The decline and fall of David Ortiz

Yanks walk-off with a win thanks to their centerfielders
Positive news on Bruney, Posada

It was Thursday evening in New York when the Angels walked off with a 5-4 win against the Red Sox. Jeff Mathis singled home Reggie Willits in the bottom of the 12th to end what was a very frustrating game for the Red Sox.

No one was worse for the Sox on Thursday than David Ortiz. He went 0 for 7 with three strike outs and single-handedly left 12 runners on base. After the game, he sounded like a defeated man. “I’m sorry, guys. I don’t feel like talking right now. Just put down, Papi stinks,'” he said to reporters.

For Ortiz, the 0 for 7 capped off what had been one terrible start to the season. He is hitting .208/.318/.300 and has not homered since September 22. Brett Gardner, the Yanks’ outfielder, has a slugging percentage nearly .125 points higher than Ortiz’s, and Papi has been benched this weekend as the Sox take on the Mariners.

Around baseball, Ortiz’s spectacularly bad spring has been the talk of the town. Earlier today, The Times Bats blog profiled Ortiz and three others off to uncharacteristically slow starts. Alex Belth compares Ortiz to Mo Vaughn, another large DH no longer a force at the plate after his age 33 season.

Where Vaughn suffered through a wrist injury though, Ortiz is simply missing Manny. As Ed Price tweeted, Ortiz has hit .240 with a .783 OPS since the Red Sox shipped Manny away. Perhaps that’s just a coincidence. After all, Jason Bay has put up some very good offensive numbers too. Perhaps Manny’s protection forced pitchers to attack Ortiz. Either way, that’s not what the Red Sox expected for their $12.5 million.

For me, this decline has been bittersweet for a number of reasons. First of all, I basically predicted it back in January 2006 when I analyzed Ortiz’s contract situation for the now-defunct Talking Baseball blog. I’m also glad that the Yankees no longer have to face the David Ortiz of old who would refuse to make outs against New York.

As a fan of the game though, I hate to see the competition go out this way. I’d see the Yanks face Ortiz and win that battle while he’s at his finest. We can watch A.J. Burnett or Joba Chamberlain strike out Ortiz now, but that’s hardly an accomplishment today. With 30 strike outs in 157 plate appearances, that’s all Ortiz does anymore.

Now Ortiz may just be slumping. It’s still early, and while 157 plate appearances is a decent number, I’m not ready to dance on the baseball grave of Big Papi until the season is over. For now, though, an era is drawing to a close, and while the Yanks didn’t always win, that era was never lacking for drama, excitement and good old baseball.

Yanks walk-off with a win thanks to their centerfielders
Positive news on Bruney, Posada
  • kenthadley

    his decline is as precipitous as his ascent…..when does someone do the “AROID” analysis on this guy?

    • 27 this year

      never he is a Red Sox, they never bothered Manny until he left the Red Sox. Now they say he started using once he went to the Dodgers

      Come on, it is never the Red Sox who do anything bad. They are the epitome of amazing.

      • kenthadley

        he is now the player that the Twins released…..couldn’t be that Lou Merloni was right about the Sox coaching steroid use? ….nah, Mitchell wouldn’t allow it……right…..

    • Hobbes

      Here’s the analysis on Big Ploppy. The steroid heat got too hot, and he stopped.

      • Whitey14

        Why wouldn’t he just switch to HGH then?

        • Joseph Pawlikowski

          Maybe he did, but from the links to scientific work I’ve seen, HGH doesn’t really help a baseball player do his job.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside
            • CT Yankee


            • Whitey14

              Amazing, all these people in the world taking it, and paying out the ass for it, and it has no real discernable benefits! Sly Stallone would roll over in his grave if he were dead!

              Call me skeptical, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the doctor he interviewed is working on a less expensive rival drug that people will turn to instead of HGH.

              I realize a lot of times journalists are not as responsible as they should be, but to think nobody’s ever asked a doctor about the benfits of HGH before….ludicrous!

    • Short Porch

      exactly. Saw him in the most recent series. He …. shrunk since last year.

      Arguably, the Sox have not won the World Championship legitimately since 1918.

      • Whitey14

        Arguably, that’s one of the most short-sighted comments I’ve ever read.

