POPPING OFF ON PAPI
It appears even Major League Baseball has had it’s fill of David Ortiz’ self coronated role of the “speak for all players” elder statesman.
Last week MLB vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre refused to give “Big Papi” his customary free pass when the Red Sox slugger openly and vocally questioned an official scorers ruling, shouting from the dugout and pointing up to the press box, before verbally abusing the scorer in post game interviews. He was upset about a ruling that Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer had committed an error that allowed Ortiz to reach base on a hard shot down the line. Ortiz felt he should have been given a hit. He appealed the ruling, which is the right of every player, and the call was reversed. Papi got his hit and probably a point on his batting average It was Torre’s reaction, a reprimand of Ortiz, that was interesting. It was the first time Major League Baseball came down critical of the beloved Boston designated hitter, who’s been given one free pass after another throughout his career.
The arguments that his accomplishments as a designated hitter have earned him “bigger than the game” status and the right to say what he pleases when he pleases would hold more water if such treatment of him didn’t date back before his statistics approached hall of fame levels and if larger figures in baseball history had been granted such status. Reporters turned a blind eye to some of Babe Ruth’s off the field antics during his playing career, but his treatment after his playing days were over verged on disrespect. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, the greatest hitter of his era, wasn’t granted “bigger than the game” status when he was banned for life for his part in the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal, even though he was ignorant of what his teammates were doing and statistics and evidence indicate he didn’t do anything to try to throw the World Series with the Cincinnati Reds.
No one should be bigger than the game, but, when Ortiz’ name was leaked from a list of a 111 players who had tested positive for P-E-D use in 2003, Major League Baseball and the players association quickly called a press conference to declare that Ortiz was the wronged party because the tests were intended to be anonymous. Earlier Alex Rodriquez’ name was leaked from the same list. He enjoyed his view of the Ortiz press conference from under the bus.
In the interim Ortiz has been granted a pass for loudly interupting a post game manager’s press conference to complain about a scorers ruling, demanding it be changed, and for using an obsene phrase on national T-V, with a family audience watching. It was characterized more as cute than distasteful and reprinted on T-shirts.
When Papi puts his hitting stats ahead of the outcome of a game Boston fans deflect any talk of selfishness. When Wade Boggs argued over an official scorers ruling charging him with an error, there was no such free pass. Boggs was as protective of his fielding stats as Ortiz is of his hitting stats. He worked hard, taking countless hours of ground balls from Johnny Pesky, to turn himself from a mediocre third baseman into a great third baseman. Ortiz doesn’t have to worry about defense the way Boggs didn’t have to worry about his batting average. Papi doesn’t play defense, Boggs’ average always took care of itself. He was a throwback, a natural hitter. In each case each was just defending the part of his game in which he took the most pride, only the reaction, from Major League Baseball and the fans was different.
Nobody in baseball is bigger than the game. Somebody finally sent that message to David Ortiz. It was overdue.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.