Perhaps Rob Parker was right – maybe the good David Ortiz isn’t going to walk through that door again. Physically, sure, but psychologically? That’s not our Papi.
And that terrifies me.
We touched on Big Papi’s Big Blowup in the Morning Dump. Trust me, I’m not trying to sensationalize this story by bringing it up again, but I think it’s worth looking at further. In better times, if you had told me Ortiz exploded his venom all over the press corp I would never have believed it. It just wasn’t in his character. Even tough questions were batted back with his charismatic smile and a well-placed joke. He was not only approachable, he was lovable. He was able to perfectly balance the enormous pressures resting on his shoulders with the sense that baseball is truly just a game. Sure, he had his ups and downs, but he owned Boston and Boston had his back.
Revisiting a link from our Morning Dump, our old friend Gordon Edes took an excellent look at Papi and shed some light on what may have triggered the outburst over at EspnBoston.com:
The town he once owned is now
openly discussing his successor. His team, one he carried to glory it had not known
in decades, offers no assurances that his services will be desired beyond this
season. His income, one that has allowed him to live like royalty, is unlikely
to be duplicated at the same scale beyond October. And his swing, which once
commanded respect accorded only to a few, now is subjected to constant
scrutiny, scouts and media and fans forming an unholy chorus of doubters.
Tuesday night, it all became too much for David Ortiz. Behind his Big Papi persona, Ortiz in happier days would have mocked his inquisitors with good-natured insults and deflected the tougher questions with insouciant bravado and brio.
On the blowup itself:
Of course, it's grossly unfair to
raise the specter of that misery returning based on seven hitless at-bats in
the season's first two games. But when the question did come, when Ortiz was
reminded that last season's start would be a topic du jour, he reacted with
"Good," he said, turning to face the reporters encircling him. "You guys wait 'til [expletive] happens, then you can talk [expletive]. Two [expletive] games, and already you [expletives] are going crazy.
Youk, always the voice of reason, put the whole ordeal into perspective:
"That's something you've got
to ask him," said first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was unaware of Ortiz's
outburst. "If David's getting frustrated about it, that's something I
haven't seen. I think he gets frustrated when he's going good and getting outs
"We're all like that. I don't
know. He's going to be fine. He's going to hit in the end. Two games, I know
people are going to put pressure on him because of what happened last year, but
he'll bounce out of it."
"All it takes is a couple of bloops, a couple of line drives, to fall in and he's 4-for-4," Youkilis said. "When he's hitting line drives to right field and center field and left field, that's when he's going well. He just has to go up there and have good at-bats. He'll be fine."
Mike Cameron chimed in with this excellent nugget. One I hope he shared directly with David last night:
"Times like this, he has to remember there are a lot of good players around him."
Two games is a terrible sample-size to judge anybody by, so this really should be a non-issue. In fact, Ortiz shouldn’t have been batting against CC regardless, so we shouldn’t count those at-bats against him.
The old Ortiz would’ve recognized this, cracked a joke about facing a lefty and assured his fans and teammates that he’d get ‘em next time. He most definitely wouldn’t have angrily dropped the MF’er on the press.
It’s been said that Hope Springs Eternal. The beauty of baseball is that each Opening Day brings with it a clean slate and the thought that This Is Our Year. Unfortunately, it looks like Papi is still lugging around last year’s baggage, and it may be a tad bit too heavy for him to carry.
Assuming Francona throws him out there against Pettite tonight, here’s hoping David jacks one out of the park and rounds third with his trademark grin. I’d love nothing more than this whole post to have been a gigantic waste of mine, and your time. My worries completely unfounded.
Please David, make that happen.