David Ortiz could have shrugged it off as nothing, a brain cramp of selfishness that should have diminished after he and Mike Napoli helped snatch a 2-1, 10-inning win from the Minnesota Twins Wednesday, hitting back-to-back solo home runs to seal the dramatics.
And what’s the big deal, really, anyway? The man thought he had a hit in the seventh inning, instead ruled an error on Twins first baseman Joe Mauer. Napoli grounded into a double play to end the frame, and as he walked off the field, Ortiz just gave a few wondering gestures toward the press box, where the official scorer had his “Screw David Ortiz” pen working generously. It’s not like Ortiz stood at first base, in the middle of a 0-0 game, and flipped the bird at Bob Ellis. If I have to ponder the existence of “NESN Clubhouse” in between innings, why can’t Ortiz do a little side work himself? What, like he needs to get his head in the game to spit sunflower seeds as his teammates grab their gloves?
Oh, but the hand-wringing from the baseball media when Ortiz displayed his displeasure at the scorer’s decision late in the game. You might have thought the designated hitter dropped trou and did his business in the batter’s box based on the “tsk, tsk” outcry from the esteemed members of the BBWAA.
Yeah, it was a little stupid and a bit selfish, whining about it when you’re hitting .246 for the season, but it’s not like we haven’t been here before. Ortiz won his appeal to Major League Baseball back in May that awarded him a seventh-inning hit in lieu of the error recorded as Rangers starter Yu Darvish was tossing a perfect game against the Red Sox. I suppose the bigger question is, why the hell is this appeal process even part of the Major League Baseball structure anyway? Just silly.
I’m guessing that Ortiz just might have his agent, Fernando Cuza, file a similar appeal this time. Because while you would think that hitting a dramatic home run in the 10th inning might be enough to get over it, this is David Ortiz we are talking about. As much as New England loves him, there’s a whole lot of truth to David Price’s claim that Ortiz sees himself as “bigger than the game.”
The 10th inning should have shut everybody up, but Ortiz just can’t help himself in these situations, like a Dominican Bill Bixby, swatting home runs one moment, whining about infield scoring decisions the very next.
“We tie the game. We win the game. It doesn’t get any better,” he said. “But I want my hit back anyway.”
That “hit” would improve Ortiz’s batting average this season from .246 heading into Thursday’s game at Oakland, to .250. Not exactly Ted Williams aiming to hit .400. But if it’s that mentality that drives Ortiz to provide moments like he did later in the game, so be it. As long as he eventually shuts up about the scoring decision after the game, right?
“It’s always so hard here, man,” Ortiz said. “I tell you – people are supposed to have your back at home. It never happens. It’s always like that. I’ve been here more than a decade and the scorekeepers here are always horrible. This is home, man. What do you want Mauer to do? He dove for the ball – he knocked it down. I always look like I am the bad guy but they always end up changing it. Don’t just be checking on Papi. Check on the scorekeeper. See what he’s doing wrong. It’s something that … it’s getting out of control.
“What is he watching?,” Ortiz said. “He’s not watching the same ballgame that everybody is watching, I guess. I got to make it clear. It’s not my first rodeo, man. You know how hard it is to get a hit, man?”
Isn’t that more of a question for Jackie Bradley, Jr.?
Red Sox manager John Farrell, of course, defended Ortiz, just as former skipper Terry Francona did in 2011, making up some story or another about why Ortiz burst into a press conference, angry about an overturned scoring decision that denied him an RBI. What’s the difference in the grand scheme? Ortiz has his money and three rings. He has adoration and a plaque at Fenway Park. He’ll go down as one of the best left-handed hitters to ever play in Boston.
But the way he’s wired, you almost have to wonder if he’s more apt to one day remember that June afternoon when he should have gotten that hit as opposed to the accolades. We all use spite and comeuppance as sources of motivation. If Ortiz used Bob Ellis as his in the 10th inning, does anybody really have a problem with that?
But if anybody needs a filter in moments like these, it’s Ortiz, who feeds right into the Keepers of the Game with his inability to let go of even the most menial aspect between the lines. Hit? Error? Besides Ortiz, nobody, absolutely nobody, cares. The Red Sox will appeal the situation on Ortiz’s behalf anyway, because that is what they do; whatever their star slugger demands.
Then again, Ortiz showed exactly why they do with one, extra-inning swing on a hazy Wednesday afternoon.