Ortiz, A-Rod know the vagaries of fandom

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David Ortiz would probably like nothing more than to see his last eight baseball games erased from the collective conscious. Since the start of the playoffs, the Red Sox’s three hole hitter is 5 for 31 with eight walks and eight strike outs. He has a double, a triple and an RBI.

All over New England, the whispers are building, and the rumors are mounting. As The Wall Street Journal’s Numbers Guy noted Wednesday before Ortiz’s 1 for 4 performance last night, Boston fans are questioning the clutchiness of Big Papi. Carl Bialik, of course, uses New York’s favorite whipping boy as a point of comparison:

In his last 16 postseason games, the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez has collected eight hits in 56 at bats, with one home run and one run batted in. In his last 13 postseason games, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has 10 hits in 51 at bats, with no home runs and five runs batted in. Rodriguez is famously un-clutch; Ortiz famously clutch. Yet both have had ups and downs in their playoff careers, which provide too small a sample size to reach definitive conclusions…Now Ortiz, the hero of the 2004 playoffs, is beginning to experience what A-Rod has: doubts about his clutch abilities.

Now, we’ve all been where the Rays are right now. We all know what it feels like to be in the drivers’ seat against the Red Sox in a short series, and we all know what the Red Sox — or any team, really — can do with three very good pitchers lined up to pitch their next three games. If I’ve learned nothing since the start of the 2004 postseason, it is not to celebrate until the last out of the clinching game is within hand.

But David Ortiz’s struggles present a very apt parallels to those of Alexander Emanuelle Rodriguez. For years, Ortiz has been a fan-favorite in Boston. He seemingly comes through in every conceivable clutch situation, and the fans expect him to pick up this team and carry them to promised land.

As Ortiz nears his 33rd birthday in a month, though, his body, never really a fine specimen, isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Various joints ache, and Ortiz’s weakness — that he is a one-dimensional player — are laid out for all to see. David Ortiz without his power and hitting is nearly as a dead a weight in the Red Sox lineup as Jason Varitek currently is.

On the other side of things is A-Rod. Unlike Ortiz, A-Rod doesn’t carry that clutch reputation. He’s won two MVP awards in New York and through the first seven games of the 2004 playoffs, he was as hot a hitter as any in baseball. But over the Yanks’ last few postseasons, A-Rod hasn’t lived up to his billing.

In the end, of course, it’s an issue of sample sizes. It’s bad practice to aggregate playoff appearances over the years, and it’s bad practice to assume that Ortiz isn’t any more or less clutch than he used to be based on 31 at-bats in October. But fans will be fans, and as the Red Sox stare down the looming threat of elimination on Thursday, Ortiz, if he doesn’t start hitting, will hear something familiar to A-Rod: boos in his home ballpark. The fans can be quite fickle as they wonder, “What have you done for me lately?”

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  • Ben C

    god i hope so

  • Baseballnation

    Power defines both of these guys right? Wrong. Lets say hypothetically, if Papi loses say half of his hr power to rapid decline, then he’s a .270-.300 hitter with 17-19 Hr output as a no field use DH…Arod in the same hypothetical sense would be a .280-.300 hitter with 17-19 hr output and near gold glove 3B. A-rod’s value to 162 games is much more valuable to a club then papi’s. Clutch is a misconstrued stat…value is not

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Exactly. If Papi’s on the outs, he’ll lose his value and role on the Sox a lot faster than A-Rod would on the Yanks.

      • Steve

        They cant bench him, then they would need to find a new token black guy (according to Ken Rosenthal).

        • JD

          LMAO!

        • Chris

          Unfortunately, Big Papi doesn’t count as a token black guy because he’s Dominican.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

            I think the token black guy honor belongs to Coco Crisp.

  • pat

    high expectations are a bitch

  • TheLastClown

    The loss of Manny will show itself when the Sox Don’t come back from 1-3, and much more distinctly so next year, when a healthy Papi shows himself hearkening back to his Twinkie days.

    • http://pondering-pinstripes.blogspot.com/ K.B.D.