        Let’s not forget, that speculation whether Ortiz used steroids is certainly fair, but nothing’s been proven and I’m sorry, but I watch well over a hundred Sox games each season and there is no noticeable difference in Ortiz’s size.

        Also, Ben stated “Where Vaughn suffered through a wrist injury though, Ortiz is simply missing Manny”, which is also not completely true. He’s had Youkilis and Bay hitting behind him and suffered his own wrist injury last year. He’s seeing pleanty of good pitches to hit, he just isn’t hitting them and whether that’s attributable to wrist pain, lack of steroid use, erosion of skills, or an upset tummy remains to be seen.

        Again, speculation of steroids is understandable and I won’t argue against the possibility that he used, but there are other factors to be considered before Ortiz is thrown to the dogs.

  • Mike Pop

    Ya, he has been really, really horrible. Of epic proportions. Haha. Even the bostondirtdogs are fed up with him.

    His no-show hitting has hurt the team of late more than it did earlier in the season when they were rolling.

    In a way, I’m glad that he’s a bum hitter now, but as you said, in a way it kept you real excited for the at bat. Making you nervous about what can happen next. I think he was a roider, it just makes too much sense.

    Ya, Manny leaving can hurt but not to the point where you have a power-outage this epic for as good of a hitter he was. One less “Yankees killer” to deal with though, just hoping that they don’t make a crazy trade for a top tier hitter to replace him (Adrian Gonzalez, Miggy).

    Miggy is probably moot though, Dombroski denied those rumors a while ago, but you never know with Theo and Henry, they are willddd andd craazzyyy guys.

    • Reggie C.

      One Yankee killer goes down, another emerges in Bay. You can’t simply write off Youk’s 2008 as a career year anymore as he’s emerged as a real middle of the lineup threat. The Bay-Youk duo isn’t going to match Manny-Ortiz in terms of production, but its not as crazy a drop off as Yank fans would’ve hoped. Or at least it hasnt been ….

      All in all the RS lineup has done an admirable job sustaining itself in Ortiz’s absence, and in snatching wins back from their own rotation that’s underperformed like the Yankees.

      I am really interested to see where Ortiz’s numbers are at by July 4th.

      • Mike Pop

        Ya, that is the most frustrating part. Their pitching has been horrible, yet they have been solid. Bay, yes he’s a Yankees killer so far, but it’s a very small sample size and we’re not sure if he will be on the Sox for more than just this year.

        Chances are, he will, unless Mets get in on him. Cause without the Yankees in for him, the Sox probably won’t get outbid but I would have to believe that they have a certain point where they would stop with Bay.

        I think Bay is hitting over his head right now, but maybe I’m wrong and maybe Fenway has really made him a better hitter.

        • Whitey14

          Actually both of those points are right Mike, he is hitting over his head right now, but Fenway is also a good fit for him. That said, his numbers will drop off, but he should be a very productive hitter this season. If only the ball he hit in the 9th last night in Seattle had traveled three more feet….

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Actually both of those points are right Mike, he is hitting over his head right now, but Fenway is also a good fit for him.

            Fenway’s basically a good “fit” for everyone. It’s one of the curiously least talked about great hitters parks in baseball. Both a short RF corner for pull lefty hitters and the abbreviated LF territory due to the Monster makes it a park that plays both to lefties and righties.

            It’s not a ridiculous boost on the levels of Coors Field or The Ballpark at Arlington, no, but it’s solidly in one of the next grouping of #3-#8 best hitters parks in the bigs, IMO.

            Which makes Jim Rice’s claim that the wall in Fenway “hurt him more than anything” all the more ridiculous.

            • Whitey14

              The “slice of pie” shape down the right field line that can be beneficial to lefty pull hitters is a mighty thin one before it shoots out to 350+, which is where most of the Homeruns end up going. I would surmise that right field in old Yankee Stadium was a better hitter’s field for lefties.

