David Ortiz wants a standing ovation at Yankee Stadium. Mark Teixeira wants to play five more years until he’s 40 with the Yankees. Now I’m just waiting for CC Sabathia to say he wants his contract extended to top off the unfathomable comments from the opening days of spring training. But even if Sabathia did announce he wants more than the two years and $50 million owed to him over the next two years, it wouldn’t be as ridiculous as Ortiz’s comments.
“You know what I want most of all?’ I would love it if the fans at Yankee Stadium gave me a standing ovation.’’
After first hearing this, I thought it was said in jest, that Ortiz said it with a big smile on his face and then burst out into laughter in the Red Sox’ clubhouse with his teammates also laughing and Dustin Pedroia high-fiving him for the joke. But he wasn’t kidding and it wasn’t said in a sarcastic or joking manner. David Ortiz truly wants a standing ovation from Yankees fans.
Since 2003, Ortiz has been the biggest Yankee killer. He might be the biggest ever. More so then George Brett or Ken Griffey Jr. or Bengie Molina or Delmon Young. He led the Red Sox’ offense in the 2004 ALCS to overcome a 3-0 deficit in that series (or so I have been told since I don’t remember that series ever happening) after trying to single-handedly win Game 7 against them in the ALCS the year before. He has gotten big hit after big hit against them for 13 years and has been the face of the Red Sox’ resurgence over that time, representing the franchise’s best era in nearly a century.
The idea that the Yankees should do for Ortiz in 2016 what the Red Sox did for Mariano Rivera in 2013 and Derek Jeter in 2014 — the two players Ortiz said he would never act like upon his own retirement by announcing it early — is an incredible line of thinking. Rivera, the best closer ever, and Jeter, a once-in-a-generation icon, represented the game with integrity, played the game clean and never put baseball in a negative light. They didn’t call the city they play in a “shithole” the way Ortiz once called Boston because he was playing for a losing team. They never bullied an official scorer over RBIs. They didn’t enter spring training for the better part of their careers complaining about their current contracts and demanding more money. And they never used performance-enhancing drugs.
David Ortiz used performance-enhancing drugs. He was on the 2003 list that was never supposed to surface the same way Alex Rodriguez was. He was forced to hold a press conference at Yankee Stadium in August 2009 to address the issue and at that conference he said, “I never thought buying supplements was going to hurt somebody’s feelings. If that happened, I’m sorry about it.” But for some reason, Ortiz’s checkered past and off-the-field issues haven’t follow him around, and Mike Francesa was right when he called Ortiz, “one of the great con men in sports.” I have never cared about performance-enhancing drug use in baseball, and I realize I’m in the minority, but if some PED users are going to be vilified for cheating then all of them should be, and Ortiz is one of them.
The Red Sox never should have held ceremonies or given gifts to Rivera and Jeter and their fans never should have given them a standing ovation in their final games at Fenway Park. They were wrong to start this line of honoring the other team’s stars and to damage the fading rivalry a little more. What’s next in the demolition of the rivalry? Fenway Park asking Yankees fans and Red Sox fans to join hands for the singing of “Sweet Caroline” during the eighth inning, so I can yell, “BUM! BUM! BUM!” with drunk college girls in pink and camouflage Red Sox hats that don’t know who Mo Vaughn is let alone Derek Lowe, Bill Mueller or Keith Foulke.
For nearly 20 years, Rivera and Jeter were booed every time they stepped on the field at Fenway, were the subject of T-shirts on Brookline Ave. that would horrify your grandparents, were the main characters in nightmares for Red Sox fans and were the most hated men in Boston. The difference between those two and Ortiz is that Rivera and Jeter were hated in Boston, but they were respected as players. The same can’t be said for Ortiz in New York.
I have hated David Ortiz (the baseball player for the Red Sox, not the man) for the last 13 years and I will hate David Ortiz (the baseball player for the Red Sox, not the man) for a 14th year this season. But while Ortiz has hurt the Yankees numerous times, both in the regular season and postseason, he has been the perfect Red Sox player to represent them against the Yankees and is now the last member of the 2000s era of the rivalry along with A-Rod. For that, I will miss his presence in this rivalry, which needs more players like Ortiz and A-Rod and less players like Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley.
David Ortiz shouldn’t even want a standing ovation from Yankees fans. He should want his final moment in front of them to be like all the other moments before. Yankees fans hating and booing David Ortiz up until he takes his last step off the Yankee Stadium field is how he should be honored.