FORT MYERS, Fla. — An open letter to David Ortiz:
How are you? It’s been a while since we spoke, and I suppose that’s my fault. Our last couple of conversations were a little contentious, and I have a sense you are not interested in more questions from me.
I’m writing because I can’t figure out why you felt the need to reintroduce the topic of steroids and drug testing in your recent essay on Derek Jeter’s Players Tribune website. It feels like a mistake. Better to leave it alone and stay in a world where everyone loves you unconditionally. Jeter failed you on this one. A good editor would have discouraged this theme.
But since you chose to go there, let’s revisit some of the facts.
First of all, you refer to me as “the reporter with the red jheri curl from the Boston Globe.’’
That hurts, David. Is that all I am to you? Nothing more than Eriq La Salle pushing “Soul Glo” in “Coming to America”? For the record, my hair is naturally curly, a gift from my parents. It is not permed. And it is not red. But these are not the errors or details that are bothersome in your essay.
■ You write, “I never knowingly took any steroids.’’ This is not good phrasing. This is the old Barry Bonds defense. That word “knowingly” is a crusher. You are a professional athlete. It’s up to you to know what you are taking. Don’t use the ignorance defense.
■ Regarding your failed drug test from 2003, you claim you discovered the result along with everyone else when your name was leaked in 2009. You write, “No one had ever told me I’d failed any test.’’ This strains all believability. It also contradicts what you said at Yankee Stadium in August of 2009 when you admitted to a 2004 five-minute conversation with a union rep in which you were told about the 2003 positive test.
According to the Mitchell Report (released in 2007), all those who failed the 2003 test were informed by the Major League Baseball Players Association in 2004. How are we to now believe you were not informed?
■ You write, “Nobody in MLB history has been tested for PEDs more than me. You know how many times I’ve been tested since 2004? More than 80.’’
Hmmm. In your never-ending paranoia and posturing that you are being unfairly singled out, you may have goofed on this one. Eighty tests since 2004 is highly unlikely. According to NBC Sports, the only way a player could be subjected to that many tests would be if he was “in the program” possibly because of a (non-suspendable) positive test for amphetamines.
Four tests a year is considered “unlucky,” according to NBC Sports. Anything more than that is someone who has failed another test.
We’ll cut you some slack on this one and assume that you are not “in the program.’’ You are just exaggerating. You are just getting your facts wrong.
■ Speaking of incorrect facts, you claim that you asked me for my address when I asked you about possible PED use in the Sox clubhouse in May 2013. You wrote that you told me, “I’ll mail you the [expletive] results.’’
No. You never said that. You must be confusing me with another “reporter with the red jheri curl.”
According to Major League Baseball officials and the MLB Players Association, players do not get test results unless the results are positive. So you would not have any results to mail. Unless they were positive.
■ Recalling our interview, you claim I said, “You’re from the Dominican. You’re older. You fit the profile of a steroid user.’’
I did say that. I also said, “Older players don’t get better. You’ve had injuries consistent with steroid use. You showed up on the list from 2003. You fit all the formulas. In 2009, you didn’t hit a home run until May 20.’’
I apologize if my citing the fact that you are from the Dominican Republic offended you, but it is relevant in this discussion. It’s unfair to say that anyone from the DR must be on steroids — no one is saying that — but it’s also a fact that the issue of performance-enhancing drugs is more acute for baseball players from the Dominican Republic than for players from any other homeland.
According to MLB vice president Mike Teevan, “Dominican players were testing positive far more than other players.’’
MLB has instituted programs in the DR to address the problem. Also, when you were defending yourself against your positive test from 2003, you said you bought over-the-counter supplements in both the Dominican Republic and the US. Baseball folk have regularly claimed that pharmaceutical regulations in the DR are far different from those in the US. You would know this better than I.
■ You write, “In some people’s minds, I will always be considered a cheater.’’
True. But how many of them ask you about it face-to-face? That’s how I was trained. I thought that’s how it worked. I ask questions. You answer. I write down the answers and put them in the paper. That’s what went on that day in 2013.
You now write, “I wanted to kill this guy.’’
Actually, that’s not how it went down. You gave thoughtful answers to hard questions. When the interview was over, I thanked you and you asked me about me being “banned at Fenway.’’ (The Terry Francona book, which I co-authored, was on the bestseller list, but was not a party-starter with Sox ownership).
We had a laugh about it and you took a selfie with me. Then you texted it to someone we both know. When you quickly got a text back from that individual, you came back across the clubhouse to share the response.
I did not think you wanted to kill me. And I would not violate the trust of that private moment if not for your missive in the Players Tribune. One of us must be misremembering.
■ Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez were other names “leaked” from the 2003 testing. They turned out to be dirty. We can go back to Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Marion Jones, and Lance Armstrong. Everyone is all about denials — until it turns out to be true. Are we supposed to believe that you are the one and only positive tester who was truly wronged?
That’s all for now, David. You are one of the great performers in the history of Boston, and you have done tons for our community. Boston sports fans love you on a par with Ted Williams, Bill Russell, Tom Brady, Larry Bird, and Bobby Orr. You can do no wrong. You deserve their love.
I am sorry we don’t talk anymore, but as ever, you know where to find me. In the clubhouse.
The guy with the naturally curly, non-red hair
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