FORT MYERS, Fla. - There’s no question this beer/fried chicken theme is getting old. It is indeed time to move on with the Red Sox, but every so often we hear a different twist that stirs the imagination and brings up mind-boggling issues.
And so we delve in again.
Comments by David Ortiz yesterday stirred the pot once more.
Ortiz said he spoke to the beer-drinking fried-chicken-eaters at one point last season about knocking it off, but he backed off, he said, because he’s not the manager, the general manager, or the owner.
Which is why Ortiz kept reiterating that there’s a fine line between being a team leader and a babysitter.
Asked if he spoke to the guilty parties, Ortiz said, “I think I did. But I do things in a different way.
“When I talk to any of the guys on the team, I don’t want to sound like I’m their dad. I make sure that they understand that it’s a friend, a brother, another player, talking to them. That’s why my communication with a lot of them is easy. I have a good relationship with everybody.
“You learn from your mistakes. I’m pretty sure that everybody’s on the same page now and things are going to be different.”David Ortiz
“It’s not my job to walk on anyone. I’m just an employee, just like anyone else. I’m not a babysitter or anything like that. I’m talking to another man just like me.
“There’s a difference between being a team leader and being a babysitter. Everybody has an idea about what they are here for.’’
This is where a lot of other people dropped the ball.
This is why this story stays alive.
Ortiz is right: It wasn’t the beer and the chicken, it was the where and the when. It was during the game, in the clubhouse, when players are supposed to be in the dugout supporting their teammates.
This is basic team stuff. You learn this in Little League, and even before that. How can you accept millions of dollars in salary and lose sight of that?
These players did. And there was nobody in a position of authority to remind them?
That is the most unfathomable aspect of this story.
“If I’m [messing] up, I can’t go to no one and let them know what they are doing wrong,’’ said Ortiz. “When it comes to a leader, I’ve got to do what I’m supposed to do, first of all. Then I have the right to go and talk to anyone else.
“That’s basically what I have been doing here through the years. But you only can talk until one point as a player. After that - managers, GM, front office - they take over. You have limitations to talk to another player like you are. After that, there is nothing else you can do.’’
Those of us in the media have asked numerous positional players what they knew about the beer and chicken, and 100 percent of them have played dumb.
Carl Crawford just said it the other day.
You wonder now. Really?
If Ortiz knew what was going on, it had to have been a topic of conversation on the team.
“The problem was when they did it,’’ Ortiz said. “They came out and apologized. That means they’re not going to do it again. For that, you need to turn the page.
“We’re going to be thinking about the fried chicken and the beer that they had last September in March or February 2012? No. You’re not going to solve any problems with that.’’
The Red Sox did take steps to rectify the problems. For one thing, they hired Bobby Valentine as manager.
At Theo Epstein’s introductory press conference in Chicago in November, he was asked if there was one thing he regretted in Boston, and he said he wished he had been more hands-on in the clubhouse. He said he was wrong to let others - including the manager - handle the internal issues.
While it’s understandable that the manager is focusing on the game and can’t worry about what a few knuckleheads are doing in the clubhouse, someone needs to tell the manager what the knuckleheads are doing.
And then the manager has to put his foot down.
You can have strong leaders among the players, but Ortiz is right that it has to come down to the authority figures.
“We have a lot of leaders, a lot of guys capable to change things around,’’ Ortiz said. “I think that’s not going to be a problem. Sometimes you caught into some situations and things get out of hand for a minute.
“But the deal that people make about our club last year was bigger than what it was. That’s the way I see it.
“We’re the ones who know how our clubhouse runs. I’m one of the older guys here on the team. I know there’s a lot of people watching me, watching what I do. That puts me in a situation where I have to try and do things - not perfectly, because I’m not perfect - but pretty close.’’
And when he wasn’t perfect, he said, Terry Francona would let him know about it.
“He told me what I did wrong,’’ Ortiz said. “I think that’s the best thing that can happen to a human being in general. You do things that you think you are the right thing but you ain’t.
“We’re here this year, we changed things around. You learn from your mistakes. I’m pretty sure that everybody’s on the same page now and things are going to be different. We have a new manager, Bobby, he has an idea of what he wants to do with all of us.’’
What Valentine wants out of Ortiz is the upbeat, smiling face in the clubhouse who creates a positive image and sets a positive example. Ortiz vows to be that.
“The clubhouse seems to be full of David right now,’’ said Valentine, referring to the blaring music. “I expect him to have that smile as often as possible so he can light up our clubhouse and our dugout and hopefully swing the bat as well as he did last year.
“Don’t know if he’ll be able to hit lefthanders equally as well - I hope he can. Provide some leadership, experience, and put some fear into the hearts of the opposing pitchers.’’
At one point in the offseason, Ortiz doubted he would be doing that for the Red Sox. The front office - especially during the transition from Epstein to Ben Cherington - had very little interaction with him.
Ortiz was offered arbitration, accepted, and the sides settled on a one-year, $14.575 million deal after he turned down a two-year, $18 million offer.
Ortiz was humorous in describing his team of advisers telling him to remove his diamond earrings if they went to a hearing.
“They didn’t want me to have that much bling-bling,’’ he said. “I was like, ‘I sleep with my earrings on.’ ’’
Ortiz, now the longest-tenured player on the roster at 10 years, has been a great ambassador for the team and has done much to create good will between Latin America and the Red Sox.
It was impressive to hear that he at least spoke up, but you have to wonder, where were the rest of the players? Where was management?
Questions, questions, and more questions about a story that never seems to go away.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.