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David Ortiz doesn’t give a [expletive] about what you think makes a leader

May 22, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

David Ortiz AP

David Ortiz has, what I think anyway, is some righteous anger. It came out last night after the Sox beat the Orioles, and it came in response to reports that he called a closed-door meeting a couple of weeks ago in which the hitters yelled at the pitchers.

Since that meeting, by the way, the Sox have won 9 of 11 and the starting pitcher has been back on point.  Which, if you’re into these sorts of stories, makes David Ortiz look a hell of a lot like a team leader.  And, while he has done nothing to proclaim himself a leader  publicly — indeed, he was irked that the story of the team meeting leaked out  — Ortiz bristled at the Boston media’s notion of what a leader looks like. From Gordon Edes’ article:

“Well, let me tell you, I was reading an article [that] talked about the leaders people call ‘leaders’ in this town,” he said. “Basically, it seems like no matter what you do, it’s not good enough. And you can only call leaders the guys who are out diving for balls on the field or calling pitches behind the plate?” …

… “No. 1, I don’t agree with that,” Ortiz said. “And No. 2, what I do I don’t do for people to know. I do it for my teammates, to get to know things better. I don’t give a [expletive] about anybody knowing what we talk about, No. 1. And No. 2, I don’t give a [expletive] what they call leaders …

He went on to say “I don’t get no respect.” Which, while if it was said in an isolated way, could come off petty or self-centered.  But I think in context with all of this other stuff, he has a pretty good point.

Our ideas about leadership in sports are kinda screwy. When things go well for a ballclub, we look at certain people and call them leaders. When they go poorly, we rarely blame them for their lack of leadership. A couple of writers asked where Jason Varitek was when it was allegedly all going to hell for the Sox last September, but it was certainly a minority view. For the most part, guys who are cast as captains are only talked about in those terms when things go well. When things go poorly it’s because of screwups like Josh Beckett.

And, as Ortiz may or may not have intended to imply, it’s funny how the people we call leaders on ballclubs tend to fit a certain type. Everyday position players who, coincidentally or not, are often scrappy or fiery players. And, coincidentally or not, are usually white dudes. Why couldn’t David Ortiz be a leader? Why must someone like Dustin Pedroia be assumed to be? Why must it be a vocal person as opposed to someone who leads by example or behind the scenes? Why must it be one person? I often get the sense that we writers unconsciously project leadership on people who have traits that we understand or share ourmselves because it makes something amorphous and complicated a lot more understandable to us.

Anyway, I’m not saying that Ortiz is a great leader. I have no idea what he does along those lines. Maybe he had a good moment with that team meeting and the rest of the time he’s like everyone else.  Maybe the Sox’ good play of late is a total coincidence (if the Sox played poorly for the past week, would the narrative be “Ortiz sows dissension in the clubhouse?”).

But I can certainly see how he or other players could get a bit rankled when it comes to the leadership talk we like so much in the media.

(Thanks to reader Big Leagues for the heads up)

  1. Kevin Gillman - May 22, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    When things go right, Ortiz has a big smile on his face, and they call him Papi. That is when he gets endorsement deals, but when things start to go bad, he botches about strike three calls, and are surly towards the media. Is that what a “leader” supposed to do?

    • paperlions - May 22, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      First, he always bitches about called 3rd strikes.

      Second, the biggest thing that changes between Boston winning and losing is the tone of the stories and questions asked by the Boston media….anyone would get surly when confronted with the Boston media when things aren’t going well.

      • Kevin Gillman - May 22, 2012 at 11:34 AM

        Actually, he can take control of the media just by being himself. If he has to then avoid the questions, but do it in a charismatic “papi” way, but please do not defend him on thrid called strikes. It’s like he’s telling the umpire “How dare you ring me up, don’t you know who I am? I am Big Papi, dammit”. And it’s not just with a questionable third strike, it’s every single third strike call.

      • bigleagues - May 22, 2012 at 11:55 AM

        paperlions: WERD!

