BALTIMORE - Let’s give David Ortiz a mulligan.
He had a bad day.
After hitting a towering home run to help his team win for the ninth time in 11 games Monday night against the Orioles, Ortiz had an awkward, strange response on the topic of leadership and respect.
And we have no idea how the topic came up. Ortiz’s comments appeared in an ESPN.com column, so only Ortiz and the reporter, Gordon Edes, really know how it all went down.
All I know is this: I’d be hard-pressed to find a player more respected in baseball overall and on his own team than Ortiz. If he is somehow interpreting the fact that the Sox wouldn’t entertain the idea of a multiyear deal for him as a sign that they don’t respect him, then he should have elaborated on that.
But if that’s not the reason, I have no idea what he’s talking about.
“What they call leaders is not what a leader is all about,’’ Ortiz told Edes. “They need to go to the dictionary and find out what the word ‘leader’ means. You know what I’m saying? The leaders they call leaders are the ones who get in front of the crowd and try to lead them. But that’s not the case here.
“I’m the kind of [expletive] who worries about winning games. I’m a winner. I hate losing. But what I do, I don’t do for everybody to know. I do it for us to get better, and the trash talking out there to stop.
“I don’t give a [expletive] if they want to call me a leader. I don’t give a [expletive] if they want to call me a captain. I don’t give a [expletive] if they call me either of them.
“Because you know what? I always say I came to play this game, and one day I’m going to be gone. And as long as I play, I’m going to try to do good. I’m going to try to do whatever it takes to win ballgames.’’
The kicker was, “I don’t get no respect. Not from the media. Not from the front office. What I do is never the right thing. It’s always hiding, for somebody to find out.’’
Upon hearing about Ortiz’s comments, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said, “He’s stepped up and been a true leader on and off the field. From the first day of spring training, he’s played hard. He reported in great shape. He’s run balls out.
“He’s done what he needs to do in the field. He’s done what he needed to do off the field and in the clubhouse.
“He’s been a huge part of our team, the main reason why we’ve gotten through some tough patches early in the season. We’re certainly happy he’s on our side.’’
Ortiz did seem upset about comments made by Tony Massarotti on his radio show Monday with Michael Felger, though they didn’t seem that critical.
In reference to a recent team meeting the Sox held, Felger said it should have been called sooner by Ortiz, to which Massarotti added, “I feel the same way. But he was the right guy.
“I have always wondered whether or not he would really do this sort of thing. He’s always been more the kind to put his arm around someone, pull them aside, ‘Hey, what’s bothering you.’ Very empathetic, sympathetic, calm.
“He’s not the kind of guy to start flipping stuff over. If in this one he was [upset]? Good. Someone in there needed to get [upset] a long time ago.’’
Massarotti, who co-wrote a book with Ortiz, thought he was giving Ortiz a compliment.
What’s wrong with that?
Yet Ortiz walked into the clubhouse Tuesday and declared he wasn’t speaking to the media.
In the ESPN.com report, Ortiz said, “Somebody wrote, ‘Why didn’t he do it earlier?’ Earlier? When am I going to do it, in spring training? What did I do wrong? Seriously, what did I do wrong?
“You hit 54 home runs, then hit 35, it’s not good enough. How many people hit 35? Never good enough, bro. That’s why I don’t care.’’
Obviously, though, he cared enough to flip out over comments on a talk show.
That’s why we give him a mulligan. It was a strange rant. Out of character.
“There are moments during a season, especially in a place like this, you get frustrated,’’ said Cherington. “We were coming off a big win that he was a part of. Maybe it was something about the way the question was asked he didn’t like.
“I feel good about our relationship with David. We support him and have a lot of respect for him.’’
The day before, in fact, Cherington and Ortiz were engaged in a long chat in the dugout. It seemed very cordial.
That’s the strange part. It doesn’t seem as if there’s any beef between Ortiz and management.
Now, I know Ortiz has been upset with the media recently. He gave me an earful about the media being too tough on Josh Beckett in the reaction to his golf outing. After Beckett pitched another outstanding game Sunday in Philadelphia, Ortiz said, “They said Beckett was a cancer. What are they going to say now?’’
It really bothered him that people had turned on Beckett, and part of that goes back two years ago when people were saying that Ortiz was done, based on a bad April. He hasn’t forgotten that.
None of us likes to be criticized, especially when it’s not warranted. But when you’re a public figure, not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone is going to see things your way.
If you react to everything people say - good or bad - it’s going to be a very tedious existence. Veteran players should know this.
Cherington seemed surprised by Ortiz’s comments but not overly concerned.
Experience with Ortiz tells you that when he is ticked off, he tends to perform better anyway.
Usually, though, we know why Ortiz is ticked off. In this case, we haven’t a clue. Take the mulligan, Big Papi, and move on.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.