David Ortiz was on Boston television the other night. Guess what he was talking about?
Big Papi loves to complain about his contract. He’s never satisfied unless he has a multiyear contract. It’s about respect, I guess.
Sorry, but it’s also tone-deaf, selfish, and offensive.
Let’s get all the qualifiers out of the way: David Ortiz has earned his place as one of the most clutch and popular athletes in the history of Boston sports. He has been here 11 years, and was the only Sox player on all three championship teams of the 21st century. He is the greatest designated hitter in baseball history. He was MVP of last year’s World Series, when he batted .688 in six games against the Cardinals. He hit the grand slam that turned around the AL Championship Series and compiled a .353 postseason batting average with an OPS of 1.206. He did all that after hitting .309 with 30 homers and 103 RBIs during the 2013 season.
Ortiz is a legitimate Fenway god. He’s also smart, thoughtful, caring, and charitable. He has time for everyone. He is Boston Baseball’s Father Christmas, a latter-day Bambino. Sports Illustrated almost made him 2013’s Sportsman of the Year.
Ortiz is a guy who can drop an F-bomb on live television and be madly applauded for his eloquence. Even the boss of the FCC said it was OK. After all, it was Big Papi.
Ortiz is the leader who gathered his teammates in the dugout in St. Louis and told them to play like champions. And then they played like champions.
So why does he need to threaten the Sox by saying it will be “time to move on’’ if he doesn’t get a contract extension?
Let’s try to remember that Ortiz is signed for the upcoming season. The Sox will pay him $15 million to bat four times per game in 2014. And by today’s standards, he deserves every penny. He might even be a bargain.
“I always keep on telling people this is a business,’’ Papi told Channel 4’s Steve Burton Sunday. “Sometimes you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family.’’
At the end of this season, Ortiz’s career earnings will be north of $127 million. Good for him. He’s at the top of his profession and he has earned his money. But don’t tell us this is about the family.
It’s simply bad business for the Red Sox to talk about a contract extension for a DH who will be 39 years old at the end of his present contract. The Sox would be nuts to cave on this (let’s not forget that John Henry might need extra cash to take care of hard-working newspaper people).
The Sox know what it’s like to have dead money on the books. After Curt Schilling staggered through the 2007 playoffs, winning on smarts and guile, someone thought it would be a good idea to bring him back for $8 million in 2008. Schilling never threw another pitch in the big leagues.
Ortiz might be a great hitter for a few more years, but his insistence on getting another multiyear deal smacks of a guy who wants to get paid for a year after he’s finished.
Let’s see how he looks in 2014 and then talk about it. What is the risk for the Red Sox? Where is the market for Ortiz? Does anyone think another team will offer Ortiz a multiyear deal that would start in the year he turns 40? Are we kidding here?
Big Papi simply has no leverage. National League teams won’t hire him and the Red Sox are just about the only team still paying big bucks to a full-time DH. Folks like the Yankees, Angels, and Rangers already are stocked with fat contracts for older players who have trouble staying on the field. I’d certainly take my chances on another team coming at Ortiz with a multiyear deal after the 2014 season.
The only reason to extend Ortiz now would be to make him feel the love. You’d agree to pay him for two years so that he’ll be sure to give you a good season in 2014. That’s emotional extortion. Whatever happened to simply honoring your contract? Especially when you are nearing the end of your career?
Talking about his ability to keep playing into his 40s, Ortiz said, “It could be two years, it could be three years, it could be 10.’’
Very funny. But while we’re chuckling about this, remember that Ortiz was released in 2002. He came to Boston in 2003 and turned his career around. That’s also the year he failed a drug test. In 2010, he was again on the threshold of being released. The Sox were “resting” him against some lefties and pinch hitting for him against tough lefties in late innings.
Now he has turned things around again. Last year he looked like the best 38-year-old hitter in the history of baseball.
Swell. Way to go, Big Papi. Everybody loves you. But you have no leverage. Please stop talking about a contract extension and honor the deal you signed.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy @globe.com