      • paperlions - May 22, 2012 at 1:11 PM

        Obviously, you are not familiar with the Boston media. You can not take control of that beast. You can’t win with them. If the Redsox are losing and a player is surly…then he’s being surly (as if that is bad)….if they are losing and the player is NOT surly…then he doesn’t care enough.

        All media outlets have the ability to generate and support whichever preconceived narratives they fancy…but the Boston sports media has made this into an art form.

      • bigleagues - May 23, 2012 at 12:06 AM


        You, sir, are a thinking persons, thinking person.

        I’m officially a fan. Carry on.

    • drewsylvania - May 22, 2012 at 11:20 AM

      The media are dicks. #notnews

  2. danteshepherd - May 22, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    There were reports after the 2007 ALCS, after the Red Sox went down 3 games to 1, that Ortiz was the guy who rallied the team, gave the big speech about coming back, and so on. There’s probably other examples out there – either of him being a leader in the clubhouse or him upsetting the team, whatever the case may be – but that’s a quick one that comes to mind.

    • gonzowulf - May 23, 2012 at 8:53 AM

      To paraphrase his speech at the 2007 ALCS: “What’s everybody so down about…you know what? You play for the #$@#$ Boston Red Sox”.

      This is Papi’s contract year. He knows he’s halfway to geriatric in baseball terms and the Sox don’t give long-term contracts to players over 30. He wants to go out with a bang and he slimmed down 20 pounds to get that bat speed back up. Somebody is going to want him bad and he’s putting the world on notice that somebody is gonna pay. Good for him. Sox got him for 6 years cheap considering his numerous accomplishments.

      I for one wouldn’t mind seeing a “C” on the front of his uniform.

      ‘Nuff Said.

    • 18thstreet - May 23, 2012 at 12:16 PM

      I have a hard time imagining how players get motivated by these meetings. I suppose it happens; it’s just hard to believe.

  3. drunkenhooliganism - May 22, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    I never knew how pathetic Josh Beckett was until I got to see his hustle on sunday. It wasn’t that he wasn’t running (he hit a ball off the wall for a single, then got thrown out by thirty feet at second on a ground ball that any other major leaguer would have beaten. Never backer up any base. didn’t cover home on a passed ball.) But he wasn’t even jogging. It was a fake jog that’s slower than a walk. It was offensive. I get why Boston hates him.

    Maybe Ortiz can do some leadery things and get Beckett to half-ass a hustle. It cost them at least a run on sunday.

    • bbil2012 - May 22, 2012 at 11:01 AM

      When Beckett’s fly ball hit the top of the wall Sunday I guarantee you everybody in the Red Sox dugout felt oh,shit,now he has to run the bases! When he finally got to first he was told ” okay,you made it here,don’t run anymore.” He acts like a prima dona and he’s treated like one.

      • drunkenhooliganism - May 22, 2012 at 11:07 AM

        Yeah. It almost cost them the game.

        I got my facts wrong on the ground ball out though. Aviles grounded out in what would probably have just been a force out, but because Beckett showed no interest in running, the Phillies took the out at first, and then the first basemen (mayberry maybe) just jogged over to Beckett and tug him out.

        I watched Steve Carlton not hustle for years, but the difference was that 1. He was Steve @#$$ing Carlton and 2. He at least did a brisk jog. Also, 1. he knew the moment and would have been on second on a ball hit off the center field wall in a close game and 2. He was Steve @#$%ing Carlton.

      • bigleagues - May 22, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        Beckett is Boston’s very own “fat pussy toad”. Although he looks more like a chipmunk . . . “fat pussy chipmunk” . . . yeah that’s the ticket!

        “Sloth” is another word that comes to mind.

        The thing that sucks is Beckett can hit, but you’d think he would have realized by now that weebles aren’t very good at running.

