Friday, July 16, 2010

Big Papi 'Cheated', Still Couldn't Hit

A fun New Yorker profile about Red Sox slugger David Ortiz details Big Papi's exceptional cursing skills ("Two bleep-bleep games and already you mother bleep-bleeps are going crazy!", he bellowed after a two-game slow start to the season), as well as his propensity to "cheat" when his hitting was out of sorts earlier this season.

And no, we're not talking about Ortiz getting nailed for some over the counter supplements he bought in the Dominican

"He was thirty-four, and already cheating, as they say: starting his weight shift before the pitcher's release, and thereby leaving himself vulnerable to changeups and breaking stuff, the mark of a novice--or of a has-been."

I've heard that usage of cheating to describe defense before--a shortstop "cheats" toward second base if he thinks the batter might go up the middle. But I don't know that I've heard it in the offensive sense before the New Yorker article.

Writer Ben McGrath follows Papi's plodding progress all through the spring, and the hang-wringing and hysteria it wreaks in Boston. His fourth shot of the year, against the Angels, may have been a product of "cheating" as well.

"Similarly dismissable, then, was No. 4, which came the night after the epic failure against the Angels, because the Los Angeles starter had made the curious mistake of throwing an offspeed pitch--one that Ortiz pushed the other way, over the Green Monster in left. This could have been interpreted as evidence that Ortiz wasn't cheating as much as was suspected, but we were too deep intothe farewell narrative by this point."

Papi of course got his stroke back before summer hit, and didn't have to resort to cheating anymore.

McGrath also picks up on some non-verbal baseball language in the Sox dugout. Earlier this year, the slumping Ortiz and banged up Mike Lowell platooned at DH, one of the uncommon examples of the Red Sox really, truly not getting good value for their dollars. In this scene, Ortiz--hitting well once again--has been called on to pinch-hit for Lowell, a reversal of an earlier scene when Papi was unceremoniously called back to the dugout in favor of Lowell in a crucial situation.

"Seventh-inning stretch, eyes on the dugout: Ortiz grabs a helmet and heads for the bat rack, pausing briefly in front of Mike Lowell, whom he touches gently on the shoulder. No words are necessary. Lowell, grizzled and stoic, deposits his shades in his cap. His night is done."

Exit dugout left.

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