This is a situation that I was not too eager to broach, but now that it's the halfway mark into May and the home-run total by David Ortiz matches my career total, it's time.
When do the Red Sox make a change with David Ortiz?
The way I see it, there are two options, both of which belong to David Ortiz. Make no mistake: at some point, probably soon, the Red Sox will come to Ortiz and say the situation has reached a head.
Ortiz's slump reached its nadir (at least, we hope it's the nadir) with an 0-for-7, 12 LOB effort yesterday. The Sox will allow him to dig out of that nadir, but if he doesn't, things will change in early June.
Ortiz will be presented with two options, and his situation will be such that he understands he has to accept one or the other.
And no, one option is not the benching of Ortiz. That would serve no earthly purpose to the ultimate goal: getting Ortiz hitting. This team is still dependent on Ortiz hitting. Any choice is going to be made with that goal as the endgame.
The organization has too much respect—as they should—for Ortiz to tell him that "this is how it's gonna go, whether you like it or not." They're going to frame the order as if Ortiz has a choice—because in reality he does.
This is a slippery slope the Sox will put themselves on, and they need to proceed as such.
They can get much more out of Ortiz if they go to him and say "look, the elephant in the room is that you're struggling. It's reached a point where it can't go on as it is, and we've come up with two options. Out of respect to you, we will let you make the choice. Here are the options."
Ortiz will either be told he needs to be dropped in the order to seventh (I'm guessing the lineup would go Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, Drew, Bay, Lowell, Ortiz, Varitek, Lugo) or he needs to go on the disabled list, take some time away from the game to clear his head, then work in extended spring training to get his mechanics tweaked out.
A nice lengthy, confidence-building trip through the minors would put him on track to return in early July and ready to show everyone Big Papi is back.
Hey, if Chien-Ming Wang can pitch worse than Kyle Kendrick and be put on the DL with a phantom injury, why can't Ortiz? (Note: this is not a knock on the Yankees. The Sox have been the king of DL manipulation for years and other teams are starting to catch on and do so themselves.)
Ortiz will be allowed to make that choice. If it were me, I would have Ortiz accept a demotion to the seven spot and work it out there. I'd do this because Ortiz's potential bat reaps far more rewards than it would giving those at-bats to a platoon of Rocco Baldelli and Jeff Bailey.
I think Papi would choose the other option, though. I don't think it makes sense for him to concede that he should be dropped to seventh. I want him to maintain the confidence that he's a No. 3 hitter in the big leagues.
By acceding to the dropdown, everyone knows even he realizes he's not the same, and that would do damage to his self-confidence and boost the confidence of every pitcher in the league.
No, it would be better for him to take time off, rediscover his swing, then be eased back into the Sox lineup in the bottom of the order where the team can say he's only batting that low because he's being eased back in—not because he belongs down there.
Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half physical, after all.
What do you think? What option should Papi take?