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Update (7/30/09): David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez tested positive for PEDs in 2003.
With the news of Manny using steroids, it’s reached a point where the common baseball fan no longer has much faith in the players we’ve cheered for in the past. Most notably on the Red Sox, if you take a look at David Ortiz’s beginning to this season, you start to wonder whether his previous talent was a reflection of his true skill, or potentially just the result of some performance-enhancing drugs.
Uncharacteristically, Ortiz showed up to camp early in Spring Training this season. He’d lost weight and was eager to get a head start on the season. At first thought, you’d think he was wanting to build on what he had done in the previous seasons. But now, you have to wonder, was he trying to find a way to somehow “make up” for his lost “talent” due to no longer using performance-enhancing substances?
Besides the obvious complete stat drop-off in numbers this season…
David Ortiz Career Stats (Courtesy of baseballreference.com)
Let’s look historically at how long it has taken Ortiz to hit his first homerun of the year:
Ortiz has now earned himself a SlumpBot .200 entry for his start to the season. Here’s their diagnosis:
An overweight, beloved Boston 1B/DH who completely falls off the map as soon as he hits his mid-30s? Yeah, we’ve seen this movie before, right Mo Vaughn? This year, Ortiz is striking out more, walking less, fouling off more pitches — which suggests reduced bat speed — and hardly driving anything except his car to Fenway. Red Sox hiitting coach Dave Magadan described what he’s doing: “Kind of jumping at the ball, almost cheating to get to balls, then you become susceptible to the offspeed pitch.” No kidding.
Just like Mo Vaughn, right… Mitchell Report. Check.
And what about the Manny trade? What did Ortiz have to say about it? Here’s a quote from him (August 2, 2008):
Ortiz isn’t with the “Manny-is-gone-hip-hip-hooray” program just yet. He, more than anyone, benefitted from Ramirez’s presence.
“I wasn’t happy,” said Ortiz, referring to his demeanor when the trade was announced late Thursday afternoon. “I am going to miss him, of course. We have been through a lot together.”
And more from the Herald (July 31, 2008):
Ortiz wouldn’t specify what kind of help he believed the Red Sox needed to garner before today’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline. He did, however, offer his analysis regarding whether or not the team needs Ramirez around for another World Series run.
“Of course,” Ortiz said. “Definitely.”
Ortiz then turned the tables, grabbing a tape recorder and asking the questions.
“Why don’t you tell me what we need?” he said.
With his apparent anger over the Manny trade, we need reconsider Ortiz’s comments with our new context. Why is Ortiz not happy about trading away a player causing nothing but clubhouse problems? Shouldn’t he be happy to have the team cleansed of such problems?
Eckersley made the point a few games ago that you have to start considering removing Ortiz from the lineup, or at least pushing him down in the order if his numbers don’t improve. Luckily so far, Ortiz’s lack of performance doesn’t seem to be hindering the Sox. Yet, there’s going to come a time, when Francona needs to consider whether or not he can depend on Ortiz to produce, especially when he is consistently not producing.
Maybe he’s just off to a really slow start. Maybe he can’t get his swing back to where it was. Or maybe…his head’s not in the game. Maybe there’s a reason why.