The Big Papi Prediction Contest: You all lose

October 5th, 2006 → 9:48 am @

Back on August 24, I launched the Big Papi Prediction Contest, in which loyal readers guessed the total number of dingers and RBIs Papi would end up with at the end of the year; the closest guess (without going over) would win a signed, personalized copy of Feeding the Monster.

At the time, Ortiz had 45 homers and 119 RBIs. Then he missed a bunch of time due to his heart murmur. Ortiz’s year-end totals were 54 and 137, leaving him with 191…and not a single one of the 52 entries guessed 191 or below. So I’m exercising my executive right and am changing the rules: now the closest entry wins even if s/he goes over.

Without further ado, the two winners are geigerm (52+140 for a total of 192) and souljade (49+143=192); I’ll be emailing both of them to figure out the specifics. (Not that it matters, but Randy Kutcher (53+140, 193) and sdillard (52+141, 193) tied for second place.) So congrats, guys (or gals).

Post Categories: Contests & David Ortiz

Cutting off your nose to spite your blogger

September 28th, 2006 → 9:04 am @

Look, Josh, I know it’s embarrassing to be outed as taking your pitching cues from me…but allowing the Devil Rays to blow open the game just to prove me wrong? That’s just childish. And now you’re going to need to live with your 5.01 ERA for the whole offseason.

That’s right: the $30 million dollar man finished his first year in Boston going 16-11 and an ERA that would get him bounced out of the starting rotations in a lot of teams. He topped 200 innings, sure…but man, some of those were brutal innings.

It wasn’t a good day around the rest of the league, either. At least for Sox fans. The Marlins, that other team from Florida, beat the Reds on the strength of 5 innings of two-run ball from former Sox pitching prospect Anibal Sanchez (bringing him to 10-3 on the season) and two home runs by former Sox shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez (one of which was an inside-the-park shot). In LA, former Red Sox playoff hero Derek Lowe won his seventh straight decision, bringing him into the league lead for wins (16); Lowe hasn’t lost since August 9. Oh, and former Sox All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra also rapped out three hits in the game, brining his average (.306) above every member of the Sox save for the MIA Manny Ramirez (.318). (Nomar also left the game because of lingering soreness from his strained oblique.) Finally, Pedro Martinez, the only former Sox player that virtually everyone in Boston wants to succeed, was rocked for the third straight time. Last night, Pedro didn’t make it out of the third inning, the second time this season he failed to record at least nine outs; previous to 2006, he’d gone 289 straight starts in which he lasted three innings or more, going back to 1996. That was the longest streak of 3-innings plus in eighty-seven years, since the Big Train did it for 313 starts from 1911 through 1919. Sure, this validates Boston’s decision not to give Pedro a four-year deal — right now it seems possible the Mets will end up paying him $52 million for a season and a half of regular season starts and 0 playoff games — but it hurts to see Pedro struggle so.

The good news — and yes, I’m reaching here — is that the Orioles are coming to town, and Baltimore’s one of the few teams that make the Sox look like they deserve that $120 million-plus payroll. And there’re three more games for Papi to add to his Red Sox-record 54 home runs.

Post Categories: David Ortiz & Josh Beckett & Pedro Martinez

Back on the grid…

September 27th, 2006 → 9:41 am @

Four days off the grid…and I didn’t implode. (In fact, it was surprisingly pleasant.) But I know the group of people who want to hear about how I spend my off hours includes my parents and…well, that might be it. So let’s get back into it, shall we?

There are four more games left in the season; it looks unlikely that David Ortiz will top Ruth’s or Maris’s 60 and 61 home run seasons, respectively. But if he gets to 58 (he sits at 54 currently), he’ll tie Hank Greenberg and Jimmie Foxx at 58, which would put him fourth on the all-time list (behind Maris in ’61 and Ruth in ’27 and ’21) of people who weren’t publicly shamed at last year’s Congressional hearing on steroids. That’s reason enough to watch the remaining games. (There’s also the mini-drama of whether the Sox will finish above the Jays in the rankings…)

One other quick note: after Schilling’s win last night — and how gratifying is it to see him end the season on a high note? — the verbally expansive righty was his usually classy self. When discussing the season he put the blame on his shoulders by saying, “I should have won a lot more. I should have pitched better.” That’s a little like Ortiz saying he should have hit for a higher average.

I’ll have lots more in the coming days, including season-ending report cards on players, executives, the front office, and much more…

Post Categories: Curt Schilling & David Ortiz & Red Sox

The wonder of it all

September 22nd, 2006 → 11:48 am @

Yesterday afternoon, I took advantage of the fact that I’m in Boston for a few days to catch up with some folks at Fenway. The conversation, as it naturally does, ended up on David Ortiz; I expressed some concern for how he’d fare against Johan Santana, a.k.a. the left-handed Pedro Martinez, circa 1999. (Going into last night’s game, Ortiz was 0-6 with 3 Ks against JS.) Not to worry, I was told: Papi has gotten so good at recongizing change-ups — and not swinging at them — that he’ll just lay off those and wait for something he can hit.

He got that something with the first pitch he saw, showing once again the extent to which Ortiz has become a smart hitter and not just a good one. He’s almost Williams-esque in his desire to wait for his pitch. (OK, fine: not quite Williams-esque. But very good.) He’s Bird-esque is his ability to rise to the moment. And he remains a stone-cold pimp; when talking with the guy who caught his #51, he inquired as to whether the dude was married. Told he was not, Ortiz said he’d soon have two girlfriends. At least.

As an aside, the at-bat that resulted in Ortiz’s second homer of the night — in the seventh inning, off of Matt Guerrier — reminded me a little of the at-bat in the 14th inning of Game 5 of the ’04 ALCS…you know, the one where he had a walk-off single off of Esteban Loaiza. Loaiza got ahead of Ortiz early on, while Guerrier started Ortiz off with three balls, but after swinging through on 3-0, Ortiz fouled off four straight pitches before launching his rocket to deep center. In one game, we got to witness history and also were given a clinic in the ways in which Papi has improved as a hitter: he can handle lefties and he can spoil pitches until he gets one he can handle.

The frenzied adulation of last night is why Fenway’s remaining five games will be electric and exciting: every night (or afternoon), fans have a chance to witness history. (And to compute the chances you’ll get a free, personalized copy of Feeding the Monster by winning the Big Papi prediction contest. Ortiz’s HR+RBI total is currently 184, and there are nine games left…) Even the Boston media is treating the games themselves as if they’re sideshows; in today’s Globe writeup, the game is barely described; Ortiz, needless to say, is given plenty of ink.

(Speaking of games getting short shrift, Josh Beckett has seen two of his better pitching performances of the year be relegated to second fiddle status: his 7 innings of 2-run ball against the Mets was overshadowed by Pedro’s return to Fenway, and last night’s 8-inning shutout was more or less ignored b/c of Ortiz.)

Post Categories: David Ortiz & Josh Beckett

All hail El Papi Grande. (And: The best Trupiano could come up with is “The Foxx hunt is over?”)

September 21st, 2006 → 11:42 am @

In case you missed it, last night David Ortiz hit his 50th home run of the season, equaling Jimmie Foxx’s club record, set in 1938. Amalie Benjamin has a nice line in her write up in the Globe:

“They stood, as the ball from the hand of Boof Bonser — what a name for that footnote — lifted off Ortiz’s bat with two outs in the sixth inning, a home run that in its flight, in its landing in the center-field seats to the right of the yellow line, did more than equal a Red Sox record. It did exactly what it should have, breaking a 1-1 tie, though the Twins went on to an 8-2 victory.

Because that is who David Ortiz is. And that is what David Ortiz does.”

I know this has been repeated ad infinitum, but here are some of the Red Sox players who never hit 50 home runs:

* Ted Williams (career best 43, 1949)
* Carl Yastrzemski (44, 1967)
* Jim Rice (46, 1978)
* Mo Vaughn (44, 1996)
* Manny Ramirez (45, 2005)
* Jerry Remy (2, 1978)

To further honor the greatest clutch hitter in the history of the Red Sox…

Here’s an outtake from the book on how the Sox ended up with Ortiz in the first place.

Here’s an excerpt on Papi’s breakout ’03 season.

If you go to the bottom of this page, there’s an audio link to my reading about Ortiz’s game-winning single off of Esteban Loaiza in the 14th inning of Game 5 in the 2004 ALCS. (As Joe Buck memorably said on national TV, “Damon coming to the plate, he can keep on running to New York. Game 6, tomorrow night!”)

Here’s a photographic recap of Papi’s 50 homers (courtesy of the Globe).

And here’s a gallery of Ortiz’ walk-offs (also courtesy of the Globe).


Post Categories: David Ortiz

Strike two: the vicious circle that is David Ortiz at the plate

September 18th, 2006 → 2:16 pm @

This morning, someone asked me if I felt like a more informed observer as a result of my research while working on FTM. It was a tough question to answer: on the one hand, I now feel as if there are hundreds of previously unknown subplots unfolding when I watch a game; on the other hand, I’m also much more aware of how much I don’t know.

Take David Ortiz’s at bats. He has, as anyone who has seen an inning or two of a Sox game can tell you, been known to voice his displeasure at called strikes he feels are out of the zone. When you’re watching the game on TV, it’s pretty easy to tell if Ortiz’s complaints are justified (as they were in the second game of yesterday’s doubleheader); it’s impossible to tell whether Ortiz is the subject of more crappy calls than most. But last year, I sitting with some of the team’s baseball operations crew at Fenway when Ortiz started shaking his head and barking at an umpire. “Just shut up, David,” one of the guys said. I asked if Ortiz complained more than most. “He bitches more than anyone in the league. He also gets more crappy calls than anyone in the league.” (This wasn’t conjecture; it was actually something the Sox had looked into.) And so it goes, goes round again: Ortiz complains, umps get pissed (consciously or subconsciously), he gets squeezed, and he complains some more. The good news: it doesn’t seem to be adversely affecting his hitting much.

In other news, the Sox took three out of four from the Yankees, and there was plenty to be happy about over the weekend: the continuation of gutsy pitching performances from unlikely starters; the joy of watching Dustin Pedroia and David Murphy get their sea legs; a ray of hope that perhaps Coco Crisp will actually be a decent center fielder (as impressive as his well-timed leap to rob Posada of a home run was, I was just as happy with the good jump Crisp got on the ball); and Mike Timlin learning how to close. (Again.) Don’t tune out yet, folks: the Sox won’t be playing in October, but that doesn’t mean baseball isn’t the best game out there.

Post Categories: David Ortiz & Oblique references to Joe Jackson songs

Some real perspective

August 31st, 2006 → 12:13 am @

This story was posted online just after 11 pm Wednesday on the Herald‘s website: Jon Lester tested for cancer. (While the Red Sox don’t comment on non-performance related health issues, Curt Schilling is quoted in Tony Massarotti’s story as saying, “There are a lot of personal things going on here that weigh on us a lot more than the losses and wins.”)

There’s also some indication, according to the Globe, that David Ortiz’s irregular heartbeat is caused by atrial fibrillation, which is usually controllable and would likely not impede his playing career. (Jackie MacMullan has a piece in which she talks to Larry Bird, who also suffered from the disorder and is now on medication that controls it.)

Six in a row, 19 of 25, whatever: it’s only a game, folks.

Post Categories: David Ortiz & Jon Lester