BOSTON (CBS) — David Ortiz arrived at Red Sox camp this week in great spirits. He’s healthy, he’s got a nice contract, and he finally has the lineup protection around him that he’s wanted for quite some time. All in all, things are going swell in the land of Big Papi.
That was … until he was asked about MLB’s new rules.
Then things turned sour.
In case you missed MLB’s announcement of new pace-of-play rules, don’t feel too badly; Ortiz missed them, too. When told that hitters will now be required to keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times, Ortiz asked the media for some more information.
“[Expletive],” he reacted. “It seems like every rule just sort of goes in the pitcher’s favor. So, after the pitch, you’ve got to stay in the box?”
Ortiz was then told that the rule requires one foot to be in the box in order to speed up the game.
“I call that bull [expletive],” he stated. “Bro, when you come out of the box, they don’t understand that when you come out of the box, you’re thinking about what the guy’s trying to do. This is not like, you go to the plate with an empty mind — no, no no. When you see guys pitch, coming out of the box, we’re not doing it just to do it. Our mind is speeding up. I saw one pitch, when I come out, I’m thinking, ‘What’s this guy going to try to do to me next?’ I’m not walking around just because there are cameras all over the place and I want my buddies back home to see me and this and that. It doesn’t go that way.”
The rule change got Ortiz thinking about the difficulties it will pose for hitters, and he pondered what the real goal was.
“When you force a hitter to do that, 70 percent you are out, because you don’t have no time to think,” he said. “And the only time you have to think about things is that time. You know what I’m saying? So I don’t know how this baseball game is going to end up.
“It don’t matter what they do. The game’s not going to speed up,” he added. “That’s the bottom line.”
Ortiz, of course, may be the most deliberate player in all of baseball. After just about every pitch, he does some combination of the following: he steps out of the batter’s box, places his bat on the ground and rests it between his legs, slaps his hands together (sometimes aided with some spittle), adjusts his helmet and/or his elbow pad, then digs back into the box. After the pitch has been delivered, he’s also famous for embarking on some of the longest home-run trots the game has ever seen.
Clearly, Ortiz plays with his own unique style. And it doesn’t seem like he’s going to let a $500 fine change the way he plays.
“Well, I might run out of money. Period. I’m not going to change my game. I don’t care what they say,” Ortiz said. “It’s not like I go around and do all kinds of stupid [expletive], but I gotta take my time to think about what their guy is going to do against me. And I’m pretty sure every single hitter at this level is on the same page. Because they put the rules together, but they don’t talk to us. ‘As a hitter, how do you feel about this?’ You know what I’m saying? Why don’t you come and ask questions first? And then we can get into an agreement.
“But just like, ‘Oh you got to do this just because I say so’? Oh, buddy, it doesn’t work that way. Trust me.”
Ortiz was asked if there are other ways the league can shorten the length of games that wouldn’t involve stepping out of the box.
“Of course! It’s not on us. It seems like every time they want to speed up the game, they focus on the hitters. Have you noticed that?” he said. “How about the pitchers that go around the mound and do all that bull [expletive]? How about that? Why don’t you tell the pitcher, ‘Throw the pitch and stay on the mound, don’t move’? How about that?
“If they’re going to have it on us, they should have it on the pitcher, too. We’re not the only one in the game. Every time they talk about shortening of the time, they talk about the hitters. Nobody else. … I face [pitchers] that I’m like, ‘Come on, man, make a [expletive] pitch.’ Does that count? Nobody talks about that, right? So I don’t think it’s fair. Bottom line.”
Of course, Ortiz said all of this in his normal manner of speaking. He was upset about the rule, but he wasn’t exactly fuming. But it simply wouldn’t be spring training if David Ortiz wasn’t mad about something. Considering he continues to produce well into his late 30s, it’s safe to say that it typically works out for him. Why change now?