      I’m also going to be interested in seeing how Jason Bay responds to the Boston atmosphere for an entire year. I know he performed well in his time there this year, but what happens if he struggles next year and the media jumps all over him? This guy has only endured the rigors of a contending team for 40 or so games. The Manny contrasts and comparisons are going to be there for awhile, fair or not.

      • Steve

        Bay benefits from having had a hot streak right after the trade (which got fans off his back) and otherwise low expectations. Nobody in Boston seems to look at him as Manny’s replacement, now they look to Big Papi. Bay seems to blend in to the background.

  • Baseballnation

    Jason Bay is a pretty good player, and one who should not be frowned upon. Yeah, Manny void will be felt somewhat and Bay will unfairly be compared to him by the fans from time but he’s makes a big chunk of what Manny would bring in a pretty damn good bat, solid work ethic and mental saneness. In short, he’s a much beter club house addition.

    Bigger question, has the sox hit their peak with their star veterans clearly on the decline or surely headed there? Papi (if you think he’s on his way to a dip next year,) Schilling (done,) Wakefield, Varitek, Timlin, Lowell…

    • Manimal

      If anything, Bay is carrying that team right now.

  • Shane

    sweet beautiful Boston implosion. It is a wonderful thing to see. I have been calmly at peace with our disappointing season for months now. It is so nice to see the Sox share our misery.

    Question, is Lowell signed for next year? If so, it’s an even better day!

    • Steve

      I’ve been listening to WEEI since last night. Delicious.

      http://www.weei.com/#

      Francona should have pulled Beckett faster, Ortiz is finished and they never should have traded Manny.

    • A.D.

      he signed a 3yr deal this offseason, so yes, and making 12.5m

  • RollingWave

    in the end, clutch is 90% luck, anyone who lasts long enough in this game will have his ups and downs.

    • Manimal

      totally un true. Arod chokes alot, those tight situations in the regular season he would force a HR and only get a dribbler to the mound. Happens way too often. Arod is a good player but he gets to tense some times.

      • Steve

        Yep. He doesn’t have good ABs in big spots and thats what bugs you the most. If he was being patient, hitting the ball hard and it was just going right at someone. But that’s not the case with Alex’s recent post seasons.

      • Chris

        I know people don’t like to believe it, but once you get a large enough sample size, everyone reverts to their career averages in clutch situations. Maybe he does get tense in big situations, but it doesn’t affect his performance at all.

        • Steve

          I’d suggest watching the games if you believe that. Torre didn’t drop him to 8th because he was having good ABs and just getting unlucky.

          • Chris

            So because Torre made a stupid move, that justifies the incorrect assumption that A-Rod is not clutch?

            Besides, he doesn’t have bad at bats in the playoffs or clutch situations – of course there are some bad ABs, but not more than in the regular season.

            • Relaunch

              Regardless of what stats say, outside of 2007, I have never felt comfortable with Arod up late in games.

              • Steve H

                Take a look at A-Rod’s career #’s in the ALCS. He’s a dominating player, but because his teammates around him couldn’t perform in the 2 times he’s been there, he’s deemed unclutch, despite .315/.413/.611 line with 4 hrs and 10 rbis in 14 games.

            • JD

              Thank you Chris. I am so sick of going to games and hear fans boo just A-rod. Like he is the only player on the team, there are other players on this team who haven’t performed well in the clucth or make a dumb play (like swinging and striking out on a pitch 3 feet into the opposite batter’s box…ie: Jeter) and I don’t hear a peep about them.

              Let’s face it, A-rod is going to be a Yankee for the rest of his career. He wants to be here! Not to mention, he has a great chance of being the next career HR leader not to mention he would be bringing back to where it belongs as a YANKEE holding the record.

              • Relaunch

                I agree its more than one person on the team. But if he wants to be the highest player in the game, usually says/does dumb things to be in the media, why shouldn’t the spot light be on him?
                Do you really think someone making $30MM should not have more responsibility than someone making $10MM?

                • Steve H

                  So who has more responsibility on the Knicks this year, David Lee or Stephon Marbury? Marbury is making 20x more than Lee, so he must be more on the hook correct?

                • Relaunch

                  Lets talk about a sport people actually care about. But since you want to talk about the WNBA, yes Marbury should be helf more accountable.

                • Relaunch

                  Maybe then in your job you should have the same responsibility as the VP even though he/she makes more than you.

                • Steve H

                  In my job (ie the real world) the VP wouldn’t have a guaranteed contract and would be fired if they performed like Marbury. You used salary as the reason A-Rod should be held more accountable, I simply questioned using salary as a factor.

                • Relaunch

                  Okay, usually salary does indicate in baseball (non rookies, arbitration) how well you are supposed to perform.
                  He is called the best player in baseball. He should be more accountable.
                  With your logic, Its okay if Arod doesn’t do anything because Jose Molina didn’t do anything.

          • Jeremy

            Torre dropped ARod to 6th in game 1 of the 2006 ALDS even though ARod had a 1.157 OPS in September.

            The whole point of this post is that all players’ stats fluctuate in clutch situations because the sample size is small. You scrutinize any player too closely in clutch situations and eventually you’ll observe him fail more than he succeeds. ARod and Ortiz are no different in that regard. If you think ARod has had a lifetime of failure in the clutch, then I don’t know what to tell you.

          • Count Zero

            Wow – talk about a nonsensical statement!

            Torre was known for doing things based on emotional favoritism. Like letting Edwar rot in hell last season after one bad outing…or continually running Terence Long out there…or putting Miguel Cairo in the starting lineup in any game we needed to win…or not trusting anyone in the 7th besides Proctor. This was (and is) precisely his flaw as a manager.

            I think his theory on A-Rod was actually something along the lines of: “If he hits 8th, there will be less pressure on him to perform.” Of course this was ludicrous since the consequent media reaction only put A-Rod more squarely in the spotlight and probably drove him to overcompensate even further.

        • Relaunch

          that really makes no sense.

  • Manimal

    The whole damn rays are clutch, you can’t really pick out a few people.

    • Chris

      I believe that during the season, the Rays were the only team in the AL to hit worse than the Yankees with RISP.

    • Steve

      and whats really odd is they were lousy with RISP as a team all year.

      • Steve H

        So it’s a small sample size, they happen to be getting lucky over this 1 week span, not “clutch”. I’m sure they had several 1 week runs like this in the regular season, yet over the course of the year, they sucked with RISP, ie larger sample size, more reflective. That is what they are, they just happen to be on a hot streak, simple as that.

  • Steve

    “Now, we’ve all been where the Rays are right now. We all know what it feels like to be in the drivers’ seat against the Red Sox in a short series, and we all know what the Red Sox — or any team, really — can do with three very good pitchers lined up to pitch their next three games.”

    But this is a VERY different group from the “Idiots” of old. Nomar, Manny, Damon, Millar, Pedro, Schilling all gone. Foulke was their closer. Lowe and Arroyo were very good down the stretch. Just about every key component that defined that team is gone, with the exception of Ortiz. By my count, only 5 players remain from the 04 squad. And Timlin, Varitek and Ortiz are shells of their former selves.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/BOS/2004.shtml

    The 3 pitchers they have coming up cant give a Sox fan confidence. Dice-K has been a high wire act all year, Beckett is clearly hurt and Lester just got shelled and has been mediocre on the road all year.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/splits?playerId=28487

  • Relaunch

    Like Ben said, I’m not going to say anything until the Rays can wrap this up. No point in gloating yet.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      I’ve certainly learned my lesson on that one.

  • CountryClub

    I know everyone is tired (including me) of the performance enhancing discussions. But there are a few big name players (one plays for Boston and another for the Angels, just for example) that have seen their numbers and health go down hill over the past two years. Tell tale signs of people off of the stuff. I’m not accusing anyone of anything; but it is interesting.

    • Steve H

      And let’s just say the one from Boston had an interesting career path. About 20 hr’s in his first 800 ab’s, and got dfa’d by his 1st team. At least the one on the Angels was great from day 1. Even a young Giambi was a much better player than Papi. And remember, when Boston brought him in at the age of 27 (what took so long to develop, all he does is swing the bat) he came in to platoon with JEREMY Giambi. They clearly didn’t think too much of him, and certainly did not expect him to turn into what he became…….with a little bit of help.

