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Can the Red Sox please bench David Ortiz? Watching Ortiz at bat conjures up the same secondhand embarrassment that I get when I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, but with a lot less humor, unless you count gross ineptitude as funny (which I do sometimes). Granted, I’m not saying anything that most of us watching have been saying all season – if there is anyone still watching this season. Monday night, 10 minutes before game time, the stadium was half empty. I know the Bruins and Celtics were on, but in recent years past (with the cross-town teams in the playoffs) the drop off hasn’t been this significant. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE the exposure the Bruins and Celtics are getting (especially the Bruins). But just in your day-to-day conversations, do you hear anyone talking about the Red Sox other than the occasional sour remark? Me either.
I’m not really a hardcore stats guy, but the numbers are pretty interesting. Mike Lowell has been just as productive (he actually has 2 more RBI) than Ortiz in about a third less at-bats. Signs of life were shown for Ortiz on Saturday when he belted two bombs against the O’s, but the glimmers are fleeting. To date, Lowell has three multi-hit games in the nine starts he’s had while Ortiz has had just one (last Saturday) in the seventeen games he’s started. Ortiz has an abysmal .150 average vs. Lowell’s .300. This, to me, is the most staggering number and here’s why. The players in front of Ortiz are getting on. With runners in scoring position Ortiz is batting (unbelievably) worse than his average at .136. As for Mike Lowell – he’s hitting .500 with runners in scoring position. While these numbers are fairly staggering, consider this: eight out of the Boston’s 14 losses this season have been by two or less runs. If Lowell was the regular starter over Ortiz, who knows where the Sox would be in the standings, but, as a betting man, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say we would have won a few more games.
I know it’s difficult when an aging face of your franchise has to be phased out. The Mariners are going through the same thing with Ken Griffey Jr. Griff might be the only guy in the majors having a worse season than Ortiz, batting at .224 with no home runs and four RBI. However, Griffey has already been the object of four promo nights this year and is clearly a centerpiece for getting some butts in the seats in Seattle. Boston has no such issues. Between Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester (among others), the Sox have an embarrassment of riches in which to choose a centerpiece for marketing.
If the Sox want to keep Ortiz ‘in the family’ for years to come, there are ways to do that without keeping him in the lineup. My suggestion? Well, for starters, place Lowell at the DH spot. Secondly, the Sox should act like the team that has the second highest payroll in the majors. It’s a brash and obnoxious claim but if you got it…flaunt it. The Yankees do and it seems to be working out for them. What does this mean? It means the Sox should cut Ortiz and pay him and go out and spend some cash/prospects to get a big bat before the trading deadline. The front office screwed up before last season by not getting Mark Tiexiera for what amounts to pennies on the dollar (relatively speaking) in the difference between their offer and New York’s offer.
They opted to not shell out bucks and get a big bat in this past off season and focus on getting ‘value’ guys and pitching. Granted it’s early, but it doesn’t seem to be working out that well. I know pitching and defense wins championships, but if it can’t get you out of the AL East, then what good is it? In the end, if the Sox want to charge the prices they do for tickets and enjoy the fruits of being the team with the second largest payroll, then they need to shell out the dollars and get some bats.