David Ortiz Is Every Bit as Bad Now as He Used to be Good

It’s so weird to see such a prominent slugger like David Ortiz go from having it to not having it so quickly. It’s one thing for a guy to be a flash in the pan — an All-Star one year and nothing the next. It’s even understandable to see someone have a few peak years and then just drop off after that — it happens. But for a guy who was easily the best clutch hitter in the game for a good five year stretch to just all-of-a-sudden lose it as much as he has is terrifyingly maddening. Big Papi was baller-status, three straight 40+ home run seasons, five straight 100+ RBI seasons, and three years in a row with an OPS over 1.000. Guys who can dominate the game as well as he did, being one of the top-five hitters in the game, don’t just come to a point where they can’t hit anymore the way he has.

I often laughed at critics who asked what was wrong with players if they slumped for three or four weeks to start the season — it’s baseball, a game of averages — things will even out, I always thought. But for David Ortiz, it’s hard to think that he’ll be able to turn it around and go back to being Big Papi. Those days are long gone. The guy’s 33 and looking at his second sub-par year in a row. A month and a half of at-bats is a good sample size. No home runs, especially for a lefty at Fenway Park, is just embarrassing for a guy who once hit 54. Going 0-for-7 against the Angels in a 12-inning game with 12 men left on is easily the low point for him. The Red Sox really have no choice but for him to take the weekend off and hopefully get his head straight. Dodger fans went through this maddening process last year with Andruw Jones, but Andruw wasn’t on top of the baseball world as a hitter to the extent Ortiz was.

Whatever it is that David Ortiz doesn’t have any more has certainly sapped his confidence. He’s no longer the same guy and now that’s killing him mentally. Maybe he can be a decent or good player, but the days of him being Big Papi are over. How did this happen so quickly?

LeBron James’ All-Time Dream Team

Ordinarily an issue like this wouldn’t even matter, but since it’s LeBron James, a highly respected player who will likely go down as one of the greats, the subject becomes interesting. Who does LeBron regard as the best players of all-time? Who would he want on his all-time dream team? He answered the question with Dan Patrick:

    PG: Magic Johnson
    SG: Michael Jordan
    SF: LeBron James
    PF: Kevin Garnett
    C: Shaquille O’Neal (LeBron almost went Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
    Coach: James Naismith (we can’t lose with the guy who invented the game)

Think that will add any fuel to Kobe’s fire should the two meet in the finals? I guess that’s getting ahead of myself but we all know Kobe wants to outdo anyone he can, MJ included. I’m pretty stunned that LeBron went as modern as he did considering his knowledge of the league’s history. Russell, Wilt, and Kareem all seemed like better answers than Shaq. And I was really surprised to see KG’s name up there. Maybe he just has tremendous respect for Garnett because the two clashed in a seven game series last year. Just think, prior to last year, KG’s name never would have been on that list!

Rafer Alston Sure Likes Kissing Guys

The NBA point guard formerly known as Skip to My Lou may have to change the first word to match the name of a popular 70s rock band. For some reason, When Magic guard Rafer Alston wants to thank someone on the court, he doesn’t high five or chest bump. Oh no. Rafer (reefer?) has some sort of lip fascination that makes him want to kiss everyone. Check out his reaction to a traveling call late in Game 6 against the Celtics on Thursday night:

As the intrepid You Been Blinded points out, that’s not the first time Rafer Alston’s kissed a man on the court. The dude’s also had smooching sessions with former Houston teammates Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes. Keep it in the locker room, Rafer.

Houston Student Angel Mata Sent Home from School for Ron Artest Haircut

Well Angel Mata’s first mistake is cutting his hair like Ron Artest. The ‘do maybe was “hot” the first time around but now it’s getting a little out of hand because the fade is going too high on the sides. Anyway, when Charles Barkley says athletes aren’t role models, he might want to look at this story and think again. Where else would the kid get the idea from?

Angel Mata had the Houston Rockets logo shaved into his hair just like Rockets forward Ron Artest. But the haircut violates school policy and Angel has been told he can’t come back until the design is gone.

Angel’s father, Mike, said he is going to let his son keep the design until the Rockets are through playing. The Los Angeles Lakers have a 3-2 series lead in the NBA’s Western Conference semifinals.

