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Ortiz situation delves into a farce

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  March 8, 2013 12:13 PM

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As far as late-breaking sports developments go, it’s not exactly “Daniel Larusso is going to fight.”

Still, we get that sense seemingly on a daily basis from Fort Myers, Fla., where the baseball media breathlessly can’t wait to break the moment that Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is finally going to … jog.

David Ortiz is going to jog?

This is how ridiculous the situation has become, spiraling into farcical measures fit for a team trying to hide the fact that the sky is falling around it. Ortiz’s sore legs are reportedly not an offshoot of the Achilles heel injury that he suffered last July, even though the slugger’s return to the lineup was preached as “imminent” right up until Bobby V rode his bike off into the sunset. No, according to manager John Farrell, it’s more likely “general soreness associated with Ortiz trying to get back in shape after not being able to run all winter.”

I’ve got June 18 in the pool.

Ortiz has yet to play in a spring training game, and his status for Opening Day has to be dubious at best. Yet, coming off the injury last fall, after playing once since rounding second base on July 16, the Red Sox felt it in their best interests to award “The Greatest Slugger in Red Sox History,” a two-year, $25 million contact. Why? Because he has a plaque, just one of the many at Fenway Park, a collection considered “probably the most in baseball?”

Popular opinion was that the Sox would rue the day they offered that deal, but nobody truly expected that day to come upon reporting to spring training. Ortiz’s camp has been a joke, and a clear signal that the Red Sox are desperate for a beacon of their past as they attempt to re-tool and restore any lingering trust they may still have within the fan base. Last fall was the perfect time to walk away from Ortiz, or at least offer him another one-year deal, contracts under which he, by the way, tended to play better under, itching for another payday. What does he have to work for this spring? He’s got $25 million guaranteed under a deal that could potentially pay him up to $29 million if he spends fewer than 20 days on the disabled list in 2014.

Insert laughter here.

Meanwhile, the dichotomy here is absolutely priceless. After signing the face of the franchise, the Sox went out and inked Mike Napoli to a three-year, $39 million deal, one that evaporated when a physical discovered avascular necrosis in both of Napoli’s hips. After some much-publicized haggling, the two sides finally agreed on a one-year, $5 million deal for Napoli to play first base.


Napoli is 31. Ortiz is 37. Napoli played in 108 games last year. Ortiz played in 90. Napoli hit 24 home runs last season. Ortiz hit 23.

Why then, exactly, is one guaranteed $25 million, while Napoli will make almost one-third of Ortiz’s 2013 salary?

Baseball decision? If you still believe that tripe they’re delivering, your Red Sox Nation membership card is up for renewal.

The Sox need Ortiz’s face to sell tickets and maximize their TV ratings, we get that, but to make such an investment as the expense of the baseball team proves that little has changed since the days chronicled in Terry Francona’s work of “fiction,” as chairman Tom Werner classified it. So desperate are they to stay relevant to the past (did you know these Red Sox owners delivered two World Series titles?), that they simply tossed cash at an aging, broken down player instead of investing elsewhere. Coming off last season, what was Ortiz really going to get on the open market in a league where he’s not viable to play for half the teams anyway? Yet, they gave him two years. Two years. Meanwhile, Napoli had to claw for one at a deep discount.

Napoli hit his third home run of the spring Thursday in Boston’s 12-5 win over the Twins (Mayor’s Cup baby!).

Ortiz jogged, and was sore after doing so.

Sometimes it’s just best to move on, and the Red Sox had a golden opportunity to do so with Ortiz. But who would have flipped the switch in the “Christmas at Fenway” commercial?

The Red Sox need to sell Ortiz. Too bad, the baseball team needs a bat.

Jogging updates at 11.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.


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