WASHINGTON — David Ortiz, manager of the World team in Sunday’s Futures Game, had no problem telling everyone his second-half forecast for the AL East. When asked who will win the division, he showed that he’s retained his Beantown fandom in retirement. “Who do you think?” Ortiz said, smiling.
Ortiz had spent most of the previous 10 minutes gushing about his former team and the difference-making bat of J.D. Martinez, who’s basically taken over the Big Papi role.
Ortiz’s show of loyalty was very different from Alex Rod riguez’s take about the two teams last month, when the Yankees employee and ESPN broadcaster rated the combo of Martinez/Mookie Betts better than Aaron Judge/Giancarlo Stanton. When the Sox were brought up Sunday, Ortiz raised his fist in the air and yelled, “Woooo!”
“I’m telling you, it seems like we were missing that guy,” he said of Martinez. “Personally, I can tell you how much that helps the rest of the lineup because I was part of it. I’m not surprised what he’s doing. I watched him hit in spring training in batting practice. What he’s doing now, I saw that coming.”
He expressed concern about the harmful effect defensive shifts are having on baseball. It was a common weapon deployed against Ortiz, who said hitting is harder now because of the elite pitching and added that the shift is greatly increasing that level of difficulty.
“Well, besides it taking like 500 hits away from me,” Ortiz said. “You look at a player’s batting average. You got [Bryce] Harper, he’s hitting like .220 right now [actually .214].
“You ask that question of yourself, how come this guy is hitting .220? It basically seems like he has 20 guys playing defense against him.
“I think taking away a hit on a play with somebody diving is different than just sitting down and waiting in the rightfield grass. It seems like it’s taking a fun part of the game away.”