Just prior to partaking in what has been, since the end of the season, an almost-daily Fenway Park weight-lifting session, David Ortiz leaned back in the chair planted in the middle of the desolate Red Sox clubhouse, explaining for upwards of 20 minutes his mindset heading into the offseason.
The slugger started with a relatively placid tone before working up to a series of intense declarations, leaving absolutely no room for interpretation when it came to his thoughts on the past, present and future:
1. Ortiz wants a multi-year contract, and hopes the Red Sox don't simply pick up his $12.5 million team option.
"I'm not comfortable coming back just for one year because it's going to be the same roller-coaster that I had this year," he said. "All the question marks. People still don't realize what you're capable of doing even after eight years. I'm the kind of guy who likes to be left alone, play my game and be the best at my position."
2. His representatives will be meeting with the Red Sox front office next week, with the deadline (three days after the completion of the World Series) to decide on Ortiz' option looming.
"I'm pretty sure in one of the meetings I'll be there myself," Ortiz predicted.
3. The designated hitter is hoping to return to the mindset he said he carried for the first six years of his Red Sox career, but lost the last two.
"I just want to cut out all the crap and go back to the guy I was before, a happy guy who doesn't have to be answering questions that have nothing to with anything but controversy. I just want to be able to play baseball and have fun, like I used to," he said. "That's where I came back to not wanting just one year, because I know it's going to be just the same thing. As soon as you struggle for a week, it's going to be the same thing. People saying you are old, saying you have no bat speed anymore. People talking all kind of crap. It's hard to avoid that because it's all over the place. You're a regular human being just like everyone else. It's not like you're in a cage, locked up and you come to the field and that's it. It's not like we don't watch TV, listen to the radio, read the newspaper. We are all connected to that stuff. Especially here."
4. The 34-year-old has been hit hard by what he perceives as an altered perception of his existence in a Red Sox uniform.
"To tell you the truth, like everybody knows, I want to be back, and I want to be here for a longer period of time. I'm just a little worn out because of the negativity that I've dealt with the last few years," Ortiz insisted. "I don't think there's any baseball player that can deal with all the distractions that I deal with and play baseball. It's hard. I'm not a super hero. I'm just another human being, like everyone else. I've got feelings. I want to give this team another World Series, and dealing with all the other crap with people telling you can't do it no more, or this and that, I have no room for that. Hopefully next week we'll sit down and make everyone happy."
5. Ortiz is still supremely confident in his ability heading into the 2011 season.
"I know that I can help this ball club more than what people think," he said. "It's just all the question marks that people put on me. Even after the season I had, people still have questions. You tell me, how does a guy who is declining finish in the Top 10 best hitter in the league. How does that happen? Put it this way, the past two years I have 60 homers, and I have over 200 RBI. Is that bad?"
Yet, after all the analysis and information, Ortiz punctuated the session by taking the filter off, and simplifying his view through a few decisive sentences:
"I'm going to hit!"
"I know how to hit!"
"I'm going to hit!"
"You're talking to a bad [man]," Ortiz continued. "I don't care what anybody says, I've done it all in baseball. I'm happy to be here, I want to continue my career here, and people already know that. But I don't want the controversy. I'm tired of that [stuff]. I'm tired of people questioning me and people not believing in what I can do."
If you couldn't tell, Ortiz is fed up. He is also perplexed. He is coming off his sixth 30-plus home run season of his career (32), the fifth-most in the American League. He was eighth in the AL in OPS (.899), while totaling the 10th-most RBI in the league (102).
Yet, it was the reaction that came from an April in which he managed one home run while hitting .143 that still stings. For Ortiz, there was also a direct correlation between the diminishing support and the uncertainty that came with his undefined future with the Red Sox. Hence, his desire to lock something up for more than just the one year, allowing Ortiz the kind of peace of mind that he feels has been absent for the past two seasons.
"The reason why we play 162 games is not to see what you can do in the first 50, because you can kill in the first 75 games and then if you shut it down the next 75 what have you done? This is a game were I have maintained myself in being the Top 10 in the league, even last year, which was supposedly my worst year as a Red Sox. I was in the top 10-15 hitters in the league. When you talk about power-hitters' numbers, I was right there with everybody," Ortiz explained.
"When you go through my position there's not an elite player that you can match with me at my position, because not everybody has a true DH. Very few teams have a guy have a guy who is going to be their DH no matter what. The Red Sox are a team that have had a true DH the last eight years. And then when you talk about numbers, where you going to go? But the most important thing is when you match me with power hitters then it gets more interesting.
"The bottom line is my first five years here, I didn't have much pressure on me. People were watching me because of what I was doing. They were enjoying it. i was having tons of fun. You saw what it was. Every single penny that I have gotten from this organization, I've earned it. It's not like I shut it down."
As Ortiz spoke, the intensity of his words increased exponentially. He is not blind to the fact that no designated hitter put up as many homers, or finished with a higher OPS. And that is why the frustration leaks out when it comes to analyzing both public perception and his contractual future. It also led to words thick with the kind of self-confidence the DH usually doesn't put on public display.
"I'm starting to analyze my numbers later in my career, and that's because of the crap people talk about," he said. "But at the end of the day, I'm one of the best hitters in the game.
"Every organization wishes they could have a guy like myself the past eight years. So am I supposed to be taking [crap] from anybody? No. I've been doing my thing. That's it. And I want to go back to that, because I'm a fun player. I'm a person who likes to have fun. I care about my team. I care about all the stuff that I do. I care about people around me. That's me. I'm not any different. When you're that open and that cool all the way around and you hear people trying to make your life impossible because that they want to sell newspapers, it makes no sense."
So what now? That's what Ortiz can't wait to find out.
"My situation … I don't know," he said. "We'll see how it goes."