    • mornelithe - May 22, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      Most of what you say is true, however, the one shining moment for Beckett (other than his pitching) was the defensive play he made behind the plate. A Pop-up that the catcher couldn’t spot because it was directly in the sunlight, and Beckett ran from the mound to slightly behind home plate and made the play, in between the catcher and 3rd baseman. I was surprised, hadn’t seen him move that quickly in a long time.

    • skeleteeth - May 22, 2012 at 12:36 PM

      Something happened with him when he caught that pop-up next to home plate or running the bases, which prompted the training staff and Bobby V to come out for a couple mins when he was on the mound the next half inning. Given how things had gone the last couple weeks, I think it was better he put his money where his mouth is on the mound versus trying to leg out a double or make it an actual run-down, especially if he had tweaked something.

      • drunkenhooliganism - May 22, 2012 at 1:26 PM

        It wasn’t the pop-up that caused the trainers to check him out (unless the trainers came out twice and I wasn’t at my seat the first time). It was definitely after he hit the 420 foot single. Looking at the play by play, I think it was the ground ball by mayberry in the 7th.

      • drunkenhooliganism - May 22, 2012 at 1:27 PM

        The ground ball was hit by Wiggington, not Mayberry.

        @#$@!$@%!% %$@#$%@#ing @#$@$#$er edit function

  4. proudlycanadian - May 22, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    The Boston pitching staff deserved to be called out. The hitters had performed well despite the number of players on the DL.

  5. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 22, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    … ”No. 1, ….No. 2,… ”No. 1, ….No. 2,… ”No. 1, ….No. 2,

    Wadsworth: One plus two plus two plus one.
    Miss Scarlet: Uh-uh, there was only one shot that got the chandelier. That’s one plus two plus *one* plus one.
    Wadsworth: Even if you were right, that would be one plus one plus two plus one, not one plus *two* plus one plus one.

    Sorry, only thing I could think about while reading that quote.

    • DJ MC - May 22, 2012 at 3:13 PM

      Anytime you can mix baseball and “Clue”, it is a great day.

    • foreverchipper10 - May 22, 2012 at 4:04 PM


  6. bigleagues - May 22, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    John Tomase of the Boston Herald had a few further details on this story (which, to his credit, originated with (cough, hack) Ken Rosenthal breaking the story on Sunday of a players only meeting which purportedly occurred before the May 11th game – and the day after Beckett’s abysmal post-golf Start).

    Boston media, amazingly, didn’t really pick up on it until yesterday. And now the Ortiz reaction from last night is drawing attention.

    Anyway Tomase noted that Ortiz can remember calling about 3 meetings in his time in Boston with the last one occurring after Game 4 of the 2007 ALCS – you know the rest – the Sox won their next 7 games en route to their second World Series championship in 4 years.

    Ortiz also noted that no player enjoys calling these sorts of meetings because its never pleasant, and whoever calls the meeting has to be careful to not point fingers, but rather to build team unity through accountability.

    Anyway, the Sox are 9-2 since “The Meeting”. This is the Sox Starting Pitching since:

    8-2, 3.13 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 69 IP, 65 H, 24 ER, 47 K, 28 BB

    Buchholz Start last night was the worst of any start during this stretch and resulted in a No Decision. His 5 1/3 IP and 5 ER’s dragged down the 2.68 ERA they had going into last night’s game.

  7. Jonny 5 - May 22, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    I love all the “we” talk in regards to whom “we” pick as leaders when it’s really media members hanging the tag on players. And Media members pissing off Ortiz with their articles and questions on leadership. The Fans, the “we” mentioned only want their team to win, they don’t pick who the “leaders” are. The media presses for this narrative to find a Player/leader not the fans.

    • anythingbutyanks - May 22, 2012 at 11:29 AM

      You can’t honestly blame the media and not the fans- media content is consumer driven. What gets read gets written, not vice versa; so at the end of the day most of the blame does fall on the fans.

      • Jonny 5 - May 22, 2012 at 12:28 PM

        That’s just ridiculous.

