Saturday, June 27, 2009

David Ortiz

The great Bill Veeck wrote that he was convinced the most effective cure for a batting slump was "two pieces of cotton, one for each ear."

David Ortiz's June revival indicates the wisdom of Veeck's perception. When Ortiz, the Red Sox, and the world at large were proactive about his astonishing inability to hit during the spring, his performances at the plate went from bad to worse to I-don't-want-to watch-this. Video study, eye exams, moving down in the lineup, taking a few days off, nothing worked.

As soon as the outside world gave up on Ortiz, and he and the Sox stopped talking about the slump, it went away. It might come back (unlikely), but Ortiz is back to being a threat to pitchers instead of to rallies.

Slumps in any sport are like bad colds. You can cram all the chicken soup you want down your gullet, but in the end, there's nothing for it but to suffer until the morning you wake up and the cold has gone away. Willpower has little to do with the viral process.

It doesn't have much to do with eye-hand coordination, either. Ortiz kept swinging until the delicate balance of his batting stroke fell back into place, probably quite by chance. If a batting slump has ever been cured in another fashion, I'd like to hear about it-and so would the curators at Cooperstown.

Know how Terry Francona keeps saying "these things usually resolve themselves" when asked to speculate about decisions he might have to make, or more usually, that the questioner thinks Francona ought to make RIGHT THIS MINUTE? That statement is exhibits 1-10 as to why Francona is one smart manager. You don't build a baseball season. You grow one.


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