Nation STATion: Ortiz slump redux

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Nation STATion: Ortiz slump redux

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

When you look at David Ortiz numbers this season, you feel pretty good right? Hes hitting .288 with 20 homers and 68 RBI.

Well, maybe Im a glass half-empty guy. Because Ive been looking at his numbers and Ill be honest, Im feeling pretty queasy.

You see, entering play on June 14, Big Papi was hitting .325, with 17 homers and 43 RBI. Since that June 14 date, the Red Sox have visited the foreign National League lands, took a break for the All-Star Game (where we watched Papi participate in the Home Run Derby), and then saw Ortiz suspended for three games after his trot to first base on a routine fly ball created a mini-brawl between two big men. And over his last 39 games, of which he has started 33, David Ortiz is 28-for-127, which comes to .220 average. He has hit 3 homers and driven home 25. His 25 RBI total is inflated by a pair of games against an impotent Kansas City Royals staff when, in back-to-back games, Ortiz drove home nine of the 25 Red Sox runs. He has walked 24 times, whiffed 24 times and grounded into 8 double plays.

When he started the 2010 so slowly, fans were saying that Ortiz was too old. In spite of all the hand wringing, he still started better and hit better last year than he has over his last 39 games, when he is actually older than he was last year. Over those first 39 games last year, Ortiz hit .272 with 11 homers and 31 RBI, walking 17 times and striking out 45 times. His OPS through 39 games last year was .929, about 200 points higher than it has been over the past 39 games this year.

Early last season, fans were truly questioning whether the Sox should pick up Ortiz 12.5 million contract. Obviously, the Red Sox did pick it up, but have you given thought as to what really was the cost of that contract? At the time the Sox renewed Ortiz they did not have Adrian Gonzalez, they did not have Carl Crawford, but what they did have were soft expectations for their continuing sellout streak at Fenway, and weaker advertising revenues on NESN. Papi was, and is, the feel-good guy. He is the guy who makes the Nation smile, so when they picked up his option on November 4, it was very much a business decision.

Looking back on the timeline, on November 23 the Tigers signed Victor Martinez and on December 4 the Sox acquired Gonzo. Then within the week, they signed Crawford. Think about the Sox lineup for the next three years if they opted for V-Mart over Ortiz. Ortiz salary for 2012 is just slightly less than the numbers that Victor Martinez was to sign for with the Detroit Tigers. V-Mart is making 13 million this year and next, and 12 million in 2014, when he turns 35 (Ortiz turns 36 in November). But there are significant differences when comparing the two hitters.

Martinez is hitting .320, with just 6 homers but 63 RBI. But not only is he a switch-hitter, but he can play the field, which Ortiz cant do without the Sox sacrificing defense both in right, when Gonzalez is moved there, and at first when Papi takes Gonzos place. So far this season, V-Mart has been a DH for 62 games (hes hitting .341 in that role), caught 25 games (his .267 is better than either Salty or Tek), and played first for six games (hitting .318 in that small sample).

Yes, David Ortiz is the Sox' top lefty against lefties this season, hitting .330 with 6 homers and 24 RBI, but hes making his dollars to destroy righties, not to go to the opposite field against lefties. And while overall his numbers are .272 with 14 homers and 42 RBI against righties, note that Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .381 with 16 homers and 66 RBI against righties and Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .347 with 14 homers and 53 RBI against righties. Meanwhile since June 14, righties are destroying Ortiz holding him to a .181 average and no homers. You read that correctly: The last homer David Ortiz has hit off of a righty was June 12.

Point in fact is that Ortiz has really only had one stellar month. In May, Ortiz hit .342 and slammed half of his 20 homers. In June he hit .295 with five homers and it got worse in July when he hit .253 with three homers.

This is not about liking or disliking Big Papi. His infectious smile and fan-friendly presence has been an integral part of the energy of Red Sox Nation. Plus, in the past, his bat has been a threatening force in the lineup. But as we enter the dog days of the 2011 season, we also need to think of the reality of the future. Around the second week in July, Ortiz told the Heralds Michael Silverman that he hoped to receive a two-year contract extension with an option for a third year. If the Sox make it to the World Series, and if the Series goes seven games, Game Seven will take place in the National League city, minus the Designated Hitter, and minus David Ortiz, a condition that Sox fans might need to get used to in the coming years.

