David Ortiz can never just make it easy, can he?
Seriously, what are we doing here? Why are we even discussing the ramifications of the Red Sox extending Ortiz, one year after the slugger whined his way into a two-year deal?
No Boston athlete put this city on his shoulders and carried it more than Ortiz in 2013, particularly in the wake of the Marathon bombings. All the angst and eye-rolling that resulted from Ortiz’s contract demands last winter, in the wake of a season in which Bobby Valentine claimed the designated hitter quit on the team, evaporated in the instant Ortiz cradled the microphone at Fenway and let the FCC know exactly whose &%$#@*& city this is. After three World Series titles, Ortiz’s connection and love affair with the fans and the Hub was no more evident than it was on parade day, when he jaunted down Boylston Street in a victory lap more poignant than any other championship celebration has witnessed.
Now, we’re here again? Do we have to be?
Oh, I’m sure there are those out there waving the foam finger who are just fine with the Red Sox giving Ortiz whatever he wants for perpetuity simply because he’s a Red Sox legend. But this is really getting tiresome.
Ortiz pushed this year’s edition of “All About Papi” to another level on Sunday, when he (and his little dog too) told WBZ’s Sports Final that if Boston doesn’t offer him (another) long-term deal that it may be “time to move on.”
“I always keep on telling people, this is a business. Sometimes you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family,” Ortiz said. “As long as they keep offering me a job and I keep doing what I’m supposed to do and the relationship keeps on building up, I’m going to be there. Hopefully, I won’t have to go and wear another uniform.”
Silly us for thinking that Ortiz “got it” in a town that idolizes him, a fan base that has willingly turned a blind eye to any whispers of his dabbling in performance-enhancing drugs. Last year, Ortiz proved he was part of the fabric of Boston, an integral member of the local sports landscape due to make $15 million in the final year of his contract. Ortiz will be 39 when he’s up for a new deal. Exactly how many DHs are there making that kind of coin as he hurtles toward 40?
Last offseason, the Red Sox were coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history, so Ortiz had Ben Cherington over a net, so to say. There’s nothing the general manager would have wanted less than having his star slugger pout his way through the season as the team attempted to restore respectability. This time around? Please. Tell Ortiz to earn his $15 million, and if he hits, go and see what kind of deal he can get on the open market. Roll the same money over into 2015, if he wants it. There’s little to no chance he’ll get a similar offer from someone else. He knows it. He knows the Red Sox know it. And so, we have this public charade in the media so that Ortiz won’t be squeezed into a corner when it comes time to negotiate again.
“If I have to [leave], I’ve got no choice,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to quit. As long as I keep hitting the ball the way I have, I’ve got to keep on giving it a try.”
With that, Ortiz explains exactly why the Red Sox would be daft to give him an extension during spring training. “As long as I keep hitting the ball…” There’s no guarantee Ortiz is going to have the sort of season he had in 2013, just as there’s no certainty that he won’t start out the season in the sort of drastic slump that had some clamoring for his release. Cherington and the Sox took a leap and showed good faith in Ortiz last year. Why should they have to make it an annual occurrence?
If Ortiz proves himself in 2014, he’ll get another deal; that much is certain, just as much as it is that it will be with the Red Sox. This marriage won’t end until it’s time to hang them up, whether it’s Ortiz or the Red Sox who ultimately decide when that time is. If Ortiz struggles this season, nobody else is going to give a slugger at his age the kind of deal he thinks he deserves. The Red Sox, well, they might. He has a plaque after all, one of the many that adorn Fenway Park, home to the most in baseball (probably).
But he won’t get one before this season. Cherington holds all the cards in that regard.
After all, this may be his &^%$#* city, but the message from the Red Sox this time should be clear.
Shut the &%$# up and hit.