      • bigleagues - May 23, 2012 at 12:34 AM


        Have you noticed yet that every sports media outlet in Boston attempts to offer every conceivable opinion or ‘take’ on a particular topic or event?

        They do that in hopes that you land on their website or station and stay there. “The Big Show” did this very effectively for a long time. Eventually it turned into one big blustersuck.

        Well that’s precisely what has happened to the entire Boston sports media market. One big blustersuck. There is so much competition, so many jobs on the line . . . that pundits are scrambling for unexplored discussion topics.

        How often have you heard a host or read a columnist who will hypothesize a scenario, then go on to discuss it with a co-host or callers as if it’s reality? EVERY DAY! People tune in, tune out. They may hear a few snippets of the hypothetical discussion and suddenly believe something that never happened.

        That has absolutely nothing to do with being ‘fan’ driven.

        Far too many media consumers buy into the notion that they collectively control the marketplace. You don’t. The reality of the mass media consumer marketplace is that you exist to be captured and controlled. No one likes to admit that. But you can’t begin to think independently about anything until you can honestly admit that to yourself. Commercials are written to manipulate. Web, TV and radio content is crafted to bait you into hanging around to be manipulated.

        Commercials are written to make you believe that you are making your own decisions. And in some cases, you probably genuinely do make your own decisions. But make no mistake there is science to writing ad copy and manipulating readers, listeners and viewers into taking an action on a product or service.

        This really is no different than what is occurring with Boston sports media. They produce content crafted to cause a reaction within their audience. If media outlets offered only one perspective on an event or topic, then a sizeable segment of people would like tune out or look elsewhere for someone voicing their opinion. Its human nature.

        Thus each outlet in Boston attempts to be everything to everyone and the result, ironically, is that we end up with a less informed, yet more opinionated fanbase.

      • anythingbutyanks - May 23, 2012 at 3:02 PM

        I don’t know the Boston market at all…never been there and don’t make it a point to read news from there. That being the case, I’ll take your word for it- However! What you said kind of proves my point. The Boston media started throwing around some stuff that was questionable journalism and the people ate it up. Because the people ate it up, the media saw an opportunity for $$ and kept on giving what the people took. Had the response to some of the early stories of questionable merit been subdued or negative, the media never would have continued to churn out the blustersuck.

      • bigleagues - May 23, 2012 at 3:38 PM

        Believe me, I agree with you. But while it’s far more intense in boston than most other places, this kind of media crack is not unique to Boston.

        The problem is that too few people understand how to interpret and digest media messages as they are being received. And that is not limited to broadcast media. I cannot count the number of times someone has scrutinized an Editorial or sports Commentary as if it were a journalistic story.

        And that carries over to the blogosphere as well. While many bloggers can and do break and report original news, not all of them do.

        I guess what I’m saying is most of the country is media illiterate.

      • anythingbutyanks - May 23, 2012 at 6:01 PM


  8. drewsylvania - May 22, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    “When things go poorly it’s because of screwups like Josh Beckett.”

    You misspelled “John Lackey”.

  9. themuddychicken - May 22, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    So he counts using some sort of binary system. Interesting.

    • aceshigh11 - May 22, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      I’ve been decoding binary strings all morning…I can relate.

  10. vansloot - May 22, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    It all sounds like sports writers inventing narrative because they don’t actually know what’s going on. Here’s how you fix it: if you don’t know what is going on, don’t make stuff up.

  11. stuckonwords - May 22, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    Just a tip, Craig.

    “we writers unconsciously project leadership on…”

    You don’t do anything “unconsciously”. When you’re unconscious you’re…you know…unconscious.

    You can do things subconsciously, though.

  12. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 22, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    it’s funny how the people we call leaders on ballclubs tend to fit a certain type.

