Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Not-So-Big Papi

A Moose Track

Dear Mr. David Ortiz,

The year was 2004. Your team, the Red Sox, was coming off of three devastating losses in a row to a New York Yankees team that made you look like you had no business being there. It was the American League Championship Series, and the odds were stacked against you as you took the field to defend your honor and pride in front of the hometown crowd.

Through twelve innings the battle continued, until you stepped to the plate--and there was hope yet. With a swing of the bat, you lifted a team, a city, a nation--and we all knew that optimism was in order for the rest of the series. You could've measured the force of the cheers on the richter scale. The walk-off home run sealed the victory, and placed the momentous pressure back on the Yanks' bulky shoulders.

You know how the rest goes. That was just the beginning of building your reputation of hitting it where the fielders ain't at all the right times. Of course, the next night you put an end to a six hour marathon with another walk-off, this time a single. By then it was clear; if Big Papi is up with a close score late in the game, the pitcher starts wishing he had become an accountant, the opposing dugout silences and the Fenway crowd explodes. This was not your first, not your second, but your third walk-off hit of the playoffs--two of them being home runs.

You went on to unprecedentedly take the series from the embarrassed Bronx Bombers, winning four games in a row on top of your ALCS MVP shoulders. As we all know, you took the World Series easily, winning over a Cardinals squad that looked like they've never played an American League team. It was the first World Series for the Sox in 86 years, and it was pure bliss for nine year olds and ninety year olds alike. And, nobody doubted that you were the hero of the playoffs.

I was nine at the time, staying up late night after night to watch you and my beloved Red Sox in their bid to finally take a Championship. I was a kid who loved baseball, and you had been my favorite player since you started hitting it onto the Mass Pike. You were large and lovable, a slugger that was always smiling, who loved to cook and treated his fans as well as he treats his mother. As a matter of fact, for proof, I once saw you hit a grand slam in a pre-season game. I was about ten yards above you, on a high-rise; with about five other fans, me being the only ten year old present. You walked into the concealed clubhouse on the other side of the stadium, and as you walked through, I started cheering, yelling and screaming. You looked up, laughed and waved at us. It was a hero moment if any. And you were my hero, Mr. Ortiz.

As a matter of fact, I attended a game in which you hit one of your patented walk-off home runs. Do you remember June 2nd, 2005? I saw eight innings of your team's magic at Fenway, the only game that I got to attend all season, and I decided to leave early to go to my own Little League game. In the car on the way there, I listened to the broadcast of you doing what I knew you by back then--and I should have been happy about it, excited that you had done it once again, after the famous season. But I cried my eyes out, wishing I could have been there to cheer along with the rest of the Fenway Faithful, watching my favorite player toss his helmet before jumping onto home plate. I have never left a baseball game early on my own terms because of you, Mr. Ortiz.

You produced more than almost all players in the next three years after the historical season, winning another championship in 2007--while taking home four consecutive Silver Slugger awards in the process. Mr. Ortiz, you were everything that was right about baseball in an era that warranted more criticism than any other in any sport. You were the star that everyone loved, who was famous for mango salsa, charity organizations and one big smile. You were the bright spot in a league that had so many problems. And you were truly an inspiration and a role model for kids all over the U.S.--me included. Who's name-and-number tee do you think I wore five days a week despite my mom's disapproval?

But last week, I turned on SportsCenter, and my heart broke quicker than you can say homer. A report was shown that you, David Ortiz, Big Papi, had been linked to Performance Enhancing Drugs in the infamous testing of 2003. For the last six years I had believed that you were the untouchable. It didn't even cross my mind that you were juicing. When the annual test doctors came knocking, I believed you when you said, "All they're going to find is a bunch of rice and beans."

You were the first one that we couldn't just dismiss as, "Nobody really liked him anyways" like we had the luxury to do with A-Rod, Clemens, Bonds and Sosa. You were the biggest man in the world, with a personality larger than life. And with the leak of a report, you quickly became one of the smallest. I mean, David Ortiz, a cheater?

