May 23, 2012

Ortiz And Leadership

David Ortiz, May 21, 2012:
I was reading an article [that] talked about the leaders people call "leaders" in this town. Basically, it seems like no matter what you do, it's not good enough. And you can only call leaders the guys who are out diving for balls on the field or calling pitches behind the plate? No. 1, I don't agree with that. And No. 2, what I do I don't do for people to know. I do it for my teammates, to get to know things better. I don't give a [expletive] about anybody knowing what we talk about, No. 1. And No. 2, I don't give a [expletive] what they call leaders. ...

What they call leaders is not what a leader is all about. They need to go to the dictionary and find out what the word "leader" means. You know what I'm saying? The leaders they call leaders are the ones who get in front of the crowd and try to lead them. But that's not the case here. I'm the kind of [expletive] who worries about winning games. I'm a winner. I hate losing. But what I do, I don't do for everybody to know. I do it for us to get better, and the trash talking out there to stop. ...

I don't give a [expletive] if they want to call me a leader. I don't give a [expletive] if they want to call me a captain. I don't give a [expletive] if they call me either of them. Because you know what? I always say I came to play this game and one day I'm going to be gone. And as long as I play, I'm going to try to do good. I'm going to try to do whatever it takes to win ballgames. ...

I don't get no respect. Not from the media. Not from the front office. What I do is never the right thing. It's always hiding, for somebody to find out. ...

Somebody wrote, "Why didn't he do it earlier?" Earlier? When am I going to do it, in spring training? What did I do wrong? Seriously, what did I do wrong? You hit 54 home runs, then hit 35, it's not good enough. How many people hit 35? Never good enough, bro. That's why I don't care. What I care about is the respect of my teammates, the [expletives] who know that we need to play the game better, worry about what we got to do, and that's about it. They respect that. We talked and then we go about our business afterward. I don't care about anything else. ...

We're playing better, we're winning, everybody is going about their business. And it's still May. Not late, like [some critics] want to say.
Ortiz made his surprising comments to Gordon Edes of ESPN after Monday's game in Baltimore. Edes explained that Ortiz was angry at comments made that afternoon by Tony Massarotti, a writer for the Globe and co-host (with Michael Felger) of a sports radio show. Mazz worked with Ortiz on a biography, Big Papi: My Story of Big Dreams and Big Hits.

In an article on the show's website, Massarotti said:
The fact that it's Ortiz I'm happy to hear, I said to you at the end of last year I thought it was time to cut bait with him too. So thus far he has played very well, in fact he played well defensively in the time he got in the field over the weekend and if he is now taking it upon himself to assume leadership of this team I give him all the credit in the world for it.
During the show, Massarotti said that Ortiz
was the right guy [to call the meeting]. I have always wondered whether or not he would really do this sort of thing. He's always been more the kind to put his arm around someone, pull them aside, "Hey what's bothering you." Very empathetic, sympathetic, calm. He's not the kind of guy to start flipping stuff over. If in this one he was pissed off? Good. Someone in there needed to get pissed off a long time ago.
Nick Cafardo, writing in today's Globe, called Ortiz's outburst an "awkward, strange response" to the topic of leadership and respect, and noted that Ortiz
gave me an earful about the media being too tough on Josh Beckett in the reaction to his golf outing. After Beckett pitched another outstanding game Sunday in Philadelphia, Ortiz said, "They said Beckett was a cancer. What are they going to say now?"

It really bothered him that people had turned on Beckett, and part of that goes back two years ago when people were saying that Ortiz was done, based on a bad April. He hasn't forgotten that.
General manager Ben Cherington:
He's stepped up and been a true leader on and off the field. From the first day of spring training, he's played hard. He reported in great shape. He's run balls out. He's done what he needs to do in the field. He's done what he needed to do off the field and in the clubhouse. He's been a huge part of our team, the main reason why we've gotten through some tough patches early in the season. We're certainly happy he's on our side. ... There are moments during a season, especially in a place like this, you get frustrated. We were coming off a big win that he was a part of. Maybe it was something about the way the question was asked he didn't like. I feel good about our relationship with David. We support him and have a lot of respect for him.
Daniel Bard:
He's a leader, whether he likes it or not. Everyone listens to him and respects him because of what he's done. . . . Very few guys like to call team meetings, since it's not a positive thing. It's not fun to tell your teammates to pick it up, but sometimes it's needed. What better guy to do it?
There is no need for Ortiz to toss the post-game spread to make his points. His comments to the team when its backs were to the wall during the 2007 ALCS
Listen, we're not just a good team. We're a great team. And don't you fucking forget that. And let's go play one at a time and go prove that. Because let me tell you something ... There's a reason why you wear this Red Sox uniform. ... Because you're a bad motherfucker.
are part of his legacy in Boston. But last October, Ortiz made statements that indicated he had checked out and refused to deal with the deteriorating atmosphere in the clubhouse as the team's playoff chances disappeared. And it is those comments that give a perception of a lack of leadership.
I am nobody to determine who was doing the right thing and who wasn't. I'm another player, I'm not a boss. I'm nobody's babysitter. We have rules and they need to be followed. This case, I did what I needed to complete the rules. If others weren't, it's the bosses job to let them know what's up.
Ortiz said there was "too much drama" surrounding the Red Sox and admitted, "I don't know if I want to be part of this drama for next year." He even said that he would consider playing for the hated Yankees.

I wrote at the time:
As long as Ortiz is on the roster, the Red Sox are his team. And yet he checked out. By his own admission, he didn't care beyond punching his time card and working his shift.
While these comments were made when Ortiz was a free agent and unsure if he was in the Red Sox's plans for 2012, they did not show him in a good light. And they are a part of his history in Boston, alongside his bushel of big hits in 2004 and his inspirational words in 2007.

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