Tuesday, May 02, 2006

No Solution for Big Papi

...Except, Maybe, the Rain.

We here in Yankeeland have been suffering a plague; the name for our pain is David Ortiz.

Ortiz has punished the Yanks since he joined the Sox in 2003. He's batted .317/.390/.618, in about 225 regular-season PA against the Yanks, with 14 homers, 16 doubles, and 44 RBI. The rate stats aren't much higher than what he's averaged over that span, but it sure hasn't felt that way.

It became apparent as the 2004 playoffs approached that the Yankees needed a pitcher who could get Ortiz out. They thought Felix Heredia was the man. By the time they figured out that was a bad idea, they tried to convince themselves that Tom Gordon's curveball was so good, it didn't matter if the hitter he faced was lefthanded or righthanded.

Um, no.

In 2005, the lefty parade included Buddy Groom, Mike Stanton, Wayne Franklyn, Alan Embree, and Al Leiter. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

The latest in the line of Ortiz-killers brought on by the Yanks is Mike Myers, a guy with the devil's own platoon split, and a funky submarine motion that lefties just can't pick up. Surely, this would work against Ortiz, a guy who the Sox used to hide against lefties when he first joined the team?


Yesterday, I watched the Yankees try the shift on Ortiz, with the groundball machine, Chien Ming Wang, on the mound. Knew from the jump it wouldn't work, even before Ortiz punched a looping liner right over the place Jeter normally would've been standing. Boston took a 1-0 lead.

Maybe it was a hit regardless of the shift. Maybe if the Captain was at his usual post, he would've used his mad hops to pluck the liner out of the air. Dunno. All I know is the next time Ortiz came up, the shift was still on. Again, he stroked the ball into left field.

The point is that Ortiz isn't Jason Giambi. He won't ground ball after ball into a crowd of fielders lined up on the right side of the field. He won't beat himself. The only time the Bombers have gotten the best of him, he was betrayed by his glove. Now he doesn't take the field anymore, and you never hear any complaints from him about it. He won't beat himself that way, either.

So when you saw Ortiz come up to the plate against Myers in the 8th inning, Boston ahead by one, a couple of runners on, you kind of knew the Yankees didn't have the solution for the Papi problem. If you didn't think it when he came to the plate, you were pretty darn sure as he was rounding the bases.

How do you beat someone like that? Maybe you don't. Maybe you just hope for rain.

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