Bill Simmons has written a nice piece on David Ortiz in ESPN the Magazine that we think every fan of every sport can probably relate to in some way. That’s what makes Simmons one of the best at what he does, he finds something that you and I have all went through, and he eulogizes it with analogy’s and quotes that fit the times pretty well.
Simmons thinks that Big Papi is done, and it reminds him of when former Red Sox legend Jim Rice was fading:
At first, we Sox fans thought we were just watching an early-season slump. Then three weeks passed and we started worrying. The guy couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield. His bat was so slow he had to cheat on fastballs; even then, he couldn’t catch up. One swing a night made him look like the drunkest batter in a beer league softball game. Look, I’ve seen slumps. This was different. This was the collapse of a career.
Big Papi is hitting .185 with one lone home run at the time of this post. There are different theories as to why he’s struggling. Some fans believe that PED’s have something to do with it, or the lack-of in Papi’s case. Simmons believe it’s simply old age, and that Ortiz (who says he is 33) is actually more like 37 or 38. And he ties it up nicely with a eulogy.
That’s what happens to beefy sluggers on their way out: Their knees go, they stiffen up, bat speed slows and, in the blink of an eye, they’re done. Beefy sluggers are like porn stars, wrestlers, NBA centers and trophy wives: When it goes, it goes. You know right away.
It is sad to see one of the greatest clutch hitters of all time close out a career this way. What’s amazing about it is that the Boston fans have been untypical of not just themselves but fans of sports in general.
We live in a world in which all entertainment is chewed up and spat out. We milk public figures like cows, and when they’re out of milk, we tip them over and move on. Quickly. It’s not just that we need to see everything “jump the shark” that bothers me. It’s also that so many of us are gleeful about pointing out that something or someone we once loved has outlived his usefulness. The demise of Big Papi played out in an old-school way: real devotion, and in the end, people refusing to let go.
If this is indeed the end of David Ortiz; and if he cannot rebound in some ways (which we think he will end up doing for one last strong hurrah) he’s left his lasting impression on this game and a fan base. The guy became an icon for his big hits and when this blog began he was one of the most feared hitters in the game. Guys like that may fade but they never die.