Reporting Dan Roche
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BOSTON (CBS) – David Ortiz is off to the best start of his long and illustrious career in a Red Sox uniform.
Entering Wednesday play, Ortiz was fifth in the American League in batting average at .325, eighth in home runs with 10, sixth in RBI with 30, and third in .OPS at .995.
However, Ortiz is not happy. Or, it least it appears that way.
David went off Monday night about the topic of leadership when he was asked about a players-only meeting he called a few weeks back when the Sox had hit rock bottom and the clubhouse seemed to be in disarray. Ortiz told ESPNBoston’s and Sports Final regular Gordon Edes he was upset that the front office and media didn’t see him as a leader. (It was actually a Felger & Mazz post right here on CBSBoston.com that set him off)
That was his beef in a nutshell.
I think David is wrong about that. He has always been a leader on this team and — unlike a lot of players — he deeply cares about winning. He’s a guy who has done so much behind-the-scenes to keep a team in line. I remember Terry Francona telling me one day that Ortiz was so upset that he went over to Manny Ramirez’s place after one particular game to beg/scream/yell at Manny to play. Ortiz was desperate to get him back in the line-up because even though Manny was hurting, they were a much better team with him in there.
Now, has David done some things wrong during his time in Boston? Absolutely. The biggest recent example was barging into Terry Francona’s postgame press conference last season upset about not getting an RBI. It came off as selfish and unnecessary.
However, David is not a selfish guy. He’s arguably the most beloved player in all of baseball. It’s been fun heading to numerous All-Star games with Big Papi and watching every player seek him out. And I do mean every player. He’s also loved in his home city. Owners, front office folks, managers, coaches, players, media, and fans like the guy, who has delivered both on and off the field.
But, there are a few out there that don’t like him. And, that’s a good thing.
If Grouchy and Grouchier (or Felger and Mazz) rip him, that’s fine. Keep doing it. If someone in the baseball ops office over at Fenway doesn’t feel like he should be paid $14 million per season and that the DH spot would be better served by multiple guys, great. Keep saying it.
If anyone wants to crush him … feel free. Walk by him and mutter “DH s don’t belong in Cooperstown!”? Go ahead.
You see, Ortiz uses those things as fuel. It’s what makes him a great hitter. He needs to be angry sometimes. He needs to be told he’s not good enough or can’t lead or his skills are eroding.
I’ve had conversations with David about his Minnesota days. He remembers all those who told him he couldn’t, can’t, won’t and so forth. He remembers all the people who gave up on him. He remembers those who quit on him when he got off to sluggish starts in past Aprils (and there were a lot of them). He’ll just keep saying, “I don’t understand why these people are hating on me?”
And now, he’s heard how he needs to be more of a leader and that maybe Dustin Pedroia should be the next Sox captain to replace Jason Varitek. Ortiz feels like he’s done his part as a leader here; he’s called meetings, sought out players, and even spoken up to mangers and front office folks when he’s had to. But, some people want more.
Want more. That’s the problem for some people. No matter what you do, they want more. Writers, talk show hosts, baseball folks, fans … there are some who always want more.
And you know what? That’s OK. Because David Ortiz needs that. Let him use it as inspiration, and don’t hate on him for some comments he makes every now and then.
Now, you can get on his case for these comments, because they weren’t needed. But, remember where they came from. A place that a lot of athletes don’t know much about …