Remember all of the things you said about steroids? "If I test positive using any kind of banned substance I'm going to disrespect the game, my family, my fans and everybody. And I don't want to face the situation, so I won't use it. I'm sure everybody is on the same page... If you admitted you were using the stuff, don't use it any more. You know it's not good for you. You know it's not good for the game and let's move on, you know what I mean?" How can we know that the 2004 series was honest? What about the 2007 one?

You kept telling us how you weren't juicing if you could help it, yet this report shows otherwise. Mr. Ortiz, the only thing that people disrespect more than cheaters are liars. Please, tell the truth about everything. If you did juice, tell us. If you didn't juice, give us the truth. All you're saying for now is, "Based on the way I have lived my life, I am surprised to learn I tested positive." We're all surprised that you tested positive, David. If you're genuinely surprised, then you're saying that you didn't go on 'roids. If this ends up true, you'll be cornered in numerous amounts of your own lies. All we can ask for at the moment is the truth.

But me? I'm just hoping that it's all a big misunderstanding. I want to believe that you never juiced; I found that my first inclination was to assume the best. I mean, you're David Ortiz, you'd never do something like that! Once the details come out, if we end up getting a confession from you, I will obviously be very disappointed. I'm already disappointed. I mean, my hero's legacy is shaken, tarnished. I need to start patterning my hitting after different players. Albert Pujols. Ryan Howard. Evan Longoria. For sure, they're not juicing, right? Right?

It sucks, Mr. Ortiz. We don't know what honesty is anymore. Watching the man who in my eyes was the unshakable in the steroid situation shaken leaves my confidence in shambles. I loved watching you play while it lasted, David. I imitated your swing for fun with my buddies all of the time, even if you were a lefty and I was righthanded. Heck, at 14, I still do. You brought great joy and a great personality to baseball that was, I repeat, larger than life.Now we need to know if it was honest or not.

And isn't it a shame that we need to say that?



Moose said...

This was hard to write. You guys can tell how much Big Papi has contributed to my sports fandom. It's all tough.
PS (hursty-style): Hibachi dudes, I'd like this up for a while. I'd like comments from everyone who reads this blog.

Collin said...

i just got done commenting on your post right beneath this one; i finished my comment and then noticed that you had a new post.

but then i noticed it was about baseball, and not basketball, so I got

Hursty said...

That was long.
Can I summise?
Dear, Mr D.O,
you hurt Moose.
Bad friend!

Roy said...

I'm not really a baseball fan but I can tell what's going through your mind about the sport. It's really sad to hear stuff like athletes using drug enhancements to somewhat elevate their game. It seems as though, baseball fans (for some maybe) have been affecting by all this. Gone are the days when natural wellness are a common thing. The trend of drugs have been quite alarming to say the least. To put things simply, baseball is not the only sport a victim of the trend but rather every sport in general. There are some cases like that here in Philippine sports. I know it's hard to fathom what athletes do these days no matter how popular they are. Earning a clean living isn't enough for some I guess. No matter how much athletes try to hide their 'stuff' -- as the saying goes: the truth shall set them free.

BET said...

harde har har moose,

I gave up on baseball long ago, after Manny was announced as using a drug that would ensure his special places wouldnt become bite sized. This will stick with you for a little while, then you will shrug it off. I actually have and moved on, and abanndoned the Dodgers for a new team, but we will get to that. I sort of suspected this would happen, if you recall during the whole A-Rod thing, it was discovered that him and others, among them was Ortiz had a mutual trainer that was know to be dirty. It was just a waiting game from their moose, you just wanted to ignore it. But somebody has this list, and is leaking people, and they always save the best for last, this might be the end or something even crazier might be waiting....

But to give you a little cheering up, you at least think of the fact that all the pitchers throwing to Ortiz were juicers too. Pretty much everybody except a distinct few are juicers.

So do what i do and find a team that doesnt have a superstar that takes steriods. I settled on the Seatle Mariners. Ichiro and Ken Griffey Jr are both clean superstars, and the team has a lot of upside.

