I (Still) Love You Papi

This is uncomfortable. I don't want to break up or anything, but I think we need to take a break from each other. Or, at least, think about moving things around. Maybe you could get your own place...

In short: its probably time for the Sox to move Papi out of the three hole in the lineup. His tenure at that spot has outlasted more than a few marriages (the average first marriage to end in divorce reaches 8 years). Papi's been hitting third since 2003-4); over his five years in the most pivotal spot for any batting order, Papi has helped the Sox win two titles and cemented a place in the "Greatest Clutch Hitters of All-Time" department. But...

0-7 with 3ks and 12 LOB hurts. Literally, it hurts me to think about it. Thankfully, the game wasn't televised in Florida yesterday, so I didn't have to watch it. But please, please, Terry, help temper the hurt. You had to do it with Tek last year, and the numbers would indicate its probably time for a change this year, too. Do this to help Papi recover his swing without the added pressures of hitting in the three hole. He's not just in a slump. He's lost his swing, his timing, his mechanics. I hope he can get it back (although his problem seems to stem from bat-speed--meaning its initially physical, not mental). Perhaps he should have had the surgery last season? Perhaps the rumors of PEDs should be paid more heed? Perhaps the whispers that he is an unathletic player who has always relied on natural talent rather than physical training will grow louder? There will certainly be a compulsion to track down the origin of Ortiz's slump. I don't really care why he's struggling--but I don't think we can deny that this struggle is physiological in nature--and I don't think he's likely to pull out of it anytime soon.

Francona's resistance probably stems from the fact that the Sox don't have another powerful lefty on the team--a real rarity for them. Francona is a hard-core discipline of the L-R-L-R lineup, so he'll hesitate to replace Papi with Bay once Youk comes back. This would translate into a line-up of Ellsbury (L), Pedroia (R), Bay (R), Youk (R), Drew (L), Lowell (R), Papi (L). Personally, I don't think having 3 right-handers in a row is as much of a problem as having three left-handers in a row (you don't hear about specialty right-handed relievers, do you?). These are righties who can hit fellow righties--Pedroia's career OPS is higher against righties than lefties, Bay's is only 30 points below, and Youk's OPS vs. righties this year is a solid 1.149 and for his career he only has a .009 differential between R and L. Put simply, these guys can hit anyone--you are not giving up a huge strategic disadvantage by stacking them.

But this is very sad for me--its been awhile since I've been in this position: having to watch a true Boston hero breakdown in the Boston uniform. Lately, thanks to free agency and frugal franchises, my heroes have broken down in other uniforms. Or at least outside of the spotlight. I felt some of this with Varitek last season, but I never primarily valued Tek for his offense--to me, he was a leader, a signal caller, and the guy that punched A-Rod in the face (this alone should secure him induction into the Red Sox Hall of Fame).

Papi, however, was a hitter, a pure (Designated) hitter. His lumbering stance and blood shot eyes symbolized pure intimidation. Now, these symbols are erased by the frustration of check swing dribblers and missed 88 mile an hour fastballs. The pathos of watching him hit right now is overwhelming.

Please, Terry, make it stop. Or at least do something to lessen the pain. 12 LOB. Yeesh.


Casey said...

Papi probably got jittery and stopped taking steroids.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

As much as I would love to dismiss the allegation, I have to admit that it might have teeth. His power spiked when he came to Boston-and everyone attributed that to his work with Red Sox hitting instructor Ron Jackson, who worked to close up a hole in his swing (allowing him to reach high, inside fastballs).

It is a very nice story. And until someone shows me otherwise, I'm holding onto it (with both hands).

But Papi's rapid decline post-Manny is certainly suspicious. Especially, as I indicate, since his fall in production is directly related to bat speed.

[Buries head in sand]

Casey said...

Haha... I wouldn't be too ashamed. I don't think anybody's hit 40 bombs in a while without the help of, ummm, a good "hitting instructor," if you know what I mean.