Everyone who follows sports possesses a handful memories that they particularly cherish. Perhaps they are shared by millions of fellow fans, but you still cling to them like a glorious, vis-a-vis meeting with a hero. I have my own. At the very top of the list is David Ortiz's performance in the 2004 ALCS. Even after almost five years of hindsight, his performance amazes. There were many astonishing performances by Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, but it was Big Papi who won game 4 and gave us a taste of survival. It was Papi who breathed life back into game 5 after the Yankees rallied to take the lead, and it was Papi again who ended that marathon with a simple two-out, bloop single. And in Game 7, he delivered the first blow, with a first inning shot that gave the Red Sox an early lead they would not relinquish.
Now watch him, a crumbling, sad figure on the field. He cannot seem to catch up to a fastball for the life of him. As of this writing, he's hitting .203. His slugging percentage is a mind-boggling .293, 254 points below his career average. Of course, the potential explanations fly about like sand in the Santa Ana winds (SoCal reference, sorry). Is it psychological? An injury? Has he hit a thirty-something wall? Is it (God forbid) a post PED crash?
Right now, I honestly don't care. Others can speculate until they are content. I, however, continue to rue the sad reality that Big Papi is Big Papi no more, or certainly not how we remember. Other players have rebounded from disastrous seasons to productivity before. Hell, I was pretty sure that Andruw Jones was done after posting a terrifyingly tiny 34 OPS+ last season. This year he has posted a .447 OBP... granted, in just 83 PA, but still, it's miles more than Papi has shown this season.
Regardless, I guess this entire post can be summed up as a sad ramble about my favorite former power hitter. Watching him strike out twice and ground out feebly tonight, my memories of his great feats of the past seem paradoxically more distant and yet visible.