    You mean the media writes about “leaders” that fit their preconceived notions of what attributes individual players have, right? Take the Yankees for instance. Derek Jeter is the captain, the supposed leader of the team. But where was he the first 3-4 years of Arod’s tenure with the yanks, when the press was writing idiotic articles like this one* about how the team would be better off with Scott Brosius than Arod? Or where are the articles about Arod mentoring all the young players, teaching them how to be professions (get to practice early, take extra swings, stay out of nightclubs, etc)? Why do I only read about those on Yankee blogs like or

    Maybe it’s similar with Boston? Maybe Ortiz is the leader behind closed doors, and he just doesn’t make a public show about it?

    • evanhartford - May 22, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      Gotta love it. Where was Jeter the first 3-4 years of Arod’s tenure? He was busy playing baseball and SETTING the example for his teammates. The only thing about Jeter that eclipses his fame, fortune and baseball ability is his knack for staying drama free. Jeter is the anti-Bryce Harper. I can’t remember him ever saying anything controversial.

      He was smart enough to know that there was absolutely no upside to talking to the media about Alex for him, Arod and/or the NY Yankees. The more you talk about a story that you want to go away, the more you perpetuate it. Jeter’s actions SCREAM while his words are couched. In my opinion, leaders don’t lead by example, they SET the example. In terms of baseball production, business acumen and his ability to stay away from controversy, Jeter has probably been one of the best “leaders” and rolemodels in any sport of all time.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 22, 2012 at 1:13 PM

        The more you talk about a story that you want to go away, the more you perpetuate it.

        So you are saying that if Jeter had stepped up, and mentioned how even after Arod won an MVP in ’05 and told the media that the Yanks had one of the best players in history and would be way worse if Arod were gone, that the media would have written MORE articles about Arod?

        Please pass whatever you are smoking.

      • drunkenhooliganism - May 22, 2012 at 1:19 PM

        Evan’s getting a gift basket

      • daisycutter1 - May 22, 2012 at 1:26 PM

        Looks there was upside in Jeter talking to the media about Giambi when his PED story broke.

        “We’re here to support him,” Jeter, the Yankees captain, said after working out Monday at the team’s minor league complex. “He’s obviously in a tough situation. I’ve been on teams that had guys that have made mistakes in the past. When you’re a team, everyone is one family. I’m sure he’s going to hear a lot about it over this year. We’re going to be there to support him because he’s one of us.”

      • daisycutter1 - May 22, 2012 at 1:28 PM

        “Looks like”

        Arrrgh, edit function, etc

      • evanhartford - May 22, 2012 at 5:06 PM


        Explain to me the upside of Jeter coming out and sticking up for Arod. The only thing I can think of is that maybe it strengthens his relationship with Arod and possibly a few teammates that suddenly respect Jeter slightly more. Of course, that might all be for nothing because if Jeter and Arod already get along great, then their relationship didn’t need anymore solidifying!

        Now lets talk about the downside! All of a sudden, Jeter is defending one of the most universally hated athletes and tarnishes his own image. His worth (as measured by marketability) takes a hit IMMEDIATELY. Jeter’s Q&As after ballgames suddenly become ALL about Arod. Does Jeter think he was good without the steroids? Does Jeter think he deserve his MVP with Texas? Does Jeter do steroids? Was Jeter’s name on the list? Do Jeter and Arod really get along or is this just all part of a Yankee PR campaign? What does Jeter think about Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens? Was Jeter at Jose Canseco’s pool party?

        Great leaders are a lot of things but they’re almost always pragmatic. There was very little upside and a WHOLE LOT of downside for him to “step up” for Arod. And there’s no unwritten code that leaders should take bullets for their (idiot) compatriots.


        I’m glad you pulled that quote. Notice how Jeter didn’t say anything about how “good” Giambi is/was or how valuable he is to the team or how “HE DON’T GET NO RESPECT!” Heck, he’s not even sticking up for him! He’s just sayiing that he’s “there for him”. That is classic Jeter, completely non-commital, dry and boring. It reminds me of that Seinfeld when Jerry and Elaine are trying to get with the good-looking couple that just split up. “I’m here for you!” That’s basically what he’s saying about Giambi. The dude will run for Senate, mark my words!