              It was also proven after Wade Boggs questioned it, that the addition of the 406 club behind home plate changed the wind currents in Fenway Park and made it significantly harder to drive balls to Center Field. Home Runs to that part of the ball park dropped off a bit after the club was built. I don’t have stats to prove that, but I’m sure they must be available. (Boggs also proved that second base was out of line by a fraction of an inch one season too, just by looking at it from home plate)

              I wish you watched Rice play 81 games a season in Fenway and seen how may balls he hit off the monster that were still traveling upwards when they hit it, and would have been gone in ANY other park, as well as the number of balls he hit off it so hard he had no chance at a double. This was not a man who hit a lot of cheap home runs, or hit a bunch of wallscrapers that the wall turned into singles or doubles for him. Jim’s power primarily went from alley to alley (hence 15 triples in back to back seasons by taking advantage of the triangle). He was neither a dead pull hitter, nor strictly an opposite field hitter. He was a better hitter at home, no doubt about it, but that rings true for most players, does it not?

          • Mike Pop

            This is why you’re the man, Whitey.

  • Zack

    I was listening to WEEI this morning and they said Ortiz made comments about ‘sometimes you bring off the field stuff on the field and it affects your performance.’ of course he didnt say what the off the field issue was but ortiz brought it up on his own

  • Ace

    Nice job, Ben. Really well-written and fair. You really are a joy to read.

  • Yankeegirl49

    Good take, but after years of seeing him kill us, I would rather see Joba or AJ strike him out, no matter if he is a shell of his former self or not.
    I never hated him like I hated guys like Schilling or Manny. He never mouthed off, always seemed professional and a nice guy. I don’t wish him to go out like this, but will admit, Im enjoying knowing that when he gets up with the game on the line no matter who they are playing, he is no longer the Ortiz that every pitcher feared.

    • The Iron Horse

      2nd that

    • mustang

      3rd that.

      • mustang

        I doubt that other side would this nice.

        • mustang

          would be this nice

  • Manimal


  • Ben C

    Thursday’s game was an afternoon game in Anaheim. I think it ended around 9pm EST…

    • Ben C


  • Benny Blanco

    Buh-bye Big Sloppi. If I wanted to see a gorilla spitting on his hands I’d go to the real Bronx Zoo.

  • pete

    i’ll take it.

  • Max

    Not to prognosticate too drastically on this subject, but is it possible that the swapping of roles between the Red Sox and Yankees has created pressure that David Ortiz has never truly dealt with before?

    With all the fawning and admiration that seemingly every sportswriter in the country has bestowed on this team, I’d argue it’s possible that Ortiz might be the first member of the Sox to be criticized in the extreme manner that A-Rod had to fight through in ’06.

    “I’m sorry guys, I don’t feel like talking right now”????? That’s the kind of defeatist attitude that almost got Alex shipped out of town, and he never approached this level of ineptitude. Not to mention, he was evicerated for much less pathetic soundbytes than that.

    I’ve never lived in New England, and while I’m sure the writers and sports talk guys pack enough wallop, I find it hard to believe that it’s been as classically overreactive as New York.

    I wonder how long it will take the “best, most knowledgeable fans in baseball” before they start booing Ortiz off the field?

    Watching the public demise of David Ortiz might be a melancholy sentiment for some of us, but I’m relishing every moment of it.

    • Zack

      Listening to WEEI and watching Comcast New England, analysists and fans are calling for him to be moved down in the order, benched, or go make a trade.

      As for not talking to the media, it’s nowhere close to what ARod would experience- but then again Ortiz has two rings with the Red Sox so it’s a little different. Think if Jeter hit .200 for a month and only said a few words to the media, I know it’s not Jeter’s style but he’d get the same treatment as Ortiz.

      The same goes for Beckett and Lester, they have no worries that they’ll turn things around, yet people were calling AJ and CC busts even though they’re having better years. And of course their reaction to the Papelbon fist pumped compared to the media’s reaction to Joba.

      • Max

        That’s a fair point on Ortiz having the rings, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that Ortiz will get booed the next time he goes 0-fer at Fenway.

        Lets not forget these are the same fans that booed a Patriot team off the field for an early season loss to Miami last season.

        With no Tom Brady and having a 20-1 record entering the game.

        • Zack

          I’ve never seen Fenway boo anyone, Beckett gives up 6 runs, gets taken out and they clap so don’t know what to expect with Ortiz.

          Miami was also 1 -15 the season before and Pats were 20-1, that’s like the Orioles sweeping the season series with Boston. Football is different, 1 game can make or break a season.

          • Whitey14

            And the Pats got blown out, which was ridiculous considering what they did to Miami later in the season. They were unprepared and uninspired.