Artest said he appreciated the support but wanted the kid to follow the school’s rules (which prevent designs in hair). While that’s the proper response I would expect to hear, to think that there’s a parent out there who would prefer to break the school’s rules and keep his kid from being in class is ridiculous. Even Ron freakin Artest knows better, and when he’s giving a good lesson in parenting, you know something’s wrong.

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle

Who Wore the Red Jacket and Bowtie Better? Aaron Brooks or Kenny Smith?

Rockets guard Aaron Brooks sported the valet look following Sunday’s game against the Lakers. Brooks claims he was tricked into wearing it by one of his teammates who said that it was the mandatory attire for the day. Brooks on his own decided to go all-out by adding the bowtie. Then he went out and had a career-high 34 points against the Lakers and had to meet the national media wearing that ridiculous outfit. A few nights later, it was Kenny Smith on TNT’s Inside the NBA sporting the look. I’d have to give the nod to Brooks since his bowtie was a matching shade of red. “A” for effort to Kenny though.

Thanks to The Sports Hernia for the Brooks photo.

Cheap Pirates Benching Freddy Sanchez Because they Don’t Want to Pay Bonus?

Stop me if you’ve heard something like that before. It’s pretty well known that the Pirates are one of the more frugal teams in baseball. They haven’t had a winning season since the days Barry Bonds’ waist was wider than his head and they’re perpetually in rebuilding mode. They do have a few good ballplayers on the team, second baseman Freddy Sanchez, a former batting champ, being one of them. Sanchez is hitting .323 with a league-leading 14 doubles and he’s been Pittsburgh’s best hitter this year. Given that information, you would figure the team would keep his bat in the lineup on a daily basis — you know, if you’re trying to win and all. Apparently that’s not the top priority for the Pirates who held him out of the lineup twice in the past week.

The Pirates did not bench second baseman Freddy Sanchez twice last week to hold down his plate appearances and keep him from triggering an $8.5 million vesting option for 2010, team president Frank Coonelly said last night.

“I am very surprised and, quite frankly, offended that anyone would suggest that, in the middle of our worst slump in his tenure as a major league manager, John Russell would do anything other than put out the lineup he believes gives us the best chance to win the most baseball games,” Coonelly said, referring to the eight-game losing streak the Pirates carried into last night. “A player’s contractual clause has no bearing on J.R.’s lineup or player usage.”

Sanchez needs 635 plate appearances or 600 plate appearances if he makes the All-Star team to guarantee the option year. The two days he sat in the past week were against right-handed pitchers Todd Wellemeyer and Livan Hernandez — none of whom would put the fear of god in you. When I went back and thought about this story again, I realized that Freddy’s played his entire career in Pittsburgh. It clicked with me that he must be telling them to bench him so he’s not forced to play for the Pirates next year. That has to be it!

Dwight Howard Rips Stan Van Gundy for Not Getting Him the Ball

There’s been a lot said lately about Stan Van Gundy buckling under pressure. Quoting Shaq on his former coach in Miami: “I know for a fact he’s a master of panic and when it gets time for his team to go into the postseason and do certain things, he will let them down because of his panic. I’ve been there before. I’ve played for him.” Combine that with current Magic center Marcin Gortat’s comments to a Polish newspaper: “The nature of our coach, he panics very often during games. He’s got some behavior which is not good for us. With his gestures he makes us nervous on the floor.” And anyone who’s heard Stan Van miked up during a national TV game knows what they say is true — the pitch in the guy’s voice because more squeaky and unnerving, making even the listener panic. Well, to pile on, now it’s Magic center Dwight Howard calling out the coaching following Orlando’s loss to Boston in Game 5 of the playoffs Tuesday night. Upset he only got 10 shots in the game and only two in the fourth quarter, Howard had this to say:

“I don’t think you are going to win a lot of games when your post player only gets 10 shots. It’s tough to get yourself going and get a lot of shots without a lot of touches. We have to do a better job with that. The coaches have to recognize what’s working on the floor. Stick to it. Even if it’s half your starters on the floor. Not just the guys you have put the most trust in. You have to have trust in everybody,” Howard said.

“We moved the ball, we ran, got easy shots, and our coach has to recognize when he was a certain group out there and they are getting the job done and we have to leave those guys on the floor. We are going to make mistakes, but I think you have to go with what works.

I bet half of this is out of anger that the team blew another big second half lead especially after they blew Game 4 at home. The other half I’m guessing stems from Dwight questioning actual tactical moves. If they go on to lose this series, which judging by these comments seems like a certainty, I would expect to see a new coach in Orlando next season.