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Opinion: David Ortiz wrong guy to deliver message

06.21.12 at 10:50 pm ET
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David Ortiz has 18 HR and 49 RBI this season. (AP)

“It’s starting to become the s—hole that it used to be. Playing here used to be so much fun, and now every day it’s something new not even related to baseball. People need to leave us alone and let us play ball, man, and let us do what we know how to do.”

– David Ortiz

So David Ortiz went on a mini-rant Thursday. I’m not sure I disagree with the message, it’s just that I can’t buy the motive of the messenger.

Is the media in Boston fueled by negativity? Sure, we all know that. Things have changed over the last decade or so, success and a million media outlets will do that. I wrote about this earlier in the week — controversy equals ratings and page views. There’s no way around it, figuring out the mystery of a toxic clubhouse (which really just means figuring out who hates who) is going to attract more eyeballs than writing about the maturation of Andrew Miller. The majority of people covering the Red Sox want the Red Sox to struggle. That’s just the reality of things.

So Ortiz is right. When things are ugly — and I get this team is playing better, but 35-33 after last September absolutely qualifies as ugly — there is a s—hole vibe that exists. And I’m sure it’s not fun for Ortiz or any other player or Bobby Valentine or the front office. Understood.

But I’m not really sure what Ortiz expects from the media. Walk me through this one: Buster Olney is by every account one of the handful of best baseball reporters in the country. Does anyone think he just invented a story about a toxic clubhouse to get a little attention, to make a three-day splash? Does he really need to do that? Is there anything in his history to suggest that he would do that?

Ortiz shouldn’t be pissed at Olney, who is just doing his job. He had sources — anonymous ones, which always drive me crazy, but sources still — and used them. You think Olney put a gun in someone’s mouth and demanded some juicy stuff? Ortiz should be pissed at whoever is talking to Olney or Chris Singleton or Sean McAdam or whoever else is reporting about friction within this organization. That’s the problem. If no one talks, if no one leaks, it will end. Was anyone asking about clubhouse issues before Olney’s report?

Also there’s this: Ortiz is always quick to use the media when it’s time to bitch about his contract. He doesn’t seem particularly concerned about being left alone when wants to forward his agenda.

Now, forgive me if I can’t muster too much sympathy for Ortiz not having a lot of fun this season. I would suggest this to Ortiz, who is making $14.5 million this season (and so far has been at least worth every penny of it): If the negativity bothers you that much, go play in a different city next year. I wouldn’t blame him for it — the negativity is very real and will be going nowhere if this team misses the playoffs again — but I suspect he’ll be in Boston a year from today, making more money than he would anywhere else. If the culture is truly that upsetting, go play in Kansas City or Seattle for half the price. No pressure, no second-guessing, no snooping around, nothing. Sounds like fun, right? Think that’s the way Ortiz will go?

And I’m pretty sure Ortiz was aware of how it works with the media in Boston when he signed this past offseason, just as he was when he signed his last deal and the one before. I think the media overall has treated Ortiz with kid gloves — total pass on the steroids, they just never followed up on it — but he knows how it works. His eyes are wide open.

Ultimately, I just can’t get past the idea that Ortiz wouldn’t have said any of this on Thursday if he was in the first year of a three-year, $48 million contract. He’s on the record about feeling disrespected by management for not landing a long-term deal. And I’d probably feel the same way if I saw Carl Crawford and John Lackey every single day — Ortiz has done more for the Sox in the last two weeks than the two have done combined in their Sox careers. But that doesn’t change reality. Every other team in the majors could have signed Ortiz to the kind of deal he covets and every team passed. Ortiz is on pace for 43 homers and 119 RBI, having just a superb season. He could put those numbers and the Sox still won’t give him a multi-year deal.

And I suspect that’s the major motivation for the frustration he articulated on Thursday. He told the media on Thursday that this “is my last year trying to prove people wrong.” So while he might be angry at the media for continuing to press on the toxicity of the clubhouse, it’s hard for me to believe it matches his anger at the front office for “disrespecting” him by paying him $14.5 million to DH.

It might be the right message, but the wrong guy delivered it.

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