What Big Papi is Doing is Unprecedented, even in the PED Era


David Ortiz homered again last night. I was at the game, as I had to be. Opportunities to celebrate my two favorite cities and sports teams on the same day and place are too rare.

He homered off Jake Peavy so there should be an asterisk next to this one. But they showed a highlight of him homering off a 2010 Tim Lincecum, so that’s legit.

Papi is 40 years old. In 85 games this year, he has 23 homers, 75 rbis, and 34 doubles with an unprecedented OPS. Extend that over a whole season, and we are looking at 40+ homers, 60+ doubles, and around 130 rbis.

Comparing to the pre ‘roid era: Willie Mays had mostly career lows–18 homers, 61 rbis. Hank Aaron, who had 40 homers at age 39, had only half that the following year. The best I could find (with a cursory glance at the google) was Dave Winfield had a pretty good year; and Ricky Henderson stole 37 bases.

How about in the PED era (should Ricky Henderson be here?): Barry Bonds was hurt during his 40th year. At the age of 39, he hit 45 homers and hit .362. He never recovered entirely after the injury, especially as the witch hunt drove him out of baseball. Steve Finley is one of the most ridiculous examples of the era, hitting a career high 36 homers at the age of 39.

So, what’s going on with Big Papi? On the one hand, is he really dumb enough to ruin his whole legacy with a roid year at the end of his career? He miraculously survived at least one example of him cheating with seemingly no impact. Why’d he risk it again? And exercise and supplements are way better now. Did Hank Aaron even exercise besides an occasional slow trot around the bases? Papi looks great, in as good a shape as ever. He has an amazing approach at the plate, as good as anything I’ve seen since Barry Bonds. Neither of them ever get fooled on pitches, both have perfect balance, and incredibly quick swings.

Is there an, ‘on the other hand?’ Obviously! He’s way too good! He hasn’t had a year nearly this good since he was 30! And maybe that’d even explain why he won’t play again next year–he knows he’s on borrowed time before they find out about some Dominican doctor’s latest undetectable witches brew.

I’ve got no insights here. I’ve always thought most of these guys cheat, just like most of America and the world cheats. And it’s always been fascinating to me, among those who get caught, who gets scorned and who gets no more than a ‘meh’. How are we supposed to explain all the Trump bros who think their guy (whose whole life is predicated on lying, cheating, and stealing) is a hero while Hillary Clinton is the devil?

David Ortiz has the charm and legendary clutch-ness to have allowed him to so far avoid too much scrutiny. He’s been the face of Boston for more than a decade, maybe the most popular sports figure there since…Larry Bird? There are reasons we should believe him, and I’m going to choose to do so.


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