Bob Ryan

Another big hit

Ortiz’s positive test latest sorry chapter article page player in wide format.
By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / July 31, 2009

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Et tu, Papi?

Big Papi, lovable Big Papi, was on the juice. And only the terminally naive could be shocked.

He was a slugger who had a dramatic increase in production, and he is one of many big-name, Caribbean-based stars (Juan Gonzalez, Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada, Adrian Beltre, Jose Guillen, Ruben Sierra, Bartolo Colon, and even Pedro Martinez) who had an association with Angel Presinal, the notorious trainer who was banned from major league clubhouses in 2001. Once I found that out, I pretty much figured it was just a matter of when, not if, we’d have Big Papi with a performance-enhancing drug (PED) on his résumé.

The New York Times has now reported that the name of David Ortiz is on that infamous list of 104 players who tested positive back in 2003.

OK, so what do we make of his strident spring training outburst regarding outed PED users? To refresh your memory, on Feb. 16, Ortiz identified himself as a hard-liner. He said that a 50-game suspension was not enough for someone who tests positive for steroids.

“Ban ’em for the whole year,’’ he declared.

He also said he’d be happy to be tested three or four times a year, whatever it would take. “I think you clean up the game by testing,’’ he said. “I know that if I test positive for using any kind of substance, I know that I’m going to disrespect my family, the game, the fans, and everybody. I don’t want to be facing that situation.’’

He didn’t wag his index finger, a la Rafael Palmeiro, but it was close.

Oops, almost forgot. Manny Ramirez is also on that list. Not exactly a shocker, huh?

Ortiz should be given the benefit of the doubt that he is nowhere near as stupid as Manny, who, despite all the attention focused on PEDs nowadays, as opposed to six years ago, was caught being a bad boy this year. Papi’s Feb. 16 rant was delivered, quite obviously, with Papi knowing he was clean. Now.

But the topic of Boston’s World Series victories in 2004 and 2007 is going to be on the table. And this, of course, is what has always been the aspect of PED usage that people have never chosen to discuss. The issue of PED usage is almost always turned into an extended dissertation on someone’s Hall of Fame chances. The subject of wins and losses is seldom discussed.

Yet nothing in baseball is more important than wins and losses. This is the great harm caused by PEDs. Hall of Fame arguments are irresolvable at any time, even if PEDs are not included. But wins and losses have always, with the exception of the 1919 World Series (mind if we hold off on the many other conspiracy theories for a day or two?), been taken at face value. With PEDs in the equation, our trust has been violated. Now what?

Well, good luck. Let’s get serious. We simply cannot undo the results from the past 15 years, which doesn’t mean the damage hasn’t been done. Imaginations are free to run wild. We all must face up to the fact that plenty of results are now fair game for discussion.

Here’s something else subject to discussion: the Mitchell Report.

When the Mitchell Report was issued, many people were either angered or, at the very least, intrigued by the absence of Red Sox names. There may not have been a single raised eyebrow were it not for the fact that George Mitchell is more than a little associated with the Red Sox. His name is high on the team masthead as a “Director.’’

It was very foolish of commissioner Bud Selig to have Mitchell conduct that investigation. That’s a given.

Here’s another question: What exactly is going on with the leaking of these names?

The names of the 104 who tested positive were supposed to remain confidential. For reasons I’ve never understood, the Players Association did not destroy the list, and now here it is, teasing us with four big, sexy names, three of whom, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, and Ramirez, are drop-dead Hall of Famers, while the fourth, Ortiz, is both a major contemporary star and a regional folk hero.

Why them? Who’s leaking in these dribs and drabs, and why?

That bit of toothpaste is out of the tube, so let’s have it all. Simply in the interest of fairness, we need all the names. Why should the others be protected?

An even more important reason for us to have all the names is that we need to have as complete an understanding as possible as to what went on in order that we can make whatever amends are necessary before we all move on. These periodic doses of bad and/or uncomfortable news are extremely annoying. We can’t have this water torture approach continuing for years. We need to know all the bad news today, so we can get on with the healing.

This news concerning Big Papi is sad, but let’s not get excessively melodramatic and call it “tragic.’’ It’s still sports, and in this day and age all of us who patronize sports must enter into it with a sense of caveat emptor. Drugs permeate our sports, and we must always be on 24/7/365 alert for disturbing revelations such as this.

But the story is certainly troubling. This has been a glorious age of Red Sox baseball, and Ortiz has been its epicenter with his big bat, bigger smile, and impeccable flair for the dramatic, yesterday’s (presumably) non-juiced, game-changing three-run bomb on this crackling news day serving as a rather emphatic Exhibit A.

Unfortunately, we are left to wonder about what went on a few years back. It’s like finding out that Santa Claus, instead of supervising a team of industrious elves in his workshop, actually had a deal with Walmart. It’s the same toy. You just feel crummy about how you got it.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on He can be reached at

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