Full disclosure: I’ve never been a big David Ortiz fan. Maybe it says more about me that I’ve never been a big fan of the two biggest legends of the Boston sports scene over the last fifteen years. While Bill Belichick probably had one of his finest moments this week as head coach of the New England Patriots, David Ortiz may have had one of his sorriest moments last night.
With the Red Sox comfortably leading 7-2 in the seventh inning, Ortiz took a 3-0 pitch which appeared to everyone to be high for ball four. Everyone, that is, except home plate umpire Tim Timmons. The next pitch was borderline as well, but was called strike two. Ortiz wound up swinging and missing on the next pitch. Instead of standing on first base with a base on balls, Ortiz made his way to the dugout with an 0-for-1 attached to his name. This didn’t sit too well with Ortiz and he took it out on his bat and the dugout phone.
Ortiz’s postgame comments were reminiscent of an incident with Terry Francona a couple of years ago when Ortiz barged into a press conference and demanded to talk to his manager. The reason: Ortiz was upset at an official scoring which deprived him of an RBI.
Last night, Ortiz was incensed over a strike call which may have lowered his career batting average .0001. Following the game, Ortiz had this to say about himself, “I’m not a bad guy, I’m trying to do my job. You don’t take my at-bat away from me like that.”
Ortiz is a designated hitter. All he has ever been asked to do is hit. He doesn’t get paid to wear a baseball glove. He doesn’t get paid to pitch the baseball. He doesn’t get paid to steal bases. He gets paid to hit. When he sits at the negotiation table with his agent, all he has are his hitting stats in front of him. He admitted as much after the game, “I don’t pitch. I don’t play defense. I hit. You’re not going to take my at-bat away from me. Period.”
Note that there is no mention of the team in any of his quotes. Who cares that the Red Sox were winning comfortably at the time? Who cares that his little temper tantrum could lead to a suspension at a time when the Red Sox have surrendered the American League East lead for the first time since May 27?
Dustin Pedroia, who tried to restrain Ortiz in the dugout, said following the game, “He’s the biggest part of our lineup. We can’t lose David for one game.”
Did Ortiz care that his little temper tantrum sent shards of wooden bat and plastic phone flying in the direction of Dustin Pedroia who was seated inches away? Did I mention that Pedroia just signed a seven-year, $100-million contract extension this week?
Maybe that was a contributing factor for Ortiz being a bit on edge. According to baseball-reference.com, Ortiz’s career earnings to date have been just over $112 million. This is the same Ortiz who has complained and sulked in recent years over Boston’s reluctance to sign him to a big-money, multi-year contract. This is the same Ortiz who has slugged close to 400 home runs and driven in close to 1200 runs as a member of the Red Sox over the last eleven years. You think he was happy for the diminutive Pedroia when he signed his long-term deal– the thing Ortiz has always coveted?
The most troubling quote, for me, to come from Ortiz was this one: “People always focus on when we snap. We’re not snapping every day out there. There’s a reason why we snap.”
I took some grief for writing a column questioning Ortiz’s use of profanity during an on-field ceremony following the Boston Marathon bombings. My point was that what separates sane, rational people from criminals is our ability to restrain ourselves and not to lower ourselves to violence as a form of retaliation.
I may be taking this a step too far, but maybe not. If what Ortiz says is true, then is it OK to “snap” when you find a text message from a stranger on your spouse’s phone? I mean, Ortiz did take a baseball bat and smash it, along with the dugout phone, over a ball four call with his team up 7-2 with two outs and nobody on base in the seventh inning.
Sorry, Big Papi, but it is not OK to snap. It doesn’t matter if, hey, it doesn’t happen every day. “I only hit my wife that one time, but there was a reason for it” doesn’t fly in court.
Ortiz is right about one thing. He gets paid to hit a baseball. So swing the bat. Why is he trying to work a walk against a pitcher with a 7.71 ERA?
Again, it’s rationality and self-restraint that separates us from criminals. What he did was a blemish on the Red Sox and its fans. Like it or not, Ortiz is a role model. The last thing we need is to have Little Leaguers going in the dugout and banging their aluminum bats on fences when calls don’t go their way. We don’t want to send the message that it’s OK to smash your books on the ground if you’re not happy with the grade your teacher gave you.
The message should be this: Try harder, do better, and put your team first.