THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
On September 29th, at what will likely be his last game at Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees announced they will honor David Ortiz with a pregame ceremony, following in the footsteps of what every other team has done this year when Ortiz visited for the final time.
But the Yankees fans are not too thrilled about it.
Let's start with a history lesson. In recent history, many players have announced their retirement prior to their final season. This has been a way to quell rumors as players get older and reach the end of their contracts. Fans and media alike would typically start to wonder if another deal would get done, and those questions would be asked of the aging stars constantly, especially during times of extreme success or failure. Rather than face those questions constantly, star players simply came out and said this would be it, setting off a farewell tour for the final year of their careers that actually created more issues than it should, whereby managers would have to determine whether or not to play the aging superstar or rest him, depending on what was best for the team. Joe Girardi frequently went on record as saying his job was to manage a baseball team to the postseason, not manage a farewell tour.
Although a player like Chipper Jones should be remembered as one of the first to do this, he gets overshadowed by the back-to-back retirement tours of Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. In 2013 and 2014 respectively, these two went from city to city and received the warmest of ovations, even from hated rivals such as the Boston Red Sox or the New York Mets. They were showered with gifts and love. Members of the opposing teams would gush with respect for their godly opponents who will, without a doubt, be first ballot Hall of Famers (if not unanimous).
So then why isn't the favor being returned by the Yankees fans to David Ortiz? Rumors are swirling about a campaign to moon Ortiz at his final game, let alone not give him a standing ovation or reception similar to what the Red Sox faithful gave both Rivera and Jeter. What makes this different?
Simple: Ortiz cheated.
Lest we forget, David Ortiz was implicated for failing a drug test for PEDs before it was illegal in baseball. Ortiz denied it up and down, but no player who was even suggested to have done this in an official report was given any sort of honor until the writers stupidly awarded Ortiz the World Series MVP in 2013, thereby breaking the first seal of allowing those with voting privileges to bestow honors upon reasonably suspected cheaters. Yes, we believe you are innocent until proven guilty in this country, and that's why Ortiz has never been convicted of such a crime or faced a punishment. But the court of public opinion has a right to speak as well.
Now, let's clarify one thing. Ortiz has every right to play baseball and help the Red Sox win, just like Alex Rodriguez did while he was in the middle of his various controversies. This has nothing to do with on-field rights. This is only concerning the realm of honor that consists of how the media and fans view and judge a player overall, not whether or not he should be allowed to play. When A-Rod was facing his various issues in 2013 and came back with just a portion of the season left, fans were up in arms that a cheater was allowed to play. But that's how the judicial process works. And by those standards, David Ortiz has every right to continue to play and bring championships to Boston. The issue is with the honors of World Series MVP and the grand tour of his final season, garnering applause and love from people who seem to forget his past.
Consider this as well. In the most simple of terms, how many times has David Ortiz been ejected in his career? If my math is correct at the time of writing this, Ortiz has been ejected 13 times in his Major League career. Do you know how many times Jeter and Rivera were ejected combined? Zero.
The attitude that Ortiz displays is nothing short of childish when things don't go his way. In his final season, we all remember the tirade that he put on at Yankee Stadium when Ron Kulpa ejected him over balls and strikes. Further, we all remember the tirade that earned his a suspension when Tim Timmons ejected him at Camden Yards, which included the destruction of a telephone in the dugout. Could someone please show the class where that behavior exists with Jeter or Rivera?
The point is that David Ortiz is the equivalent of Alex Rodriguez, not Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. Ortiz has accomplished a great many feats on the diamond. He has brought championships to the city of Boston after being "cursed" for so long. He will always be remembered as a player who was a constant threat and struck fear into the hearts of pitchers who didn't have pinpoint control. But to say he deserves the same honor as Jeter or Rivera is more of a slap in the face to those two and to the intelligence of those who see Ortiz for what he is.
One final disclaimer: although Ortiz doesn't equate to deserving the honors of Jeter or Rivera, by no means does this mean that fans should treat him poorly or inappropriately. If you feel he doesn't deserve the honors he receives, simply don't watch. Go to the bathroom. Get a drink or some food. Don't boo him or moon him. He's still a human being and deserves respect for that. Although he may not be the epitome of good sportsmanship, that doesn't mean that you should fall into the same trap. You can be the difference here.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.