  • Bo

    No one will ever convince me that Ortiz isn’t clutch. Not a chance in hell.

    The guy is hurt. That’s it. Try hitting for power with a wrist at 50%

    • Nady Nation

      Or maybe he’s off steroids and this is the beginning of the post-steroid body breakdown that we’ve all come to know and love. He’s 32 and has seen an extremely drastic decline in health/performance for that age.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

        Travis Hafner disagrees.

        DH types who are a little pudgy and not the paragon of health tend to breakdown much sooner than other baseball players. Ortiz is the classic example of that. I doubt steroids had much to do with it considering that Ortiz’s good years have all come after MLB initiated rigorous (for them) drug testing.

        • JohnnyC

          There still is no test for HGH.

          • Chris

            There’s also no benefit from HGH.

            • Steve H

              People continue to risk their reputation to use HGH, I tend to believe that it helps one way or another.

        • Nady Nation

          Sorry, I shouldn’t have been as specific as to stay steroids, maybe PED’s was a better choice, as Johnny C notes. Maybe Hafner was on PEDs as well? Unfortunately in this generation of baseball, it would be naaive to not consider this as a distinct possibility.

          • Chris

            What about Mo Vaughn? Cecil Fielder? Ted Kluszewski?

            You can come up with a lot of examples of players in that mold, and almost all of them show a sharp decline in performance in their early to mid 30’s. They can’t all be attributed to steroids. Most of them suffered injuries that led to their declines, but with so many examples, the injuries are probably related to their body type.

            • Steve H

              Mo Vaughn DID use steroids. And Cecil Fielder’s body type was nothing like Papi or Hafner.

              • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

                Vaughn used steroids well after his years on the Red Sox according to the Mitchell Report, and while I hate giving Red Sox’s players the benefit of the doubt, Ortiz is definitely innocent until proving guilty. Unfounded suspicions barely based on reality are not proof.

                • Steve H

                  We know that Vaughn used after his time with the Sox, but do we know that he wasn’t using before? Remember, he only got in the Mitchell report because he was a Met and had the Radomski connection. Had their been a steroid dealer busted in Boston or Anaheim, would Mo’s name have come up? I guess we’ll never know, but we don’t know for sure that Vaughn used steroids only while with the Mets. He had his best years long before that, and long before testing.

                • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

                  So what you’re saying is that he had his best years from his mid-20s to age 30 season? That’s exactly when offensive players are supposed to have their best seasons.

                • Steve H

                  Yes. He also at that point in his career was playing for a huge payday which he hadn’t gotten yet. If he was willing to “cheat” while having already made $100 million, I would think that he may have been willing to bend the rules a little long before he was set for life. I’m not saying he did or did not use before he got to the Mets. I’m just saying we don’t know that he didn’t use while with the Red Sox (and Mitchell wouldn’t have released that anyway). The Mitchell report was incomplete. Had their been a Radomski and McNamee on every team that got in trouble, we’d have a much more complete list of names. Or had a board member of the Yankees or Mets been running the investigation, the list may even be more incomplete.

                • Steve H

                  Oh, and Mo’s MVP year just happened to coincide with being the year Canseco became his teammate. Just saying. Call it the Canseco bump. For examples see Palmeiro, Rafael and Rodriguez, Ivan.

  • JohnC

    Th bifg difference in Big Papi is that he no longer has manny batting behind him, so he doesn’t ge those real good pitches to hit anymore. You can only blame the wrist so much. They miss Manny alot more than they’d ever admit. Bay is a very good player, and so is Youkilis, but they are NOT Manny. Not even close.

    • JohnnyC

      I thought it was all about pitching, especially in the post-season. Not for nothing but the Red Sox staff ERA is 7.71 so far in the ALCS.

