A note to the 37,919 fans in attendance at Fenway for last Thursday’s win over the Athletics.
Asking for a curtain call from David Ortiz on the same day he was outed as a steroid user? That means the following:
You can no longer chant “A-Roid”.
You cannot laugh at those fans in San Francisco who rooted for Barry Bonds, or the Yankees fans that cheered when it was announced that Clemens was coming back in 2007. You are those people.
No “Mannywood” jokes, either. And that means that you are okay with Big Mac and Sammy in 1998. All the same stuff, really.
And if you lose a Game 7 of the ALCS to a pitcher that flunks a test four months later there is no bitching allowed. You lost that right when you told Big Papi that everything is okay.
I get that Ortiz is beloved here, I really do. And he made a mistake and life goes on. But, you know, it is okay to show a little anger. He did do something wrong. Maybe, just maybe hold off a week or two before you act like nothing happened?
This was a low moment for Boston sports. All of 37,919 fans basically had a chance to make their thoughts on the Steroid Era known and decided to yawn.
I thought MVP chants for Kobe Bryant at the Garden in 2007 was the bottom of the last 15 years from Boston fans (just edging out a standing ovation for Clemens in 2003 and 20,000 Bruins’ fans showing up at City Hall to celebrate Ray Bourque winning a Cup for another team in 2000) but this is the topper. A disgraceful effort from good fans that should (and do) know better.
A few winners and (other) losers from the Ortiz saga… (and, as always, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any and all thoughts):
Winner: Carl Michael Yastrzemski
In the spirit of former WWF commissioner Jack Tunney, I am going to strip David Ortiz of the title of Greatest Clutch Hitter in Red Sox History and return it to Captain Carl. I don’t know if cigarettes have the same impact as steroids, but they seemed to have helped No. 8 when it mattered most:
Yaz: .369 batting average, .447 OBP, .600 slugging
Ortiz: .293 batting average, .401 OBP, .543 slugging
True, Ortiz’s sample size is much larger (277 plate appearances to 76 plate appearances), but throw in Yaz’s September/October in 1967(.417 BA with nine homers and 26 RBI in the middle of perhaps the most famous pennant race in history) and you’ve almost got a wash.
The season of 1978 was the Year of Ron Guidry. 25-3, 1.74 ERA, nine shutouts, 16 complete games. Totally dominant. How dominant? In 273.2 innings pitched he gave up exactly one home run to a left-handed hitter. And that was to Carl Yastrzemski. I’m guessing you’ve heard of the game in which the homer occurred, it was the 163rd of the season for the Sox and Yankees. Clutch enough for you?
So I ask you, John W. Henry (who has been pretty quiet on his Twitter page the last 96 hours or so), to step up and do the right thing. That plaque you presented to Ortiz in September of 2005? I’m not asking you to smash it to bits in a pre-game ceremony. Just a slight edit is all that we need.
Loser: Manny Ramirez
From a First Ballot Hall of Famer to an absolute punch line in three months. Great legacy, Manny. The first significant player (that we know about) to flunk a pair of steroid tests.
What’s ironic is that 2003 was Manny’s least productive season since 1997. I’ll just assume that he blossomed naturally as a hitter after that and just started randomly taking steroids starting in 2003, because looking at the 1997 Indians’ roster I can’t find anyone who might’ve been on the juice.
Here’s how I look at Manny and Ortiz as a duo historically: They have gone from being a notch below Ruth and Gehrig to maybe half a notch above McGwire and Canseco.
(And I’d put Canseco in the Hall of Fame before the other three. Sure, if some Double-A team in Greenville had given him a third-base coaching job six years ago he probably would’ve stayed quiet, but there is now no denying his impact on MLB history. An easy punch line, but we would not be here without “Juiced”. Of the four, he’s the only one to cop to doing steroids. Also he’s got the only MVP in the group. He’s not a Hall of Fame player but if this game becomes clean again a man who actually advocates the use of steroids will be, I believe, the person most responsible for the purification of our pastime.)
Winner: Terry Ryan
OK Dan Duquette, time to hand the torch over and let Mr. Ryan run a lap on the “Vindicated by the Steroid Era” track. He has been crucified over the last six years for releasing Ortiz in 2003 to create a roster spot for Jose Morban (who actually never played for the Twins and played just 61 games in the majors, hitting .141. Off topic I know, but how did a guy hitting .141 with a .225 slugging percentage DH in 14 games? Were the 2003 Orioles that bad?)