White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

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White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

CHICAGO - The Chicago White Sox were set to wear throwback uniforms. Chris Sale had other ideas.

The White Sox suspended their ace five days without pay for destroying collared throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear.

The team announced the punishment on Sunday after Sale was scratched from his scheduled start and sent home the previous night.

The suspension comes to $250,000 of his $9.15 million salary. He was also fined about $12,700 - the cost of the destroyed jerseys - according to a person familiar with the penalty. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

"Obviously we're all extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this issue at this time both from the standpoint of the club as well as Chris' perspective," general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's unfortunate that it has become this level of an issue and potential distraction taking away from what we're trying to accomplish on the field."

Sale was not expected at the ballpark on Sunday. He is eligible to return Thursday against the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field, though Hahn would not say if the left-hander would start that game.

The Major League Baseball Players Association declined comment, spokesman Greg Bouris said. Sale could ask the union to file a grievance.

FanRag Sports first reported Sale was protesting the 1976-style jerseys, which were navy and sported unusual collars on a hot and humid night.

Sale then cut up an unknown number of jerseys before the game and was told to leave the stadium. With not enough usable 1976 jerseys available, the White Sox wore white throwback uniforms from the 1983 season.

The incident comes with the White Sox in a tailspin after a 23-10 start and Sale's name circulating in trade rumors.

"The actions or behaviors of the last 24 hours does not change in any aspect, any respect, our belief that Chris Sale can help this club win a championship and win multiple championships," Hahn said. "It does not move the needle one iota in terms of his value to this club, his value to any other club that may be interested in his services or the likelihood of him being moved or kept whatsoever. None of that stuff is impacted at all by these events."

The incident does raise some questions in general about throwback uniforms, how players feel about them and whether they should be forced to wear jerseys that aren't comfortable - particularly starting pitchers.

"If I'm playing with Chris Sale I want him to pitch," Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "If he wants to play with no shirt, we play with no shirt. I just want him to pitch."

New York Yankees pitcher Chasen Shreve said: "Pitchers like their stuff. Me, it doesn't bother me, but for him, obviously it does. It's crazy. I don't think I'm that bad."

White Sox pitcher James Shields wouldn't comment on whether players should be made to wear throwback jerseys. But he did say: "I don't really mind the throwbacks. I haven't had any issues with that."

Manager Robin Ventura said players occasionally wearing uniforms they don't like comes with the job.

"But you wear it," he said. "If you want to rip it after, you can rip it up after. I've seen guys rip it up after."

Hahn said throwback uniforms the White Sox wore last season were a bit baggy so the team took measurements in spring training so they would fit the players better. He also mentioned the money the uniforms generate.

"Part of the element of being in position to win a championship is the revenue side of the operation and respect for their reasonable requests to increase revenue," Hahn said.

This wasn't the first flare-up involving the 27-year-old Sale, who is known for his competitive streak and strict training regimen.

He was openly critical of team executive Ken Williams during spring training when he said Drake LaRoche, the son of teammate Adam LaRoche, would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse. Adam LaRoche retired as a result, and Sale hung the LaRoches' jerseys in his locker.

He was also suspended five games by Major League Baseball last season for his role in a brawl at Kansas City that started with a flare-up between teammate Adam Eaton and the Royals' Yordano Ventura. Sale went to the Royals clubhouse after he got tossed and was seen pounding on the door.

Hahn said the punishment was unrelated to previous incidents. He also said the two had a "very candid" meeting in his office with Sale after the pitcher had some exchanges with staff members in the clubhouse and that both "expressed remorse." They spoke again on Sunday.

"At that point last night Chris stood by his actions," Hahn said. "Part of what makes Chris great, part of what makes him elite, is his passion and commitment. We've seen that sometimes spill out from between the white lines. Yesterday was one of those instances and it unfortunately led to events that required discipline."