      • daisycutter1 - May 22, 2012 at 8:25 PM


        You wrote this – “He was smart enough to know that there was absolutely no upside to talking to the media about Alex for him, Arod and/or the NY Yankees. The more you talk about a story that you want to go away, the more you perpetuate it.”

        You didn’t discuss content, just that there’s nothing to be gained from talking to the media. And, Jeter talked to the media about Giambi. Furthermore, what he said certainly was not noncommittal. He said that the team supported Giambi.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 23, 2012 at 10:10 AM

        Evan, glad you jumped right to the steroids talk and immediately ignored the previous 3-4 years of media bashing Arod had to deal with, even during his absurd 2007 MVP season. Articles like this(1) one during the ’07 season or this one at the end of the ’07 season(2). Articles like those two were weren’t all the time, and had nothing to do with steroids.

        However, even bringing up steroids, what was the reason why Jeter stood behind Giambi when he “admitted” his use? Most Yankee fans don’t appreciate what Giambi gave them, so how is that different than Arod?

        1 –
        2 –

  13. psuravens19 - May 22, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    I hope Matusz or somebody else puts one in his back tonight for the way he danced and tossed his bat last night after hitting his HR. Act like you’ve done it before.

    • bigleagues - May 22, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      Was that the first time you’ve seen Papi send a ball screaming out of the park?

      He was acting like he did it before. Very little has changed about his post-swing Home Run routine.

      People love that stuff when its their team or playing MLB 2012 . . . but loathe it when they see it happen against their own team.

    • mornelithe - May 22, 2012 at 12:57 PM

      Laugh, grow up. I don’t hear anyone complaining about Markakis not even turning around as Papi’s HR crossed Eutaw Street. Ortiz didn’t overly celebrate, he acted like a guy who just smashed an extremely long HR that had absolutely no chance of being caught.

  14. aceshigh11 - May 22, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    The Boston sports media could drive even the most good-natured, genial person NUTS.

    Shaughnessy, Massarotti, Felger, WEEI…there’s a lot of bilious nonsense spewing from the Globe, the Herald and from sports radio. Their stories can be entertaining, but often not newsworthy nor enlightening.

    • bigleagues - May 22, 2012 at 10:23 PM

      The Boston Globe was a once proud hallowed ground for the best sportswriters in the country. Now its barely able to keep up with the Herald in terms of breaking stories and offering original reporting.

      Massarotti I consider to be one of the luckier people in Boston media. And particularly lucky to have Felger as a partner . . . who I believe to be a cut above the rest.

    • gonzowulf - May 23, 2012 at 9:38 AM

      the current Boston media attitude, (always subject to change week-to-week), is that Beckett is a cancer and Ortiz is some kind of effective chemo.

      Some of the more “quiet” analysts are looking at what the team will be like when “healthy”, (after the break), and crunching the numbers and figuring out that hey, despite the drama, the Sox will at least “contend”.

      But make no mistake. Beckett leads the pitching staff and they take cues from him, not Valentine or Ortiz. Ortiz and Beckett need to lock themselves in a room for a couple hours and have at it. Grizzlies do the same effing thing. I’ll take Ortiz.

  15. IdahoMariner - May 22, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    I always wonder: what the heck is wrong with showing you are proud of hitting a home run? If hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports, then knocking one clear over Eutaw Street is a bit of an accomplishment. Why is it wrong to celebrate it? I didn’t see it, so I don’t know exactly HOW he celebrated it, but your basic celebration is fine. It’s not cool to point at the pitcher or otherwise try to mock him when you do it (because that’s just rude and lame).