  • Yank Crank 20

    Uh oh, speaking of A-Rod…Madonna and Guy Ritchie are divorced. Looks like she’ll be getting some very nice seats at the new Yankee Stadium next season…

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Perhaps he’ll get back to making good movies now too.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        I’m hoping that “RocknRolla” is good.

      • Count Zero

        Zing!

  • A.D.

    I think they should move A-Rod to the 3 hole…they say the 3-hole is for the best hitter on the team, he’s the best hitter in the game, let him drive in run & set the table, take some of the pressure of being the cleanup guy & let Nady/Matsui/Tex bat in the 4 spot

    • JohnnyC

      Either the 3-hole or eighth.

  • Dillon

    Anyone that’s watched Papi closely over the years knows the difference between him and ARod. I lived in Boston and had to watch it. The guy single handedly carried them for three years and dominated in the playoffs. Whatever he’s doing now doesn’t matter, he already brought them two championships. …and this is coming from a yankee fan

    • Steve H

      Say what you want about Papi, but A-Rod has been a better player in the ALCS. Because Papi had better, more complete teams around him, he has 2 rings to show for it. I know just pointing out the ALCS stats are a small sample size, but all of these playoff stats spouted off are small sample sizes.

      • Relaunch

        This is where stats are misleading. Watch the game. I really think its absurd to just base it on because Ortiz had more complete teams around him. The Yankee and Seattle teams that Arod was on weren’t garbage either.

        • Steve H

          Call stats misleading, but I think it carries more weight than just words. There are a lot of people out there who may have been called clutch for one moment in their life, but it doesn’t truly apply.

      • ceciguante

        this argument is a fraud. arod has been pretty good in (fewer) ALCS appearances….but you’re conveniently (and purposefully) omitting his ridiculous impotence in the ALDS.

        the bottom line is that arod’s postseason performances look like crap compared to ortiz’s. which is a big reason ortiz’s teams have 2 rings. you can pretend it’s all randomness in the playoffs, but then you couldn’t have been watching all these years.

    • zack

      Single handedly? So Manny had nothing to do with it? Pedro? Schilling? I think perhaps it was YOU who weren’t watching all that closely.

      • Count Zero

        Word.

      • Relaunch

        I agree on that also. Pedro and Manny were huge parts. But Arod had many good parts also on his teams.
        I’m not sure why there is always a group of Yankee fans that want to give a player making $30MM a free pass. Next though, they complain about ticket prices, parking, consessions at games.

  • ceciguante

    this post is ridiculous, top to bottom.

    David Ortiz’s struggles present a very apt parallels to those of Alexander Emanuelle Rodriguez.
    really? because i seem to remember ortiz being a monster in clutch situations in the playoffs throughout his career, while my memory of arod is that his postseason performances sucked. let’s look at their career numbers:

    AROD (147 AB):
    .279 .361 .483 7HR, 17 RBI

    ORTIZ (220 AB):
    .295 .403 .541 11HR, 43 RBI

    how a single 31 AB (injury induced?) slump by ortiz should even merit any mention of arod is astounding. arod is an october punchline to date, esp since joining the yanks. ortiz could lose it all tomorrow, and would still go down as a great postseason performer (his teams have 2 rings to show for it, which is kinda the point).

    It’s bad practice to aggregate playoff appearances over the years…

    why is that, exactly? arod and ortiz have 147 and 220 postseason AB, respectively. what makes those AB any less reliable than a 220 AB stretch? i’d think they are more reliable, b/c taking various small samples would correct for certain errors.

  • Manimal

    You guys are so anal about sample size. Who gives a shit when the only games that matter are in the post season.

    • Steve H

      Well you don’t get to the postseason without the first 162 games that do matter.

  • BUCK FOSTON

    yeah and BOSTON fans suck…he’s your guy Boston…Papi is nothing without his Manny…love seeing the long faces of beantowners…

  • Marcus

    It’s easy and simply put.

    Majority of fans suck. They rarely pay attention and barely remember anything of the past.

    The “What have you done for me lately?” crap is annoying. The media is sucked into it and the majority of fans, as well.

    Don’t just start saying BOSTON fans suck. Most fans of every team suck in any sport. Get used to it. Never changing.