So you can go cry now, just know that as of now, basically everybody is a juicer until they are proven not to be one, and the clean superstar is a dying breed that you need to enjoy now because you might not have a chance in 10 years.

So go and appease your baseball needs, it is a great sport. But just be careful about who you root for this time....

Teddy-the-Bear said...

Great article. Took guts, Moose.

Teddy-the-Bear said...

Hey, maybe he was just taking vitamin supplements.

Teddy-the-Bear said...

Yo, I've never been a big baseball fan, but I've always liked the Blue Jays, and now the Yankees and Mets (all NY and TO teams). The Blue Jays and the Mets are really bad this year though.
Anyways, after I found out A-Rod was juicing, I was like "wtf"? I still cheer for the Yankees and A-Rod though. Weird, huh? At least I know my favorite pitcher (Wang Chien-Ming) ain't juicing.

Jameyb said...

Great piece Moose-from the gut and no filler. I am a huge baseball fan. My generation was a baseball generation. Over the last 15 or so years, baseball has lost the interest of many a fan due to stories like these and many far worse. McGwire and Sosa started a baseball revival of sorts during that magical summer of 1998, but then a few years later, their proverbial cards were pulled. I was EXTREMELY disappointed when I heard about Manny and the same with Papi. However, baseball, the game, runs deep in my soul and this will not deter me from loving it. Papi is going to speak today also so we'll see what he has to say. So again, great work Moose and you are versatile and can write about much more than just basketball-that's very important. If you look at any of the really successful sports writers of our time, they were/are versatile and can kick knowledge and experience on sports in general, not just one sport. Frank Deford, Rick Reilly, Dick Schaap, etc. You get guys like Gammons that are just great enough to stick with one sport, but those guys come once in a lifetime...

Moose said...

@ Collin: Just because it's a sport you aren't interested in, you still might enjoy the article. That's what I find, anyways.

@ Hursty: Pretty much it.

@ Roy: Word.

@ BET: I don't know if I'll be able to switch allegiances--you know, got a little attachment with the Sox here. But I'm considering it. Teams on the list are Mariners, Marlins, Cubs, Brewers and Twins. I'm thinking about it. Might be a good idea; switch it up a bit. Thanks.

@ Teddy: Thanks for the complements, but Yankees? Honestly? EVERYBODY loves to hate the Yankees. And Wang is DEFINITELY not on roids.

@ Jamey: Amen, brother. And thanks a lot for the complements, I try to be varyhing with the writing...I'll do more if the hoopheads don't mind, haha.

Blinguo said...

Worst part of it is who is controlling the information being slowly leaked out instead of an all at once drop, which places the spotlight less on individual players to tear down - the fuel the haters wanted and yearned for-for years, now its sadly Papi's turn.

I mean, the media snooping - into supposed illegally procured documents, which were going to be anonymous for the players, and the MLBPA is powerless to produce the full list since its both court sealed and that was their stipulation to the players, it won't ever get released.

Then you got, Papi won't even be told what he tested positive for - some hope there for ya - then your govt. who went after the list wasting work time and getting on TV to yell at Roger Clemens - not even an official trial, just grandstanding to put their name and -D(emo) or -R(epub) out there.

You can continue to be a different kind of fan in regards to baseball, more passive and skeptical about every player, but still supportive of your heros and hometown guys irregardless of everything. Sportcasters and the SF Giants owner never talked about the controversy of Bonds and the paying crowd always cheered for his homers - hell the opposing team away games people paid to boo then cheer when he hits another - "just to see history," so everyone is knee deep if not higher in all the muck themselves. Chipper Jones said during the Ortiz stuff on Sportscenter, "Hey Bonds still could have been a hall of fame guy without the steroids."

They're still your team's guys, including all their faults, & they will be until they're not on the team anymore. Giants owner got rid of Bonds without being labeled the bad guy. Both were compensated in the bus. relationship, Bonds super salary even as a 37+ year old getting major contracts, and the owner with all the sold out stadiums, merch sales, etc.

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