The designated hitter has done an amazing job of extending the careers of players who would otherwise be ready to trade in their baseball spikes for golf spikes, and their baseball glove for an oven mitt. David Ortiz has been the fortunate recipient of such an extension, but after 16 years in the majors and countless injuries and health problems, it’s time for the Boston Red Sox to say goodbye to their beloved Big Papi.
As it stands right now, Ortiz is going to begin the 2013 season on the 15-day disabled list, with no foreseeable date as to when he’ll actually be ready for action. Because of inflammation in both heels, the 38-year-old DH has yet to play in a game this spring. This is after being limited to only 90 games last season when he suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury.
Ortiz was taking batting practice every day when Spring Training began, and it looked as though he’d be ready to go in the Red Sox opener against the New York Yankees. But the pain in his heels began to overcome the big man, and an MRI revealed some issues. Ortiz had to cease all baseball activities, and cancelled a batting practice session.
The Red Sox DH and clubhouse leader signed a two-year contract in December that could pay him up to $30 million if he has 20 or fewer days on the disabled list this season caused by an Achilles tendon injury. His strength and conditioning program includes running on an underwater treadmill, and some soft-toss and tee swings being monitored by team trainers, but Ortiz has not run the bases or taken live batting practice yet
All of this means essentially nothing at the moment, except that heel problems like this seldom go away quickly, if at all. Having a DH that can’t run the bases isn’t very useful except on the occasions that he hits a home run and can trot around the bags at his leisure. Why the Red Sox are so determined to see Ortiz suffer this season is inexplicable, because suffer is exactly what he is likely to do.
Ortiz will suffer with the ongoing pain in his heels. He’ll suffer every time he is unavailable to play because of his injuries and pain. He’ll suffer every time he fails to deliver in the clutch (as he always seemed to be able to do) when the Red Sox need him most. Red Sox fans don’t want to see that, and the team shouldn’t want it either.
David Ortiz has made his mark as one of the greatest to ever wear a Red Sox uniform, and is arguably one of the best designated hitters to ever occupy that spot in a batting order. But his best years are behind him, and his injuries and health issues were bound to catch up with him sooner or later. The Red Sox have to seriously question that when Ortiz does finally return to the lineup if he’ll be as effective as he has been in past years, or if the toll on his body has just simply been too high.
There comes a time when a team has to make the business decision to just part ways with a player who isn’t going to give them what they need, no matter how near and dear that player is to the organization. If the player isn’t able to make the decision to call it quits, then it’s up to the team who employs him to cut the ties.
This may not be a popular sentiment for many Boston fans, but it’s a sound way of thinking in my opinion. At times teams must remove emotion and look at the bigger picture. If Ortiz and his heels develop into a long-term problem, the Red Sox lineup is going to suffer, and they need to be prepared for the worst.