"I don't even know why they're bitching about me talking about contracts. Guys putting up my numbers, they're making $25, $30 million. I'm not asking for that. I'm asking for half of it. And they're still bitching about it? [Expletive] them. I'm tired of hearing them talk [expletive] about me when I talk about my contract. Hey, every time I talk about my contract, I earn it, [expletive]. So don't be giving me that [expletive]."
- Ortiz - Boston Herald, Feb. 18, 2014
"This is our [expletive] city."
- Ortiz, Fenway Park, April 20, 2013
It's our [expletive] city but his [expletive] contract.
David Ortiz was at it again, Tuesday, blasting those questioning his wish for a contract extension. His profane outburst reminded us that every time you hear a professional athlete say it's "not about the money," you can feel secure in knowing it's about the money.
Ortiz isn't shy about making it about the money. There's something refreshing about that. His cries of self-pity and being "disrespected" are a bit grating, especially since we heard it last year and the Red Sox relented and gave him exactly what he wanted.
That was a two-year deal, worth $15 million this season.
Whine, lather, repeat.
Ortiz is being paid $15 million to hit this season thanks to an extension he received a year ago that came in the wake of the worst Red Sox season since LBJ was president. This is a literal re-run of the verbal and very public dance he did with the Red Sox a year ago. It's good for this business whenever a player like Ortiz drops an f-bomb in public, especially when it comes over a juicy item like his contract extension and aimed at unnamed critics in media and elsewhere who dislike his wanting the same terms for another year.
There's the "annoyance" factor and the "performance" factor in all this.
First, the "annoyance" factor. It's hard for the Red Sox and their fans not to be distracted by this. And it has the least relevance.
One of the things that endears Ortiz to so many Red Sox players and fans is the fact that he's an emotional, outspoken player. His declaration of Boston's self-determination and reassertion of its independence on that bittersweet Saturday last April was vintage Ortiz.
And the greatest single sports quote in Boston sports history.
Ortiz also gave a speech fit for a king during Game 4 of the World Series in St. Louis, basically telling his teammates, "This is our [expletive] series."
"Any time this guy opens his mouth, you get everyone's attention. It was like 24 kindergarteners looking up at their teacher," said Jonny Gomes after Boston's 4-2 victory that night.
Then there was the poor, unfortunate dugout phone in Baltimore.
Ortiz played the "disrespect card" that night, as well, when referring to home plate umpire Tim Timmons: "I've got 17 years in the league and I don't think I deserve to be disrespected like that. If you want respect from the player, you have to respect the player."
Behind all of this talk about his contract extension, his critics and general disrespect, is the looming threat/promise that Ortiz will play ball elsewhere next season if the Red Sox don't pony up the cash he wants now.
That "threat" is much more legitimate than many think. Ortiz obviously does not feel financially appreciated in Boston. The Yankees would certainly be happy to give Ortiz the $15 million self-affirmation he desires, especially for one season. [See Jacoby Ellsbury, 7-years, $153 million.]
Ortiz, 38, isn't angry nor demanding an extension, according to the Herald, and was reported as being in good spirits upon his arrival in Fort Myers.
Glad he wasn't upset or anything.
There is some real bitterness laced throughout Ortiz's words, though. He says guys who put up his numbers are making $25 or $30 million and they complain, but he's willing to settle for half that and then stop complaining.
What happens if Ortiz comes close to repeating his success of 2013 in 2014 - Will he actually be content with his second extension? And if he struggles or gets hurt this season, will be be offering a refund or a week of silent penance?
Thinking "no" across the board.
That brings us to the "performance" question.
As opposed to the "performance-enhancement" question. We've dealt with that elsewhere and will do again.
The 2013 World Series MVP hit .688 against St. Louis, drilled a grand slam past Torii Hunter's upended torso that reversed the fortunes of the Red Sox against Detroit in the ALCS and hit .309 with 30 home runs and 103 RBI in the regular season.
Ortiz certainly earned his $14 million in 2013. When Ortiz's current deal was consummated a year ago, it was assumed that the money he is being paid for 2014 was more or less a lifetime achievement award from John, Larry, Tom and Ben. Or more specifically Larry, since he "runs the Red Sox."
Ortiz screwed up those plans by having a career year for a now 38-year-old DH, during the season of a lifetime for millions of Red Sox fans.
The Red Sox have 100 percent of the leverage in this situation. In terms of his position, Ortiz is contractually obliged to play this season with no guarantee of anything beyond 2014. He intellectually understands this position. But in his heart, it totally sucks.
The Red Sox have plenty of "rules" when it comes to dealing with players in situations like this. And the Red Sox broke their own rules with Ortiz last year in the wake of their own 18-month calamitous Nuclear Winter. There is no "Patriot Way" in play on Yawkey Way.
The Red Sox took a pass on the offseason this offseason. Duck Boat parades and World Series Cup Trophy tours can take up a lot of time. But Boston's lineup will be stretched without Ellsbury leading off. The offense that scored the most runs in the majors last season may indeed become a concern this year. But Ortiz's presence is already guaranteed [injuries aside] in 2014. The Red Sox decision to add that extension last year turned out to be a very wise one.
Pushing it one more year carries risks.
Asking anyone to spend $15 million because it might be the "right thing to do" is easy, especially when it's not your $15 million. It would certainly be "so good, so good" to think the Red Sox are willing to toss another $15 million Big Papi's way because of the role he played in the team's three World Series Cups since World War I.
That's one expensive tribute.
The Red Sox will have to consider whether or not there's a better use of $15 million in their 2015 salary structure than on a [then] 39-year-old DH. From a pure antiseptic perspective, the answer is "yes." Trying to make that decision now because Ortiz's emotional timetable demands it can't be in the Red Sox best interests.
So we know what should happen: Let Ortiz play out this season and be clear to fans and the media on the fact that the Red Sox have already gone this road with him once. Let him test the free-agency market/Yankees' willingness to spend any amount of money on former Red Sox stars. See what he's worth after this season and offer him just a bit more.
Even with all of Ortiz's f-bombs and other expletives, the Red Sox really can't lose here.
The Red Sox have already gotten parts of three championships out of Ortiz. Letting a player who will enter Cooperstown one day leave town can be a scary proposition, especially for the Red Sox. But he's going to Cooperstown because of what he's done while playing for the Red Sox.
And they've already paid him handsomely for it.
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