Before we begin, let’s make one thing clear — David Ortiz is not just a Boston icon, but a baseball icon. He’s the man who carried the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series in 86 years in 2004 before bringing two more titles to Boston in 2007 and 2013. He’s the greatest designated hitter who ever lived. He’s a charismatic figure and has been a staple in the community since arriving in Boston in 2003.
That being said, he has moments from time to time where the (should be) future Hall of Famer displays personal arrogance, his well-earned ego getting in the way, causing the slugger to cross the line. These moments sometimes fall through the cracks as a result of his great stance in Boston lore.
That arrogance reared its ugly head once again on Wednesday afternoon, when Ortiz objected to an official scorer’s decision in the eighth inning in which Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer was charged with an error on a mishandled ground ball that the 38-year-old reached on. Ortiz believed the play was a hit.
“It was so hard-hit, man,” Ortiz said after the game. “I mean, what else is Mauer to do? He dove for the ball. He knocked it down.”
After Mike Napoli grounded into a double play to end the eighth, Ortiz gestured a thumbs down in the direction of the Fenway Park press box, showing his displeasure toward official scorer Dan Ellis. That move could’ve been handled much better on the side of the DH.
The play was 50-50. One could make a case that the ball was hit hard and exploded on Mauer. But it wasn’t the hardest play a first baseman has had to make. It wasn’t bang-bang, but it wasn’t like it was a web gem, either. There was definitely no reason for Ortiz to lambaste Ellis before a crowd of 35,000-plus.
“It’s not my first rodeo, man. You know how hard it is to get a hit, man?”
‘Not my first rodeo’ meaning that this isn’t the first time Ortiz has acted this way toward an official scorer. There have been multiple run-ins between Ortiz and official scorers, the most notable coming in 2011 when he charged into the press room during a Terry Francona press conference. He was angry over a RBI taken away from him.
It’s not that Ortiz can’t get angry over official scorer’s ruling, but he doesn’t need to make it so public by showing them up.
It’s an occasional situation where Ortiz, a team guy and a clubhouse leader over his 11 years in Boston, has put his personal interests above that of the team’s. Ortiz harped on the subject — angry over losing a hit — after a game in which the Red Sox won, 2-1, on back-to-back home runs (one of which Ortiz hit) in the tenth inning.
One at-bat that at the end of the season is the different between hitting .294 and .295 (or with the way Ortiz has played this season, .254 and .255) versus a win the Red Sox needed as they tread water in the American League pennant race. Had the Red Sox lost that game Wednesday afternoon, they head into a grueling nine-game stretch in which they travel to Oakland, Seattle and New York on the heels of a 4-3 homestand in which they should’ve been 7-0.
We all love Big Papi. He’s one of the most beloved figures in the long, storied history of Boston sports — as he should be, given all he’s done on and off field.
Ortiz has been one of the best hitters in baseball over his 11-and-a-half seasons in Boston. He’s brought three World Series trophies to the city. He brought raised the city back up after it was shook by the 2013 Marathon bombings.
But in the midst of that, he’s had his low moments, like the public bouts with official scorers or the public bouts with management over his contract — carried out once again in the offseason. There was also his appeal of a fine in the aftermath of smashing the dugout phone at Camden Yards last season, essentially refusing to pay for the phone he destroyed.
Wednesday was another example of one of those ‘low moments’.