Let Big Papi Leave With Dignity

Benjamin AltsherContributor IMay 21, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 04:  David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox looks on prior to playing the New York Yankees on May 4, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

He may have hit his first home run of the season last night, and that may help turn his season around, but let's face facts.  David Ortiz is no longer the greatest clutch hitter in baseball.  He's not the best hitter on the Red Sox.  Big Papi is no longer Big Papi.

It's like realizing Batman is really Bruce Wayne or Spiderman is really just Peter Parker.  He's not beyond human anymore.  How many guys could you put in the majors that have a .210 average, one homer, and a .320 on base percentage?  My guess is lots.

Let's not kid ourselves, either.  While his blast to deep center against the Blue Jays can help his mental state, it won't fix everything.  There will come a time this season when the Red Sox come to the realization that Ortiz batting 3rd does more harm than good.

When they do come to that point, there's only one thing do, one right thing to do.  Tell Ortiz he's injured.

It sounds a little sinister to tell a player he's injured when he really isn't, but it's the only way to fix the Red Sox lineup without shattering his self-confidence.

First, it does no good to just move him down in the lineup.  At best, you'll still have just a .250 hitter (at best), which is more reasonable in the 7 spot, but you can't tell me there aren't better hitting options on the Sox bench.  You could even strengthen two parts of the team by DH-ing Julio Lugo and have a better defensive shortstop in the game.

Second, you can't trade him for anything of value and you can't bench him or send him to Pawtucket outright.  No one will give up even a middling prospect for someone with his contract at this point, and nothing could shatter his fragile state of mind more than a designation for assignment.

So what's left?  Tell him why he can't turn on a 90 mph fastball anymore.  Tell him why he only has one home run in 150 at bats.  He's hurt.  Use whatever is easiest, most likely the wrist.  Tell him the sheath that caused him to miss almost half of 2008 is still not right.  Put him on the DL and have him rest for a while and rehab after that.

It's not glamorous to be sure, but you try telling Superman he's been reduced to just Clark Kent.

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