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The Papi dilemma

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  May 15, 2009 03:57 PM

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I do not believe that is the issue here, though. I do not believe that David Ortiz's wonderful legacy in Boston was built fraudulently. I do not believe he used performance-enhancing drugs. I believe he was a natural power hitter who was miscast, undervalued and injury prone in Minnesota, where he put up decent power numbers despite Tom Kelly's bizarre intention to turn him into Rich Becker.

When he joined the Red Sox in 2003, they were the right team at the right time, though it took Grady Little an entire spring to realize as much. It did not, however, take Ortiz long to become a folk hero, and he thrived here two full seasons before steroid testing was implemented in March 2005. Ortiz has hit 158 regular-season home runs since then. If his strength and success was the result of some PED cocktail, he did a fine job of hiding it the last four seasons.

Of course, I might have had the same faith in Manny Ramirez two weeks ago, so who really knows? Everyone -- everyone -- who played in the Steroid Era is under some degree of suspicion these days, though the only thing more frustrating than Papi's struggles is the glee that some take in carelessly guessing at the cause.

Here's one more question: Where to from here? For starters, if it wasn't apparent before, it should have become so yesterday: He needs to move out of the No. 3 hole, immediately. If Terry Francona -- whom Papi referred to as his "father" just a week or so ago -- doesn't have the heart to do it, then the order must come from above. Tell him he's dropping to seventh, give him a few days off to clear his head, perhaps even do what the D-Backs did with struggling Conor Jackson and put him on the DL with "general illness." In Papi's case, that could apply to his bat.

We've run out of ways to justify Ortiz's extended slump/collapse/decline, to explain it away, to convince ourselves that the old Papi or even a reasonable facsimile is just an adjustment or two away. He needs to try solve this problem down the lineup or down the coast.

Man, how we want to have faith in the friendly man with the big smile, the bigger swing, and the knack for delivering in the biggest moments. But right now, it's the bottom of the ninth, the scoreboard tells a bleak tale, and there are no glimmers of hope that such faith will be rewarded.

David Ortiz is struggling terribly. If you're a Red Sox fan of more than a few trendy years, you're struggling right there with him.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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