David Ortiz has been a Red Sox staple since 2003 and a major part of three World Series wins. Neither he nor the club wants him to spend a single day in another uniform. But that hasn’t prevented the sides from establishing battle lines every time his contract is in its final year. It’s irrelevant whether the shadow boxing is a negotiating tactic or part of a ritualistic dance between Ortiz and the Red Sox with each knowing it will eventually be worked out. The fact is that the team has been a contender on an almost annual basis since his arrival and he’s become a part of the fabric of the organization and its history. At age 38, he should no longer be singing for his supper. The club should take care of him and ensure that he’s in Boston for the remainder of his career.
With the number of players the Red Sox have wasted money on or given an extra year when they knew he probably wouldn’t be worth it, why does Ortiz have to wait? The names of players who failed to live up to their lofty contracts is legion. Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Bobby Jenks and Julio Lugo are the obvious names and there are many more. Others were paid extra to stay when they contributed little to nothing on the back end of the contracts. J.D. Drew, Curt Schilling and Mike Lowell fall into this category. Ortiz’s contribution has surpassed all of those players in its duration, on-field play and goodwill.
The Red Sox use numbers-crunching, finances and “best interests of the organization” rhetoric when it suits them. As the above players have shown, the team has wasted a vast amount of money and resources on players who weren’t worth it. To claim that Oritz having to wait out a new deal has any business or team-related legitimacy is being difficult for its own sake.
Most importantly, this would not be a “we’re doing you a favor” contract extension. Ortiz still puts up the numbers. In fact, he’s altered his approach as he’s aged. Whereas he once struck out over 120 times per year, he now k’s under 100 times without sacrificing his power. We can speculate as to why he’s not hitting 40-50 homers anymore. His name was reportedly on one of the PED lists and it was conveniently swept away with nary a mention of it and his popularity barely dropping. Even with the increased drug testing, Ortiz has posted big power numbers at an advanced age when other alleged PED-aided players have steadily declined as they did when the ravages of age became a reality rather than something drugs could hold at bay.
His off-field influence can’t be ignored. Part of his act is shtick and Ortiz is a savvy and skillful politician, adept at using the media to achieve his ends. That’s the case with every great player who is also marketing himself. Derek Jeter’s act is shtick too, but no one says anything for fear of insulting or alienating the “Captain.”