            Papi is probably a long way from being booed at this point as RSN does have a love affair with him. Right now I think the bulk of the fans are feeling sorry for him. I’m a proponet of moving him down in the line-up and letting Youkilis hit third when he comes back as he is the team’s best all around hitter. Following him with Bay, Drew and Lowell and Ortiz in some way shape or form could work.

            And Max, it will take a long time, much the same as it would take New Yorker’s to boo Jeter off the field. Based on his personality, and his accomplishments, he’s got a longer leash. Guys like Arod and Manny make it easier to dislike them and hence the booing starts earlier.

  • Mike R. – Retire 21

    “Ortiz is simply missing Manny”

    Do you mean that Manny was his supplier?

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      • 27 this year

        great one for both of you

        +1 and

    • mustang


  • Aunt Becca-Optimist Prime

    My friend the Sox fan says that Mo Vaughn was never as good as David Ortiz.

    • Mike R. – Retire 21

      My friend Steve Phillips disagrees.

      He was teh GM of a MLB baseball team!!1!1! Who are you!?!?

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Mo Vaughn
      12 seasons, 6410 plate appearances, career .293/.383/.523 (132 OPS+)
      328 HR, 1064 RBI, 861 R, 725 BB, 144 IBB, 1429 K
      Pre-injury, lowest OPS+ seasons: 93, 98 (age 23-24 years)
      Pre-injury, highest OPS+ seasons: 150, 152, 153 (age 28-29-30 years)
      1305 games played at 1B, 178 games played at DH

      David Ortiz
      13 seasons, 5585 plate appearances, career .285/.380/.547 (136 OPS+)
      289 HR, 984 RBI, 826 R, 741 BB, 86 IBB, 1003 K
      Pre-injury, lowest OPS+ seasons: 101, 106 (age 24-25 years)
      Pre-injury, highest OPS+ seasons: 158, 161, 171 (age 29-30-31 years)
      238 games played at 1B, 1034 games played at DH

      Ortiz had a better peak, but if I had only one Hall of Fame vote to give and was forced at gunpoint to vote for one of them, I’m voting for Mo Vaughn.

      • Zack

        Out of the two you don’t think Ortiz and his playoff performance earns him the vote over Vaughn?

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          But then you’d be penalizing Vaughn just because he didn’t play on teams with Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez who were in the playoffs constantly. That doesn’t seem too fair.

          FWIW, Vaughn was only in two ALDS’s. A horrid 1995 series where the Indians (who would go on to lose to the Braves in the WS) shut him down and he went 0-15 with one walk in a three game sweep… and the 1998 ALDS where the Sox again lost to the Indians 3-1) but where Mo put up a .412/.444/.882 (1.327 OPS) with 7 hits, a walk, 2 homers, and 7 RBI. He drove in 7 of the 20 total runs the Sox scored in the 4 games.

          If Vaughn had 277 postseason plate appearances like Ortiz instead of just the 33 he did have, maybe he would have also been a crushing beast remembered for his great Octobers. Unfortunately, playing with Mike Benjamin, Darren Lewis, Pete Schourek and John Wasdin is not a great recipe for numerous playoff appearances.

          • Whitey14

            True story, I spent an afternoon with Mo Vaughn in Brunswick, Maine, at a baseball card show in late 1992. He repeated several times that day “I just need 500 at bats to show what I can do” He certainly proved that the next season when he got 539 AB’s and really broke out and started an excellent 6 year run which ended when he went to Anaheim, chasing the almighty dollar and getting away from an organization that shit all over it’s superstars. He did okay his first two season in Anaheim, but was really never the same player after leaving Boston. I guess the Strip clubs in LA just didn’t do for him what the Strip clubs in Providence did ;-)

            He was an extremely gracious young man, at least that day, signing mutliple items for me, and will always have a special place in my heart. I’m sorry he fizzled out so young…

  • Anthony Murillo

    He’s just off the juice.

  • Alex

    The bottom line is most of these guys did steroids. The Red Sox acting like they were the only team not was BS. I would not be surprised at all if Ortiz is finally off the juice and the results are showing

    • Zack

      They’re not claiming that Ortiz and Manny “were never really that close.” So anything to just seperate the two, no matter what Red Sox fans think everyone knows they had guys on stuff, so did we, so did St Louis, so did LA.

