Friday, May 21, 2010

Opinion: Ortiz should start planning exit strategy

There are a lot of players in every sport that hang on too long.  Some guys try to squeeze every at bat, inning, goal, touchdown, and -- most of all -- dollar -- out of their big-league career.  I could not say I would not do the same if I could.  But, if David Ortiz wants to keep his legend intact with the Boston Red Sox, this should be his last year in a Red Sox uniform.

Recent failures may never tarnish his golden moments, the ones that will live and thrive in the hearts of Red Sox Nation forever.  But, his early-season struggles of the past two years have taken some of the starch out of Ortiz and how he has been received by the fans and the media.

He clearly does not want to be benched or substituted for Mike Lowell or anyone else.  He does not appreciate the media writing that he is washed up.  But, the Boston that Ortiz knows is not the Boston of earlier generations.  This media corps has seen a lot of Red Sox success.  It was not too long ago that the Boston writers would not have given this much of a leash to someone like Ortiz.  But, Ortiz is a conquering hero and someone who deserves months or even seasons to get it right.  That was last season.

This year, Ortiz had a similar frigid start to the season, and the writers are at his throat.  The fans have followed a little more cautiously.  How much longer can the Boston media coexist with Ortiz?  For all of his successes, Boston writers will state he has not been the same since Manny Ramirez was traded.  It is hard to argue that point.  Jason Bay and Victor Martinez have not provided the protection that Ramirez once provided Big Papi.

The best should leave on their own terms.  Leaving at the top of one’s game rarely occurs.  For every Barry Sanders leaving the Lions and Michael Jordan leaving the Bulls the first time, there are countless has-beens who should have been enjoying retirement or at least escaped from the city from which they are eternally attached before they had to leave. 

It is already too late for Ortiz to leave with all of his legend intact.  The second one of a dynamite duo rarely does.  Ramirez left first and he basically forced his way out of town, but the fans have to look lovingly at Ramirez from afar, wishing he was still hitting in the middle of the Red Sox lineup.  Ortiz gets what is left behind and has not been able to recapture the same magic, personally or as a team, since Ramirez left.

Before it gets too much worse, Ortiz should start planning his exit strategy.  Maybe Ortiz can have a solid three-quarters of the season and leave on a high note.  If he muddles around .200 for the rest of the year, the decision will be made for him.

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