Witness the end of the Boston Red Sox’ most fearsome pairing in history.
Manny Ramirez and his petulance are long gone and Big Papi is now being called Big Popup. It is no accident the Red Sox are struggling to stay afloat in the American League East.
Though a large part of the problem with the Red Sox is because starting pitchers Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka are on the disabled list and cheap free agent retreads John Smoltz and Brad Penny are struggling, the Red Sox slump can also be attributed to an offensive slump.
Right in the middle of it is Ortiz, who is now batting .222 this season with a paltry 15 home runs. There also is the cloud of steroids looming over his head with the July 31 New York Times revelations that both Ramirez and Ortiz had tested positive for steroids in 2003.
Ortiz has ducked reporters questions about it, saying only that he would try to find out the facts and then answer the questions once and for all. But that “tell-all” news conference, scheduled for Saturday at Yankee Stadium, seems long overdue.
It obviously is weighing on his mind. He began the series against the Yankees on Thursday with only one hit in his last 14 at-bats. Last night, Ortiz made it 1-for-19 with an 0-for-5 night including hitting into a double play and a weak infield popup and groundout. Ortiz left nine base-runners stranded.
Now it is beginning to look to fair-minded baseball fans (certainly not Red Sox Nation) that the seasons from 2003 through 2007 were frauds for both Ortiz and Ramirez.
Ortiz came to the Red Sox after he was basically released by the Minnesota Twins for hitting just 20 home runs and driving in 75 runs in 2002. Suddenly Ortiz comes to the Red Sox in 2003 and hits 31 home runs and drives in 101 runs. For the first time, Ortiz bats above .288 with a .301 average.
Then comes the monster mash seasons:
2004 41 HRs 139 RBIs
2005 47 HRs 148 RBIs
2006 54 HRs 137 RBIs
2007 35 HRs 117 RBIs
Then, at age 32, Ortiz begins what appears to be the inevitable breakdown from the use of steroids in 2008. Much more rigorous testing has now begun and Ortiz must not be caught with them because he has been a loud voice opposing the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Not just once but many times.
In 2008, Ortiz hits just .264 with 23 home runs and 89 RBIs. Does that look a little like Minnesota numbers to you?
To be fair, Ortiz had left wrist issues. But the question then becomes what caused the wrist issues?
We will soon find out the answers to a lot of questions. But if Ortiz now admits he used performance-enhancing drugs he is going to be one of the biggest hypocrites in baseball history. It is OK to say nothing or very little about the subject but when you rail against them and the players that use them, you suddenly become very, very small.
Ortiz already appears like his career is over at age 33. The fact the Red Sox ignored their pitching problems and acquired catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez at the trade deadline on July 31 speaks volumes about their concerns about Ortiz and his future with the club.
Now the adorable smiling big man that kids flocked to in Boston may have leave town with a release and no one showing up at the airport to bid him goodbye.
I am reminded of the MLB hat commercial where the Red Sox fan with a cap is mistaken for Big Papi at an airport in Japan. At the end, the innocent man’s hat falls off and a disappointed phalanx of Japanese fans sigh and say “You’re not Big Papi.”
There is something about seeing the real Ortiz now and the symbol of his hat falling off as these revelations and his early physical breakdown carry him and the struggling Red Sox into the abyss.
The team is 8-11 since the All-Star break. They have lost three in a row. The Tampa Bay Rays are gaining in the race for second place and the American League wild-card. The Yankees, meanwhile, are 13-4 since the break and coming off a 13-6 thrashing of Theo Epstein’s so-called “bargain-basement” free-agent steal in Smoltz in the first game on Thursday night.
In eight starts his ERA is now 8.33 and he has not turned in one quality start.
No matter how you look at it things for RSN they look bleak like 2006 did. Now knowing Jason Bay may not play in the Yankee series with hamstring pangs and Jed Lowrie has tingling in his left arm that could mean more problems for the shortstop.
There in the middle of it all is “Big Popup” and his sad decline into baseball purgatory. But after what Red Sox fans have heaped on Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi, it is only fitting that the final stretch plays out at new Yankee Stadium.
Say it ain’t so, David! Yeah, right! Yankees fans have a right to boo and loud.