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David Ortiz not too pleased with having to lead Red Sox' Romper Room

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  March 14, 2014 02:18 PM

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Hey, David Ortiz: Shut up.

It’s hard to imagine that the Red Sox legend could sacrifice any of the luster he retained after nearly single-handedly leading Boston to its third World Series title in 10 years in 2013, but if this year’s baseball offseason has taught us anything, it’s to stick true to the time-tested adage of “less is more” when it comes to Big Papi. First it was the annual whining about the Red Sox not extending his contract. Now, Ortiz is seemingly spreading his contempt towards those who happen to be batting around him in this season’s lineup.

"I'm always going to need help,” he told WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “I'm 38 years old and I'm still the center of attention in the lineup. It shouldn't be like that. It shouldn't be like that. We should have a couple of studs in their 20s doing more than what I do.

"It's not always going to be about me. I saw last year. Last year, game on the line, late in the game, go to first base. They pitch around you to see if you chase. Nope? Go to first base. I've been through that since Day 1. But last year was even more different. How long am I going to be able to do what I do and be that locked? I don't know. It wears you out -- in my case, I know I do nothing but hit, but to stay that focused and not try to get out of the strike zone."

Jeez. The bus just left with three or four of Ortiz’s teammates screaming from under it.

While the days of Manny Ramirez may be long gone, it’s not exactly like Ortiz has gone hungry for production over the past six years. The past two seasons, even with 2012 shortened by an Achilles injury, or despise for Bobby Valentine; whatever you want to call it, have been among Ortiz’s best in a Red Sox uniform. Kevin Youkilis is in Japan. Stephen Drew, for whatever offense he provided, is sitting on a couch somewhere watching “The Price is Right.” Jacoby Ellsbury is in the Bronx, a departure that everybody except Ortiz, apparently, expected to come to fruition.

Poor, poor, Ortiz.

"Every year gets harder. We'll see how it goes," he said. "We lost a couple of thunders, that's why I can't wait to see how everything turns out. I don't know if Ellsbury is going to be replaced. I don't know if Salty is going to be replaced. Drew. We've got the question marks. We'll see. The season will tell us. We've got capable players to get things done, and we can keep on winning, but I don't know how it's going to be.

"I'll give it a try, but I don't think there's a baseball player that has lived through this pressure at my age. Think about it. Guys my age are supposed to be complementary players. Nobody signs guys my age to be 'The Man.' If you look at every team, 'The Man' are guys in their prime. Because it's hard. It's hard. I don't take anything for granted. I go at it every day. But living through the pressure, having to be the man every day, at this stage, when everybody is asking you when you're going to retire ..."

I apologize, but what in the hell is he talking about?

Ortiz wants to be paid like he’s the best at his position, which, frankly, is to swing a bat, but now he wants to be portrayed as an aging veteran with the world on his shoulders?

Which is it, dude?

Boston’s last visual memory of Ortiz was watching the slugger bound down Boylston Street during a pause in the championship parade last November. It was an engaging moment, one that spoke to the enormity of the moment. The celebration that took place that day was in the very face of the evil and trauma that had plagued it only seven months earlier. It was indeed the bookend to Ortiz’s “This is out $&&^%$ city speech he delivered at Fenway Park in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Full circle. Right?

Ortiz may not bat .180 this season, but he’s damn near close to having the Boston fan protractor take him over the edge of the hill when it comes to his perception. He’s the most dangerous hitter the Red Sox have had in a generation, the face of a franchise that has seen itself go from the depths of despair and ineptitude to the penthouse of Major League Baseball within a calendar year. He represented all the emotional redemption that the city could have imagined with his October performance. Despite all he had done in the postseason prior to 2013, he went from Boston folk hero to Boston spokesperson.

It was his $%^&*%#$ city too.

That was why it was so disconcerting to hear Ortiz complain about money and the possibility of him going elsewhere next season with a shrug of the shoulders. This was more than a mercenary athlete, it was a guy who oozed Boston, a man who we thought had a connection with this city as strong as Dustin Pedroia, and even newbies Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli proved they experienced last season alone.

But there’s no other way to describe Ortiz other than delusional when it come to the on-field product that the Red Sox plan to trot out next month. After all, what did he expect? And he wants another year tacked on for the burden of supporting a cast of kids?

There is, however, another avenue to take with Ortiz’s rant, and that is that he may be simply be rallying the troops. Free-swinging sideline reporter pretty boy Will Middlebrooks comes to mind. Maybe it’s a shout out to the likes of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, Jr. that there are no longer starring at McCoy. There’s a World Series to defend, and you damned well better come prepared to do so.

That’s not a message that can be delivered in the clubhouse?

“That's what keeps me going, knowing I have to be The Man,” Ortiz told Bradford. “Because I can see that in some other players, when they don't have to be The Man. ... In my case, I worry about what I have to do every single day. We have a lot of young talented players who look great and the team should give them the opportunity at some point."

It’s not like Ortiz is on the Astros, right? The way he speaks, you can be rightfully confused.

Bottom line in Ortiz’s mind, he has to be “The Man” in a lineup he seems to deem unworthy of his presence.

“It's not always going to be about me.”

Nobody said it is.

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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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