitching matchups, spot in the order, sleeping issues, pressure, mechanics, and hot off the press today...dry eyes. The excuses were plausible for awhile, but now its getting a little ridiculous.
I understand that you don't expect a star to decline this drastically in a fairly short period of time, but there have been clear signs for over a year now that his dominance is quickly finding its way to the nearest exit. So stop trying to dig up more reasons for Big Papi's lack of success. If you look at his numbers over the last several years, they have steadily declined. I mean this was a guy that used to instill fear in pitchers to the point where he compiled tons of walks and forced pitchers to get down early in the count. His batting averages were usually over .300. But last season he hit only .264 and was hampered by injuries, which also should be taken note of because Ortiz is aging more than people realize. He's 33 years old and normally people of his size end up having much shorter careers because of joint problems.
Another direct reason for his terrible slump, in my opinion, is the mental aspect of the game. Now I know that the idea of a mind game is rather novel and its well recognized in this argument, but I'm talking about something more specific. I think that Ortiz's struggles have pushed his mind so damn far that if he doesn't turn it around in a month or less, his career could be over. It's similar to a terrible day at the driving range or an uncharacteristically poor round of 18. You play so badly that it puzzles you to the point where you begin to reconsider whether or not you're even good at all.
Despite Ortiz guaranteeing that he'll "be back," he is experiencing countless mental battles in his head that are making him wonder if he's still capable of being an effective player. That's why I think that if he doesn't start to regain some sort of success at the plate soon, his anxiety stemming from his severe struggles will eventually consume him. Not to mention the fact that the Red Sox organization doesn't have time to sit around and wait for Ortiz to hit. No organization wants a guy with as little confidence and as high of a strikeout rate as Big Papi. Even if he does get his swagger back, in reality he's a big lurch with imminent health problems and a declining career.
It's a shame because I like the guy's personality and I respect the dominance that he displayed for a few years. And I hope he experiences a rebirth, but all of the excuses, mental issues, and lost confidence is the perfect storm for failure. Sorry to say, but...Adios Big Papi.