The best way I can describe Fenway during any Papi at-bat is this: It’s filled with 35,000 parents of the same worst kid in Little League who dread every pitch thrown in the kid’s direction. There is constant fear and sadness and helplessness. Nobody knows what to do.
Fans may not know what to do, but they know what not to do:
It’s been a sports experience unlike anything I can remember. Red Sox fans refuse to turn against Ortiz. They just can’t. They owe him too much for 2004 and 2007. It’s like turning on Santa Claus or happy hour. Every Ortiz appearance is greeted with supportive cheers, every Ortiz failure is greeted with awkward silence. The fans are suffering just like he is.
Ortiz’s futility has been a terrible thing to watch in the middle of what has been an otherwise promising season. But as gruesome as it’s been, it’s also somewhat heartening to see the fans stick by him. Luckily, we don’t have to make out the lineup card every day. It’s probably much more difficult for the Red Sox skipper to stick by him – but stick by him he does:
Francona also took some time yesterday with David Ortiz, who has been a shell of the hitter he has been in the past. Ortiz went into the game with a .208 average, .600 OPS, and zero home runs. So Francona gave him a pep talk of the kind he rarely has had to give in their tenure together.
“I’ve been standing there for five years patting him on the fanny as he runs by driving in all those runs and winning games for us,” Francona said. “Now, when he needs a little help, I don’t want to be the one to abandon him.”
Sure, we love Papi for all the big hits he made in the past, though it has more to do with the feelings we experienced in those moments rather than the exact number of runs driven in. (Let’s also not forget that by all accounts he’s a genuinely nice and fun-loving person.) Anyway, you certainly can’t boo the man responsible for this kind of joy.
UPDATE: After a month of encouraging swings, YFSF.org takes a look at evidence that suggests previous reports of the death of Big Papi’s bat may have been greatly exaggerated.