The staggering decline of David Ortiz has been evident in many ways. There are numbers: He is batting .215 with no home runs in 93 at bats, and his .612 OPS ranks 92d in the American League. There is his swing: Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan said Ortiz has been almost “cheating” to prepare for fastballs. There is the way opponents treat him: Last night, Joe Maddon had lefthander Brian Shouse walk Dustin Pedroia so he could pitch to Ortiz.
One thing there was not, before this morning, was Ortiz’s voice. Ortiz lifted the veil on his feelings about his slump today, admitting he has at times allowed frustration to affect him, but that now he’s taken a new and relaxed approach. He said he feels good at the plate, and that his production is “a matter of time.” He responded to criticism, which he also said once affected him before he learned to ignore it.
“Well, I’m not happy,” Ortiz said. “Why should I be? But let me tell you what. I’m the kind of guy that, 100 at-bats in two weeks, I can wipe my [expletive] with. You know what I’m saying? I’m just going to keep it cool, keep playing the game, not worry about too many things. I’m not going to worry about all the negativity, all the bull [expletive]. Because, it seems like it’s never enough. People, all they like to see is people fail, so they have a reason to talk [expletive]. So that’s why I’m trying to stay away from talking. Because I don’t need to talk. I need to do things right now. You know what I’m saying? I will do things. Believe me. Regardless. I will.
“It’s going to come slowly, and it will. I’m just not trying to do … what I can do in a week, I’m not trying to do in one day anymore. I was. I’m not going to lying to you. I was trying to get five hits in one at-bat. So right now, I’m just taking it slowly. If they want to walk me, they don’t want to give me [expletive] to hit, I won’t swing. If you give me something, I’m going to try to hit. If I don’t hit a home run today, I’m going to hit a home run tomorrow.”
Ortiz said even his friends and family called him after watching his at-bats on television and told him, “Stop trying to get five hits in one at-bat.” Ortiz, whose 231 home runs from 2003 to 2008 ranked fourth in the majors over those six seasons, admitted walking to the plate and seeing a ‘0’ under his home run total affected him.
“It gets in your head for a minute,” Ortiz said. “It does. You’ve always been a home run kind of guy, an RBI kind of guy. You’ve got 100 at-bats and you haven’t hit one one out, you be like, ‘What the [expletive] and I’m doing?’ But at the same time, you’ve got to see it this way: It’s not like you’re just stepping to the plate and not trying. Hitting a homer looks easy, but it ain’t. And like I said, you just got to be patient and keep on swinging and putting in some good at-bats.”
Ortiz has noticed the criticism coming his way for his slow start. From his perspective, he is not an aging or diminished slugger. He has proven himself a dangerous, productive batter in the past, and he feels observers should realize he’s merely coming around, not permanently damaged.
“It’s because I’ve been banging since I’ve been here,” Ortiz said. “When you slow down a little bit, you know, it’s like they’re expecting it. Things like that either make you or break or you. I’m the kind of guy that I try to work every day. You guys see it every day. The only result you’re going to get when you work is what you expect. … When people know that you can bang, and you are not, then they start questioning you.
“This is my seventh year here. If you don’t know me at this point, [expletive], what can I tell you? Who you been watching, the Anaheim Angels? You know what I’m saying? It will come. It will come. I’m finally relaxing now.”
The question-and-answer session itself, which lasted more than 10 minutes, seemed to put Ortiz at his ease, as if it was a therapy session. He smiled and laughed a lot. His final thought summed up his confidence.
“I’ll be back,” he said. “Write that [expletive] down.”