By Chris Horne, howiGit Contributing Writer, Wrentham (Foxboroland), MA
Around the All-Star break this year, after it had become clear that David Ortiz was again the Big Papi of olden times, my roommates and I began preliminary talks of what would happen if Ortiz wanted more dough than the Sox brass were willing to dole out in the off-season. We could only think of two possible outcomes: tears of sadness (if Ortiz signed with another team) and unhinged, furious rage (if Ortiz signed with the Yankees).
By now you’ve heard that Ortiz isn’t all too pleased with the situation in Boston these days. ”There’s too much drama, man,” Papi said last week regarding the collapse and its aftermath. “There’s too much drama. I have been thinking about a lot of things. I don’t know if I want to be part of this drama for next year.” Playing for the Yankees, he said, is “something [he’s] gotta think about.”
Enter unhinged, furious rage.
Look, I know the guy can and should do whatever he wants. He should play where someone’s willing to pay him and where he can rake everyday. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And, I didn’t like it.
But now, after a week, with baseball’s talking heads all pretty much agreeing that the Yankees have no real interest in Ortiz, and with Ortiz—sort of—taking back his words yesterday:
“I never said that I would sign with the Yankees. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” he said. “They asked me if I would play for the Yankees. I said I would think about it. But I didn’t confirm to nobody that I would play for the Yankees. I’m still a Red Sox, aren’t I?”
I can breathe again. As a Red Sox fan, with all the shit currently hitting the fan, it’s hard to think about the team in a rational or logical way – but after a week of clouded thoughts about Ortiz’s original words, I’ve come to what I think might actually be some reasonable benefits for the Sox should Ortiz sign with New York.
Work with me:
1. Redirection of Media Attention: Consider Ortiz’s own words: ”There’s too much drama, man.” Agreed, man. It would take a bolder person than myself to argue that one. But couldn’t Ortiz leaving for greener bluer pastures lessen some of the scrutiny over these Sox? Or at least channel that scrutiny elsewhere? Take the rabid media attention off the chicken eaters and the beer drinkers and move it elsewhere. Transfer this hatred of Sox back to where it belongs, to hatred of Yanks. Disloyalty trumps debauchery in my mind. Hopefully in Dan Shaughnessy’s mind, too.
2. Comparable Bang for Less Bucks: I’m not the first to point out 23 year-old Ryan Lavarnway’s monster numbers in Portland and Pawtucket last year, but they are worth mentioning over and over again:
116 games, .290 /.376 /.563, 32 homers, 93 RBI, 57 BB
For the sake of comparison – not the tightest comparison, but still – here are Ortiz’s stats from his 1999 season with the Salt Lake Buzz when he was 23 years old:
130 games, .315 / .412 / .590, 30 homers, 110 RBI, 79 BB
These, for whatever it’s worth, are pretty similar numbers. Lavarnway only had 43 big league plate appearances this year, but his minor league highlight-reel is impressive. The guy drops lunar bombs and comes with a much cheaper price tag than does Papi, and while it wouldn’t be ideal, I would be fine with him getting the majority of DH at-bats in 2012.
3. Prince: From John Harper of the New York Daily News this summer:
Fielder smiled at the mention of the short right-field porch here, but he wouldn’t go near any talk of potential landing spots for next season, though he did leave open the possibility that he could be happy as just a DH.
“I’m not ruling anything out,” he said, “but as for right now, I like playing first base.”
Now Harper, obviously, is insinuating the Fielder is willing to hit for the Yankees, but why not the Red Sox? If he’s all smiles about a short right-field, Fenway can match that, and the Sox can match any monetary offer, too. For now, this is far-fetched and a pipe dream, but it’s something to keep an eye on, especially with Ben Cherrington trying to make his mark as new GM.
4. Purely aesthetic reasons. Vertical stripes are slimming, and the chin-strap has seen better days.
All kidding aside, Papi has done one thing since joining the Sox in 2003: produce. Oh, and also, he helped them to two World Series wins. Regardless of whether or not the Sox owe Ortiz a deal after the season he just completed (I can understand both sides of the argument here), they owe the man a great deal of gratitude for how he has competed over the last eight years. Would I be mad to see him go? Yeah, real mad. But I can see more clearly now, and losing Papi to the Yankees wouldn’t be the end of the world. That, apparently, will come later in 2012.