After hanging his massive frame over the strike zone, he whines about getting pitched up and in. Just after launching home runs halfway to Phobos, he pompously flips his bat away like a mere baton. And in the past, like a braggart, he’s been known to refer to himself in the third person.
But through the past ten years, this Yankee fan has learned to reach deep down in seldom used fibers of my heart and respect the hell out of David Ortiz.
Sure, he disposed of the 2004 Yankees in such a grand fashion that he earned a plaque from Red Sox management heralding him, “the greatest clutch-hitter in the history of the Boston Red Sox.” But many, including myself, figured he had been able to thrive in a small unequalled moment and nothing more. His joyous smile and quick flick of the wrists will rest in Red Sox lore and never expound into a storied Beantown career.
But, we were wrong. Oh, were we so wrong.
In his decade-long Red Sox career, David Ortiz has finished in the Top 5 for MVP in five of them. In eight of those years, he’s been an All-Star. And throughout his entire Red Sox career he’s never ended a season with less than 23 home runs. Oh, and has managed to become unarguably the most popular Red Sox player of this era.
There goes the 15 minutes of fame idea.
So, why can’t the Red Sox management recognize the career Ortiz has compiled? In return for continued excellence, the team has veiled his name with public questioning of worth, rumors of walking papers and insincere compromises in the form of one-year contracts.
Every year it seems like the Red Sox pick up shiny new toys that leave them smitten and blind to the big team picture. Oh, a Jon Lackey—dazzling! Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez—Breathtaking. As the year chugs along, one by one the big names fade and the club is left with one constant to hang their hat on at season’s end: Ortiz. But, the front office doesn’t feel that way and instead leaves him flapping in the wind; consumed in question if he’ll be a Red Sox again.
With all that being said, he certainly doesn’t need a secondary voice to preach his growing resentment with management. Regularly, Ortiz has issued gripes to suites above Fenway that have been anything kurt. In fact, one might he even confuse the crooning coming out of the Red Sox locker room as Aretha Franklin with how often pleas of “Respect” are demanded.
“It’s all about respect. That’s the way I see it”, admits Ortiz. “It’s been, what, three years now that I’ve got to be answering this question, and I’ve been one of the most productive players on this ballclub.”
Unfortunately, at this point Ortiz is part of a "ballclub" that no longer exists. As the only remaining player from the 2004 World Series team, he might as well be a dusty relic. And with the Red Sox handing over half their team to Los Angeles, it’s quite clear the club is doing their best attempt at a fabulous makeover.
Yet with the exit of their richest players opens up a canyon of fiscal comfort.
At 36, Ortiz is not the same player he was in 2006 when he belted 54 home runs, the all-time record for a Red Sox player in a season. He knows that baseball is a business that revolves around, “What have you done for me lately?” But in 90 games this year, the old man has been able to put some of the best numbers on the team.
In his career, Ortiz has been read his final rites more times than he count and walked out of that bed with gusto. During times of severe struggle, his career had one foot in the grave only to march out proudly past the reaper. No one is saying he hasn’t chirped about the lack of love, but with extra income at the Red Sox disposal maybe the club can show the ultimate sign of respect to their elder statesman: A multi-year deal.