No doubt it was a mistake. A pretty large one, even if Oritz had just maintained his pre-2003 level. Look at his 2002 season. At age 26 (uh, okay) he hit 20 homers with 74 RBI in just 125 games, slugging .500. That is B, B+ production at the DH position. No reason to think that he couldn’t at least do that for the next three, four years, right? But the Twins sent him out and watched Ortiz get a cool nickname, ESPN commercials and a book deal (oh, and average 42 HRs and 128 RBI from 2003-07) while they trotted out the following guys at DH for the Metrodome crowd:
2003: Matt LeCroy
2004: Jose Offerman
2005: Matt LeCroy
2006: Rondell White
2007: Jeff Cirillo
No nicknames were born from those seasons. But I can’t go crazy on Ryan. For one, I don’t remember a bidding war for Ortiz after 2002. A lot of teams felt the same way the Twins did, it would appear. And the team that signed him felt that he’d be a nice backup for Jeremy Giambi. So it was a minor miss by Ryan, but the player he gave up on was not the same one that showed up in Boston over the next half decade.
(And by half decade I do mean that I personally doubt very highly that Ortiz, a part-time player with some injury history before 2003, just quit the juice after a breakout season. Total speculation on my part, nothing more -- well, the 54-homer season could be seen as a hint. As Justice Potter Stewart once remarked on pornography, “I know it when I see it” -- pretty good work by the judge when you realize this was before HD internet scenes were available. That’s where I’ve been with Oritz on steroids for years and that hasn’t changed, of course.)
Loser: Tony Massarotti
Here’s the deal, Tony. You can write the “Big Papi is a Fraud” column. Go for it. I even agreed with some stuff in there. But at some point don’t you have to mention that the co-author of 2007’s “Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits” was Tony Massarotti? I’m not asking you to give any money back, but how about a simple acknowledgement (an editor’s note was added some time after the post by Massarotti)? And this isn’t Globe bashing for the sake of Globe bashing. If Mike Lowell failed a steroid test and Rob Bradford never mentioned it I’d bash him like crazy. Bottom line: If you are going to take the moral high ground over someone at least mention that some of the terrible things done might have paid for a few of your shirts.
Winner: Ken Griffey, Jr.
Or, The Last Hope.
I am comforted that Griffey never hit 70 home runs in a season. I am comforted that Griffey has had the sort of career decline that falls in line with the career declines of the players I grew up watching. Every generation has had at least one truly great slugger. The 1950s and 1960s had Mantle. The 1970s and 1980s had Schmidt. Maybe Griffey is the one from the 1990s and 2000s.
Loser: Michael Weiner
The presumed next executive director of MLBPA really can’t win when he sits down with Bud Selig (assuming he’s still in charge) in December of 2011 to try and hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. If Bud really does want the ‘roids out of the game (and sometimes I wonder) all he has to say is this:
“Here’s the deal. Same testing policy we have for the minor leaguers. Notice how none of these young guys, the big names, have been on any lists? It’s because they have been conditioned to testing. That’s also why you don’t see 68-homer seasons anymore. Kinda nice to have 40 homers mean something again, right? And we agree that the older guys are moving out and taking the flaxseed oil and fertility drugs with them. So if the game is almost clean, why not take the final step?
First Offense: Two-Year Suspension.
Second Offense: Lifetime Ban.
Again, shouldn’t be a problem if the guys are on the up and up. By the way, this is the only offer. All doors in every ballpark will be locked until you agree.”
Won’t happen, of course, but wouldn’t it be nice?
A final word on Ortiz…
Do I think that the 2004 and 2007 World Series Titles are “tainted”, as it has been suggested over the past five days? No. Find me a good team from those seasons that had no players doing any performance enhancing drugs of any kind and we can talk. And Ortiz isn’t simply a creation of steroids. You don’t do the things he did without a great deal of talent. But whatever he was to Red Sox fans on July 29th is gone. You can stand and cheer until you believe it’s 2006 again, but the Ortiz Era is gone.
And whatever it was will never be the same again.