Pity David Ortiz, Big Poppy of the Boston Red Sox, crowd pleaser, slugger magnificent, and humble star appears welled in a nasty slump that has led to talk and suspicion about steroids.
Ortiz has never admitted steroids or other PEDs. Ortiz's name never showed up on an Internet list of PED buyers. Ortiz has not even incurred the wrath of Jose Canseco.
Because Poppy shows no pop in his bat this year, at age 33 Ortiz is hitting .185. The talk in 2009 is that Poppy came down from steroids.
Of course there is no real evidence Ortiz is suffering steroid withdraw. Does anyone know what a year after steroid withdrawal looks like? We don't. To the Eagle-Tribune:
Five barbers and five customers, all Dominican men, watched intently on the big screen TV in the back of the busy Flow Barber Shop on Lawrence Street.
Flow Barber Show was a place I expected the last bastion of believers.
I was wrong.
From 2003 through 2008, would have brought silence to Flow's.
But only one of the barbers, Cristian Felipe, cared to stop cutting and look up at the TV.
"It's sad, really sad," said Felipe, through an interpreter, shaking his head. "He's always been the best."
So what's wrong?
What's wrong with Ortiz?
There were almost as many theories as there were men at Flow's.
"He might be all done," said barber Christian Flores. "I'm just glad they moved him out of the third spot (in the lineup). He can't hit. And the Red Sox need a great hitter in that spot."
Felipe says Ortiz hasn't looked the same since Manny Ramirez was traded last July.
"People can say Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay are great hitters, and they are, but they're not Manny Ramirez," said Felipe. "Manny was the best protection Ortiz ever had. He's one of the best hitters ever. Ortiz just hasn't seemed the same."
The steroids rumor — could he have been taking them and stopped? — was also tossed out there. That brought an interesting response.
"I wouldn't doubt that for a second," said Tejada. "I honestly believe about 80 percent of the Dominicans that play in the major leagues probably have tried steroids. In our country, they are easy to get. If you have money to pay for them, you can go to a drug store or a doctor and get them.
"Our country has a lot of poor people and we aren't as educated when it comes to steroids and that other stuff. I know people that have taken steroids. It's different here. Maybe he is off them now and maybe that's the problem? You don't see guys drop off the way he did."
Tejada said the pressure of playing for the Red Sox and being one of the most beloved athletes in the Dominican Republic has become too much.
"I was in the D.R. when Manny was traded and people there jumped ship and traded in their Red Sox caps for Dodgers caps," said Tejada. "Ortiz is really the only Dominican left on the Red Sox and the country depends on him. I know he feels that pressure."
Carlos Nunez, who stopped in for a lunch time haircut, said Ortiz needs to be treated like every other player, Dominican or not.
Nunez said, "If you're not going to produce, you're not going to play. And he's not producing. I would bench him. And if he doesn't hit, I'd find someone else."
Other explanations than steroid withdrawal. However, those whisper are not likley to be silenced soon.