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From a sorry state to many apologies

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / May 15, 2010

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DETROIT — We understand if David Ortiz is mad at everyone.

Mad at the media and mad at all the fans who thought and said he was done. It’s human nature to react that way when you feel you’ve been wronged, when years of outstanding service are suddenly erased by a couple of down seasons, when it seems everyone believes you should be released.

As much as we thought Ortiz might be done, do we now say that Ortiz might be back?

Again, small sample, but his two home runs last night were vintage Ortiz home runs.

They were crushed. One went 450 feet to a walkway in right-center field, tying for the fourth-longest homer at Comerica Park. That was a three-run blow in Boston’s five-run first inning. Then came the solo shot to right field in the fourth — 394 feet, another majestic homer. On both, Ortiz didn’t take exaggerated swings, just easy, strong swings through the ball, letting his power and Max Scherzer’s velocity handle the rest.

Afterward, Ortiz made a very sarcastic remark.

“Those people who know a lot about the game, they think they have everything figured out. It’s not over after April. It’s over after October,’’ he said.

Red Sox fans would gladly eat crow, apologize profusely, call themselves stupid if they knew Ortiz was back all the way. It wasn’t just media and fans who thought Ortiz was on the downside, it was professional evaluators who study swings and bat speed and other aspects to make a determination.

Ortiz has been in this game and with this team for a long time. By now he should understand the passion in Boston. He could play in Kansas City or Pittsburgh and skate through the season without any reaction. The Boston media has been at his locker on the nights he looked so pathetic that you couldn’t help but feel the end was near, and been at his locker on nights like that two-homer game in Baltimore and this two-homer game when everything seemed fine.

Don’t think the subject of Ortiz’s supposed demise didn’t cross the minds of the Sox brass. They’d be lying if they said it didn’t.

What can be said is that manager Terry Francona, who will likely play Ortiz tonight against lefthander Dontrelle Willis, has been very consistent in his approach. He’s defended Ortiz, but he also reduced his playing time and used Mike Lowell against lefties. Then he went back to Ortiz.

He’s been loyal.

That’s because everyone knows for the Sox lineup to be an effective complement to their run-prevention formula, they need someone who can produce runs in a hurry. We saw last night Ortiz can do that. After Dustin Pedroia’s two-run homer in the first, Ortiz came with his towering blast. What a killer for the Tigers.

Ortiz is improving. He ended April hitting .143 and he’s now hitting .213. In May he’s 11 for 33 with five homers and 11 RBIs in nine games. He’s hit safely in all but two games this month.

Ortiz has exhibited a short, sweet swing. Why and how he gets away from this so often, and for such long stretches, is beyond comprehension.

If he wants to lash out at the world that did him wrong, fine. Whatever motivates him.

As much as people might have turned on him, those same people would come back in a heartbeat. He’s always been a big, lovable guy who created some of the biggest moments in Red Sox history. But throughout time, Red Sox fans have shown their passion, good or bad. Ted Williams got booed. Carl Yastrzemski got booed. It doesn’t mean the fans don’t like you. It means you’re not performing to your usual standards and because of it, you’re letting the team down. That leads to losses and bitter feelings.

I wrote recently that the Red Sox lack a superstar who electrifies the fans.

That used to be Ortiz.

When the superstar produces, it builds his teammates’ confidence, allows them to relax. They feel they don’t have to carry the team because the guy who is supposed to is struggling or can’t do it anymore.

A superstar brings swagger. The team knows that at any moment he can change the game.

That’s been missing for so long.

In the days of vintage Ortiz, if the situation called for it, Ortiz would deliver. Not even a second thought.

Now when he delivers it’s a big event. It has to get back to being commonplace. If it does, nobody will have a problem.

Everyone wants Ortiz to succeed because we remember what he used to be like when he was on.

It seems like he wants us to get our apologies ready. It seems he wants egg dripping down our faces.

Fine. There isn’t a Red Sox fan alive who wouldn’t do it to see the old Ortiz.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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