It is, indeed, ironic, that as the Red Sox are still in shock and are clumsily attempting to rise above the ignominy of the last season, three present and past members of the fabled 2004 season are again, in the public eye. The Bambino, famous for his curse, may have been from Baltimore, but the curse breakers came from Santo Domingo area of the Dominican Republic. The 2004 “Red Sox were a special, almost magical team, and this writing disparages none of the majesty of that team, but if you removed David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez from the equation I am not so sure the results would have been the same.
Pedro pitched like a video game with pinpoint control, giving us 7 scoreless innings in the third game of the Series. David Ortiz got us to the series with his two walk off homers in the playoffs, a record which still stands. Manny Ramirez, the MVP of the series put on a hitting clinic. Having Ramirez batting third and Ortiz, fourth. was a daunting task to the opposing batteries.
Closing my eyes and regenerating Ortiz’ s lead off homer in Game One is my method of cheering up. The three of them created a synergy that would not be foiled, and the likes of which have not been seen since. One pitcher and two hitters, as close to perfection in their roles as any human can be.Wow. Since that time, the vagaries and vicissitudes of life took their tolls and the trio was broken up over the years. Pedro went to the Mets, without his little friend and good luck charm, a broken hearted Nelson de la Rosa. His career never achieved the glory of 2004 and he was traded several more times, which brings us up to date. This week, Pedro,while in Boston concerning one of his charities, announced that he was retiring.
Pedro was a character with a quick sense of humor but no one could equal Manny being Manny. Most of the times, his antics were amusing. When in the outfield at Fenway, he would go into the scoreboard door during play and sit down and rest. I saw him high five a fan at the left field wall at Camden Yards while fielding a ball without missing a beat. He also had his dark side, as far as the Red Sox were concerned, occurred when he started mouthing about wanting a trade culminating in his obvious lack of desire to play and “dogging it”. He refused to play because of nonexistent injuries and was a general source of discontent. In July of 2008, he was traded to the Los Angelis Dodgers, then to the Chicago White Sox and finally the Tampa Bay Rays where he was reunited with his old World Series team mate, Johnny Damon. Two times after being traded, once with the Dodgers, the other with the Rays, he tested positive for illegal substances, receiving suspensions in both cases. The latter suspension was with Rays, last season. It was for 100 games. At that point he quit. This week, the 39 year old Ramirez has sought to be resigned by someone, which, to date, has not happened.
The third leg of this three legged stool is David Ortiz. It would be difficult to find some one nicer, easier to like and good hearted than David Ortiz. In addition to being easily available to fan exposure, he and his wife, the beautiful Tiffany, started the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, which helps needy children in Boston, the Dominican Republic and beyond. He hosts a very popular fundraising golf tournament in the Dominican Republic. He has been a constant source of support and leadership inside the club house and one of the go to guys management uses to smooth out internal bickering. In short, he sets the example as the person and the player. He can also knock the cover off the ball-regularly
His current claim to fame is his status as a free agent. This is where personality and business collide. There is no better teammate than David Ortiz. His last two seasons have had mixed results due to peaks and valleys in the hitting department, although last season he batted .309. One of the problems is that he does not have a Manny Ramrez batting ahead of him in the lineup, making him easier for the opposition to pitch to him. Another is that he is 36 years old. and is insisting on a multiple year contract. It is true that a pure designated hitter, like Ortiz, has less strain on his physical person and can play longer without overriding fear of disability, but he is certainly on the cusp of being past his prime. Very few highly paid athletes know when to quit. They usually profess their leading edge ability when in fact they have dropped a step. They usually have to have such a bad season that they are shamed out of the game. Some that might fit into that category-Brett Favre, Tim Wakefield, Donovan McNabb and others of that ilk.
One of the tragedies in this situation is that the athlete has much to offer the younger players as a coach and mentor; but they don’t want that. They want to play. Unfortunately, we might be able to think about put David Ortiz in that category. Self examination and guaging one’s true value is extremely difficult, and we have seen the public humiliation of those who learned from others that “the ole gray mare ain;t what she used to be.” Go ask Terrell Owens.
After last season, it would be idiotic not to sign David for a one year contract and continue in that vein until he retires or not resigned. It is the multiple year part that gives one pause. Remember baseball salaries are guaranteed, by and large and loss of talent is not a ground to void a player’s contract. The New York Yankees signed an aging fading Derek Jeter to a three year contract which is really tossing dice, but it also makes it harder for management to realistically deal with players in similar circumstances. The “word” was they didn’t want to fire an icon so they caved.
This may be a problem in the Ortiz negotiations. Bobby Valentine made it his first order of business to press the flesh with Ortiz in the Domincan Republic last week and both individuals gave off good parting vibes, but the money bags have yet to open. David is also on iconic stature and an unpleasant parting would cause management to publicly be the seen as the bully, at a time when it needs all the good will it can muster, so that would weigh heavily in David’s favor. So we shall see what we shall see.
So, for differing reasons, the three amigos appear in the sports pages again. Pedro’s is the most benign. As an aside, he touted the resigning of Ortiz. We have Manny Ramirez desperately trying to recover the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome, but I fear he has left behind the ashes of too many bridges on the return path; finally the is David Ortiz. Business sense aside, I hope they sign him to a zillion years. The benefits outweigh the risks. I must admit my desire is emotionally based, but one can hope.
Each with his own issues, they were, when together as teammates, magnificent. Vaya con dios, mis amigos.
Tags: Bobby Valentine Brett Favre Chicago White Sox David Ortiz Derek Jeter Donovan McNabb Los Angeles Dodgers Manny Rameriz Nelson De La Rosa New York Yankees Pedro Martinez Tampa Bay Rays Tim Wakefield