Is there an accurate term to use in describing David Ortiz’s hitting prowess in the 2013 World Series? If Dan Patrick still worked on SportsCenter we could call Big Papi “en fuego,” but that might not even do his first five games justice.
Heading into Wednesday night’s potential clincher Ortiz is 11-for-15 with four walks, which translates to a .733 average. If he tallies a couple more hits tonight he could pass Billy Hatcher for the best batting average in World Series history. Hatcher hit .750 in 15 plate appearances for the Reds in their sweep of the Athletics in 1990. Bear in mind this “record” is one with a very small sample size. The immortal Ricky Ledee owns the sixth-best single-season World Series average, hitting .600 in 13 trips to the plate for the juggernaut 1998 Yankees.
That said, Ledee was a bit player on an all-time great team. Ortiz is shouldering the entire Boston offense, which is hitting .205 collectively. Maybe the most impressive part of Ortiz’s World Series is that he hasn’t struck out yet. He’s done this after batting a paltry .091 in the ACLS vs. the Tigers, no less.
Watching through the clip above, his grounder to Matt Carpenter in the first inning of Game 1, which Pete Kozma dropped at second, could have been a double-play ball. Instead it was an error and the Sox jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. His next at bat was Carlos Beltran’s casually great catch to rob him of a grand slam.
After those first two quirky at bats, Ortiz has basically been impossible to retire, tying a World Series reach by reaching safely in nine straight plate appearances in Game 5 Monday night in St. Louis.
If Boston wraps up the Series either tonight or Thursday — the first time on Fenway Park soil since 1918 — Ortiz will probably be carried around the grounds. Granted, it will take a couple of people to hoist Big Papi on their shoulders. Boston Mayor Tom Menino will probably give “Big Daddy” the key to the city.
Let’s just say Ortiz’s sizzling October is being met with some suspicion. ESPN investigative reporter T.J. Quinn was besieged on Twitter Tuesday by (probable) Yankees fans irate at why Ortiz hasn’t been under the same scrutiny as other sluggers when it comes to potential PED use.
Perhaps it’s a New York thing, or talk radio fodder. Fans are bitter about the treatment Alex Rodriguez has received from baseball despite never failing a drug test, while Ortiz is lauded as an all-conquering hero.
This is the corner baseball has painted itself into with the Mitchell Report, which cast more doubt over the PED issue than anything else. Ortiz’s name was one of the seven leaked from the report and in August he said still doesn’t have all the details from it. Earlier this year Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy confronted Ortiz about the PED issue, which he angrily denied. People can point to his .238 batting average in 2009 and his bounce back the subsequent four seasons, or how he came back from injury in 2012 to compile a .309/.395/.564 line in the regular season, but those observations don’t exactly prove anything.
Expect someone in the media to broach the subject again — probably not after a World Series game press conference — but it will all but certainly arise in the coming weeks. Without a failed drug test, it’s hard to see this going anywhere definitively. It’s not like you’re going to get Ortiz strapped to a lie detector test. His charming personality with the media has already helped shifted the conversation away from his link to the Mitchell Report.
The court of public opinion will reach its own verdict.
Of course there is the notion Ortiz could simply be locked in at the plate for the first five games of the World Series, naive as it sounds.