BOSTON (CBS) – David Ortiz is one of the most approachable athletes I’ve ever dealt with while covering the Boston sports scene over the past 30 years. He’s easy to converse with and is a kind-hearted guy.
All of that is what makes him “Big Papi.”
However, because of that, perhaps he is too easy of a target sometimes.
You can ask Ortiz pretty much anything about his team, his hitting, his slumping, and even his personal life. I’ve had many conversations over the years where we’ve just talked about anything and everything; from the NBA playoffs to kids to coaches, all the way down the line. Many times, we’ve had a conversation and we’ll stumble into what I think is an interesting topic that the fans may want to hear about, so I end up asking him to go on-camera about it.
And nearly every time, Ortiz will oblige.
But that is the very thing that I think that got him into trouble this week.
My media colleague Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe recently wrote a column based on a conversation he had with Ortiz about David’s hot start at the plate. But what it centered around performance enhancing drugs. Here’s an exchange from the article:
Did he hear the fans in Toronto chanting, “Steroids!’’?
“No, not really,” said Ortiz. “Why?’’
Because what you are doing looks too good to be true.
“They test me all the time,” he said. “They make you pee and they test your blood, too. This year I would say I’ve probably been tested five times, peeing. Blood, just once. That was in spring training. They don’t warn you. They just show up.’’
What it is like to be suspected?
“I don’t think I have been,” he said. “Nobody comes to me and tells me, ‘They suspect you are using steroids.’ ’’
But you fit all the models. You are from the Dominican Republic. You are an older player. Older players don’t get better. You’ve had injuries consistent with steroid use. You showed up on the list from 2003. You fit all the formulas.
“[Expletive], I’m a human being just like everyone else,” said Ortiz. “You can get worse or you can get better. One or the other.’’
I understand and respect what Dan has done over his career. He’s very good at stirring the pot and getting a reaction, but this one I file under entrapment.
Simply put, Dan crossed a line.
Ortiz was probably doing his usual thing in the locker room when approached by Dan. Like he always does, Ortiz gave him honest answers when asked.
But make no mistake, the topic blindsided him.
After all, David has just overcome an Achilles injury and was crushing the ball upon his return to the tune of .426 batting average, .458 on-base percentage, .815 slugging percentage, and a 1.273 OPS.
Read: Ortiz Hurt Over PED Talk
When Dan started firing these questions at him, Ortiz probably thought, at first, that Dan was joking with him or thinking he was looking for a quick comment about the Jays fans and their chanting. However, Dan kept going and going, to the point where Ortiz was clearly ticked off.
Now, you can argue that given David’s age (37) and history that you could broach the subject, and David would give you some type of answer. But that’s it. This one kept going.
And it wasn’t fair to Ortiz.
Would Dan walk into the Patriots locker room and ask Wes Welker these questions after the receiver returned much earlier than anyone expected after badly tearing up his knee in Week 17 in 2009, and continued to put up huge receiving numbers in 2010, 2011, and 2012?
You could ask guys other guys on the Red Sox these questions. Mike Napoli has such a bad hip that the Red Sox switched in midstream from a long-term deal to a one year contract with incentives. Why not approach Mariano Rivera, who’s as good as ever with the Yankees after ripping up his knee last year?
Ortiz defended himself well by saying he’s been tested “probably five times” by MLB, and we haven’t seen any positive results. End of story, right?
Nope. Dan kept going. But if you know David, you know he’s too nice to tell someone to go away.
Since the column came out, David has had to defend himself by doing various other interviews. Honestly, it’s a waste of his time. He shouldn’t have to — he should be focusing on what he does best: hitting.
You knew he may say something that won’t come out right or is taken the wrong way by the fans; it was bound to happen and now this is all his fault. If he slumps, it’s all on him.
The story has also gone national, no doubt becoming a distraction for him — and perhaps his teammates.
I feel bad for David Ortiz. I wouldn’t blame him if he doesn’t talk to the media again.
You did a good job Dan; you got everyone talking about and reading your story.
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ.