Can we fully embrace Ortiz?

Can we fully embrace Ortiz?
October 31, 2013, 9:45 am
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And here to rain on the Red Sox’s parade, a man with a microphone and a national forum — ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd.

On Wednesday morning, heading into what would be Boston’s World Series-clinching, 6-1 victory in Game 6, Cowherd shoveled out a load of skepticism on the performance of Series MVP David Ortiz. The veteran slugger had a massive Series, batting .688, with two homers, six RBIs and eight walks, giving him an on-base percentage of .760.

Perhaps it was inevitable that someone would suggest that Ortiz, soon to turn 38, had a performance that was enhanced. So Cowherd has become that most disseminated someone. Here’s some of what he had to say on Wednesday (via Awful Announcing):

“David Ortiz, who was shot two years ago, is now Babe Ruth. That’s a great story. And I don’t want to get in the way of that great story because it will make people really, really mad. … Last time I saw a guy like this it was Barry Bonds. But sports is about storytelling and hero worship and cool nicknames and fanaticism. Fans get mad when you derail that.”

“When it’s too good to be true, it is. Here was a guy in May of 2009, batting .222 with a slugging percentage of .300, no injuries, couldn’t hit. … He’s hitting .800 against pitchers he didn’t face all year. … Significantly better today than several years ago. Interesting story. The story of David Ortiz hitting .733 — about as believable as Bigfoot.”

As the Awful Announcing post points out, Ortiz wasn’t so Ruthian in the American League Championship Series, batting .091, but the skepticism sown by our disillusionment from baseball’s steroids era won’t be going away anytime soon. As we wait for the resolution of the Alex Rodriguez mess and need look back only a few months at the case of Lyin’ Ryan Braun, we might wish that we could easily dismiss Cowherd’s talk as nothing more than a media mouth seeking attention, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we really can’t.

Unfortunately, everyone in baseball is under suspicion. So even while we embrace the story of Big Papi and the Bearded Boston Machine, part of us can’t help but hold back, at least a little. After all, we’ve been burned before.