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Hartnett: Why The Yankees Should Steer Clear Of David Ortiz

Aging 'Big Papi' Would Clog The Yankees' DH Spot
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(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

I can understand why the New York Yankees, especially the Steinbrenner family are giddy about the possibility of capturing former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.  A power hitter aiming at the short porch in right field of Yankee Stadium sounds like it makes sense on paper and signing Ortiz would generate excitement and fill seats.  It would also be an opportunity to get one over the rival Red Sox and their fans.

For ‘Big Papi,’ the idea of coming to the Bronx makes a lot of sense.  Ortiz spoke candidly about the drama going on in the Boston clubhouse and pretty much made a ‘come and get me’ plea to the Yankees.  He told ESPN, “It’s great (playing from the Yankees) from what I hear. It’s a good situation to be involved in. Who doesn’t want to be involved in a great situation where everything goes the right way?”

Ortiz is already friendly with Alex Rodriguez as the two were reported to have spent time together in past seasons hanging around Washington Heights when the Red Sox visited.  Having Ortiz on board and in pinstripes would help draw a large amount of Dominican fans to Yankee Stadium and Papi’s personality could possibly help A-Rod become more a gregarious member of the Yankees’ clubhouse.

But do the Yankees want to clog up their designated hitter spot?  Brian Cashman has spoke for years about keeping the Yankees’ lineup flexible by not carrying a full-time DH post-Jason Giambi.  Jesus Montero needs to split time between catcher and designated hitter in 2012 to ease himself into a future everyday catcher role.  He isn’t able to catch the majority of games now and there is a split opinion among the Yankees’ brass whether he has the athleticism to ever become a capable major league catcher.

The Yankees lineup is also full of aging players that need a rest from the field from time to time.  Next year, Derek Jeter will turn 38 and Rodriguez will be 37 shortly after the All-Star break.  Both need to spend time at DH to stay fresh throughout the season and even Mark Teixeira could use a break occasionally from first base.

Even if Ortiz agreed to join the Yankees under such circumstances, I couldn’t image him being happy riding the bench and watching his at-bats being given away.  Keep in mind, this is the same guy who interrupted a Terry Francona press conference to complain about a scorer’s decision to rob him of an RBI.  The Boston Globe reported yesterday that Ortiz clashed with Francona over not inserting Alfredo Aceves into Boston’s starting rotation and many of the senior Red Sox players refused to take batting practice on the road.

Ortiz also will turn 36 this off-season and has a history of being linked to performance enhancing drug use.  According to The New York Times, he was one of 100 players who tested positive in the 2003 MLB survey test.  A number of baseball insiders believe that Ortiz is one of many prominent ballplayers who take human growth hormone in place of steroid regimes to avoid detection as the MLB has not come up with a legitimate test for HGH.

Fans around the game became very suspicious of Ortiz in 2009.  After only collecting a single home run in 178 at-bats in April and May, ‘Big Papi’ suddenly broke out and went on a home run tear to end the season with 28 home runs.

Of course, Ortiz is innocent of such belief until proven guilty but there is a concern that his late career power could be coming from an artificial source.  That combined with the fact that Ortiz will be 36 when 2012 begins is enough reason for the Yankees to avoid signing him.

The Yankees would be better off going after a player who can serve as a part-time DH and corner outfielder.  The upcoming free agent outfield class isn’t very strong but Carlos Beltran would be a wiser target.  Beltran can still play corner outfield positions and along with the Yankee veterans could use a rotating DH spot when needed to stay fresh during the season.

A combination of Ortiz’s lack of lineup flexibility, age and controversy should be enough reason for the Yankees to steer clear of ‘Big Papi’ and examine other free agent targets like Beltran or acquire a younger everyday outfielder via trade.

Yankee fans – do you believe that Ortiz and the Yankees would be a fit or are the Bombers better off targeting Beltran or a younger talent? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.

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