BALTIMORE — As one educator put it in an e-mail to this reporter, if a college student had done what David Ortiz did in the Red Sox dugout Saturday night when he destroyed a phone box with his bat and almost hit teammate Dustin Pedroia with it, the student might have been arrested, would have been suspended from school, and would have been asked to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to return to the classroom.
Ortiz’s act of rage is still being reviewed by Major League Baseball. Would the Red Sox discipline him? No way. His teammates would rebel. They can’t afford to lose this amazingly talented hitter.
In fact, as manager John Farrell put it Sunday after a 5-0 win over the Orioles, “After he took it out on the phone last night, he took it out on the baseball today.”
Ortiz went 4 for 4 Sunday, including a two-run homer, his 20th, helping to solidify the win for the Red Sox. They took two out of three from the Orioles and made all the “You can’t beat the Orioles” chants go away. Ortiz was a big part of that.
“Dustin is the one that started the whole thing [before Sunday’s game] with him getting [Ortiz] amped up,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “When the fans got on him, he’s the one guy you don’t want to mess with.”
Those who know right from wrong can’t defend Ortiz’s actions. There’s always a contrarian out there who will defend Ortiz, and there are other extremists who will shout, “Roid rage!” I can’t tell you how many such e-mails I received. But for the most part, those of sensible mind understand that taking a bat to a telephone box isn’t what Ortiz is all about.
And deep down Ortiz knows it, though he still won’t come all the way to the thinking that he was wrong to do that in front of TV cameras and in front of kids who might have been watching.
After his home run Sunday, he was kidding around and pretended he was going to smash the box, which had been repaired, once again.
Teammates really tried to defuse the situation. Ryan Dempster and Jonny Gomes rigged up a pair of Del Monte vegetable cans with strings and had some dialogue.
Dempster said, “Can you hear me?” as he put the can to his mouth and Gomes answered in the affirmative from the other end. “OK, let’s go straighten out the bullpen phone now.”
Ortiz was taken to task by talk show hosts and broadcasters here for his actions, and the feeling of the general public toward Ortiz wasn’t great. He was greeted with loud boos by the Orioles fans at Camden Yards every time he stepped to the plate. And every time he silenced the crowd with a base hit or a home run.
“I like the crowd going crazy, cheering against me,” Ortiz said. “I like that. That’s why I love playing in New York. That gets me going.”
While Ortiz wouldn’t apologize for what happened in his beef with umpire Tim Timmons, he said, “It’s not my style. I try not to get to that point. There’s things that you can’t control, and things happen. I know that the fans know me for being a humble person who tries to do everything right. But I ain’t perfect. The situation happened that I didn’t start up. Things got out of control for a minute, but it’s over.”
Red Sox fans like that Ortiz cares enough to get upset when a 3-and-0 pitch around helmet level that should have been a ball was called a strike by Timmons.
When I spoke to Ortiz Sunday morning, I said, “I’ll bet [Timmons] apologizes to you for that call.” Ortiz didn’t believe he would. When I asked about it after the game, Ortiz said, “He didn’t.”
Timmons was the third-base umpire Sunday and Ortiz was around that area a lot during the day and he said no conversation took place.
Ortiz said Timmons had told him that he didn’t blow the call, and that is what enraged Big Papi.
“I’m past it,” Ortiz said. “We’re all past it now. It’s a new day. We had to go out and win this game against this team because they had given us so much trouble. We accomplished that. Now we have to face David Price again and that’s our next challenge.
“But this was like any other day for me. Get up there and do all I can to get a base hit to help us win.”
Ortiz’s homer went to the opposite field, the first one he’s hit that way this season. He has hit 20 or more homers in 12 straight seasons.
He is having a phenomenal year for someone who started the season late because of heel problems.
After the game he was hitting .329 with a .413 on-base percentage and .605 slugging percentage. He had a 1.08 OPS. That is impressive for a 37-year-old, who as Pedroia puts it, “is our biggest hitter.” Indeed he is the center of Boston’s offense. He’s the power bat, the guy nobody wants to get beaten by.
Those are the many great qualities that Ortiz possesses.
Does he get off the hook here? He’s built up 17 years of good will, 11 in Boston, with extraordinary performance, community service, and good deeds.
Ortiz lost it for a few minutes Saturday night and regained his normal demeanor Sunday.
So yes, he gets a pass. But nobody liked what they saw or could condone it. His teammates, his manager, and his coaches shouldn’t make light of it. It was ugly and nobody wants to see it again.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.