    But if a hitter just celebrates it in the moment, without trying to be an ass about it, what’s the problem? I never understand pitchers who get mad when someone gets excited about it. So long as they aren’t acting like they “own” the pitcher or some other such nonsense, isn’t it actually sort of a compliment to the pitcher to show that you are excited at this rare thing, to be stoked when you hit a homer? Because it’s freaking hard, and if you manage to hit one, off any pitcher, that’s amazing. My favorite: Felix Hernandez’ first mlb homer, a grand slam off Johan Santana, in his only at bat of the season. Would’ve been justified to do a happy dance all around the bases for managing that. But even a position player, hitting a home run off the Mariners’ fifth starter is entitled to show some happiness if they can knock one out of the park.

    • mornelithe - May 22, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      From what I saw, the only thing different between how he reacted over this HR versus any other, is he was a little slower in tossing the bat. He didn’t flip it, he didn’t even look towards the pitcher. He just slowly tossed it, and ran around the bases. Then pointed skyward (as he normally does) when he crossed the plate. There was no over the top celebration.

  16. pensfan603 - May 22, 2012 at 10:13 PM

    fyi the story broke by ken rosethal i believe during the phillies series.. also alll season he has been trying to step up as a leader. Previous years other players have been able to take control of the locker room but after last season i dont think there was a leader and David decided to take that role all preseason and training camp he was talking about hwo he was goign to change the way he played and has been taking a leadership role. Not suprised..
    But NBC should fix the mistake in this..

  17. markfrednubble - May 23, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    David Ortiz is one of my favorite athletes in any sport, ever. And that covers almost 50 years as a fan. A big reason is that he is authentic and he cares. Another is that he doesn’t try and make himself look good when he talks to the media, he almost always speaks team-first, and he sticks up for his teammates. And a third reason is that he, more than any single player, will go down as the predominant player/personality/face of the current Red Sox era, which is the most successful period in almost 100 years. The smile and the charisma are bonuses. Very few athletes give us as many reasons to love them as David Ortiz has. I know the umpire complaints and the home run trot irritate people. No one’s perfect — but Papi is authentic. What you see is what you get.

    He is also putting together one of the most remarkable late-career revivals in (what we hope is) the post-steroid era. A few years ago everyone was certain we were witnessing his rapid decline and it was ugly. He couldn’t hit lefthanders to save his life, he had a couple of years in a row when he hit nothing in April and into May. He got grouchy and surly. Writers and talk show hosts and callers were pronouncing him finished and pontificating that he should be released outright during the season. No way should the Sox even think about signing him for the following year. Look at him now — .961 OPS vs. lefties this year after .989 last year. Unbelievable. For 2012, he is the best overall hitter in the AL to this point not named Hamilton or Konerko.

    Sorry for the long preamble but I had to get that off my chest for the people who like to rip this guy. Now to the topic of leadership. For years we have heard that the Red Sox’ “leaders” were Varitek and Pedroia. With Varitek it was for two reasons: his famously good handling of pitchers and the silly C on his uniform. The C was a product of free agent negotiations, and my theory has always been it wasn’t Varitek or his agent’s idea but a gimmick thrown into the negotiations by the marketing-conscious Red Sox. There is no real evidence that Tek was ever a vocal leader in the clubhouse, and he certainly can claim no beneficial role in mitigating the train wreck of last September (on the contrary, his influence with pitchers might reasonably be expected to have helped Beckett, Lester and Bard as they fell apart). As for Pedroia, it does seem he has become a leader of sorts, primarily by example. He is a complete player who hustles all the time and his intensity must rub off. He was very close to Francona.

    I love the story from spring training of when Bobby Valentine first met David Ortiz. Papi was telling the new manager about some of his teammates and said simply that Pedroia is “the best baseball player you’ve ever seen.”

    What happened this week is that Ortiz didn’t want the story of the team meeting to be leaked, but it was. He used the occasion to express what must be pent-up frustration at the media constantly referring to his teammates as de facto captains and team leaders, when Papi himself knows that his teammates listen to him and respect him like few others. As always with Ortiz, the words were from the heart and authentic.

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