    • Whitey14

      Alex, do you have a link to an article where a representative of the Red Sox states that no Red Sox players were juicing and players from every other team were? I’ve never heard anyone from the organization make any such claim so I’d be curious to read that.

  • JP


    It has nothing to do with Manny. Maybe – maybe – Ortiz got better pitches to hit his first year or so, but once he had established himself as the premier offensive monster in baseball, I think many teams were happier to pitch to Manny. At the very least, the two were equals.

    I thought the Bill James crowd analyzed the “protection” idea for hitters and found it really didn’t pan out.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      It has nothing to do with Manny… once he [Ortiz] had established himself as the premier offensive monster in baseball, I think many teams were happier to pitch to Manny. At the very least, the two were equals.

      I don’t know about that. I think teams probably IBB’d Ortiz just because they didn’t want to pitch to both Manny AND Ortiz, just one or the other. I surmise if Manny had been hitting 3rd and Ortiz 4th, you probably would have seen even more IBB’s. Just my hunch.

    • Short Porch

      Why is that not obvious here and now?

      Sawx have their title now tainted.

  • Pingback: The Buried Jersey

  • Bill R

    If Ortiz was as big of an off the field character as Arod, Selena Roberts would be crawling up his ass next. But he keeps his mouth shut and stays out of the spot light so nobody is going to dig up any dirt on him ever. But I Guarantee he was one of the 104 names hands down!

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      The bigger issue, I think, is NYC media vs. Boston media.

      NYC media is much more prone to doing investigatory pieces to try and tear guys down. There’s not a sphere of sports journalism like that in Boston, they rarely criticize guys like that, IMO.

  • mustang

    If it is because he is off the steroids then I feel no compassion for him. I will feel the same if and when these guys start having major health’s issue 10 to 20 years from now from being on this stuff. I wish no one bad, but life has a way of coming full circle.

  • John R

    As hard as it is to say, I’m going to miss the big guy, I hated facing him, I’m never going to forget that home run, but Ben’s right, he provided a hell of a lot of excitement (and he holds my MLB ’06 The Show HR Derby Record-43)

  • mustang

    “We can watch A.J. Burnett or Joba Chamberlain strike out Ortiz now, but that’s hardly an accomplishment today.”

    Maybe it’s making up for all times they would of struck him out if he were clean in the past.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      This makes you just as bad as Selena Roberts. You have zero evidence that Ortiz juiced. He developed as a player after changing his batting stance and leaving Twins at a time when a rigorous testing program was in place.

      I prefer innocent until proven — and not just anonymously mentioned — guilty. Don’t be disgusting about it.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        I prefer innocent until proven — and not just anonymously mentioned — guilty.

        Your NYU law professors would be proud of you.

      • mustang

        Before you start coming at my comment I did say MAYBE and IF HE USED. And take a good look at the comments following your thread if your going to put the onus on me for what I said then I guest you start writing because many of comments haven’t even given Mr. Ortiz the benefit of the doubt.

        • mustang

          then i suggest you …

      • Short Porch

        He’s shrunk. Case closed.

  • jonathan

    the scene: boston ma…fenway park

    Theo: Can I help you? I am the GM of the red sox I really dont have time to screw around.
    Delivery Man: I have 4 50gal drums of “protein shakes” from the Dominican Republic for a Mr.David Ortiz
    Theo: Oh thank god!!! Be discrete but get that down to the training room stat.
    Peter Gammons: Theo Honey come back to bed….

    • thurdonpaul

      lol, awesome :)

  • Greg

    Players get hurt and get old. For some 33 is old. Others stick around til 38-40. There have been players who peaked young and were terrible by 30. It depends.

    MANY MANY good/great players from the 50s, 60s, 70s had terrible last years, and I don’t see anyone accusing them of steroids.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if ANY ( and I mean ANY, including all the so-called “played the game the right way” workman-like players) players during the last 20-30 years used steroids. So if Ortiz did, I wouldn’t be surprised.

    But just because an old guy stops producing? No, that has ALWAYS happened. And in 2008, he already had a bad season- above average but an “off” year for him. An off year with injury followed by a terrible year- happens all the time.

  • bebop

    Ortiz, Mo Vaughan and Cecil Fielder. Big guys can get bad in a hurry. I predicted this two or three years ago, too bad I wasn’t right at the time.