David Ortiz ‘hurt’ by steroid accusations following his hot start
David Ortiz is off to the best start of his career with the Boston Red Sox. A notoriously slow starter in April, Big Papi is hitting .381 with 17 RBI and four home runs through only 16 games. He missed the first 15 games of the season because of an Achilles’ injury that stemmed back to last July, but the 37-year-old returned without missing a beat.
Since Ortiz’s hot start in 2013 is unusual for a player his age who normally comes crawling out of the gate, Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe decided he would be the first one to bring up the steroid talk — despite the fact that Ortiz has only appeared in 16 games.
Hitting is not this easy. Athletes do not get better as they mature into their late 30s. Baseball has been peppered with performance-enhancing drugs for the last 20 years. The cheaters are always ahead of the testers. A number of players from the Dominican Republic have tested positive for steroids. Injuries to the Achilles’ tendon are consistent with steroid use. It is not natural for a guy to hit .426 out of the gate without the benefit of any spring training.
Of course, Shaughnessy pointed to the fact that Ortiz’s name appeared on a list of players who tested positive back in 2003. That being said, he has not failed a drug test in the last 10 years. If you think Ortiz is using performance-enhancing drugs, you must think either Major League Baseball is covering for him or he has found a way to cheat the system.
It should be noted that Shaughnessy is a notorious pessimist. It has basically become part of his job description. He was one of the most vocal people in counting the Red Sox out before their miraculous comeback against the New York Yankees in 2004, and it has been thrown in his face ever since. That doesn’t mean his inferences don’t bother Ortiz.
“Where are you trying to go with this?” Ortiz asked Shaughnessy. “That’s my question. If you work hard, you’re not supposed to get better?”
Shaughnessy then pointed out that he could touch the rim when he played basketball in high school but isn’t out there throwing down dunks today. Shaughnessy also went to high school over 40 years ago. Ortiz was 30 seven years ago.
“Basketball is not the same,” Ortiz replied. “I don’t forget about hitting the damn fastball. I go up (to the weight room) and I bench press 400 pounds. Every other day. If I don’t do it, I’m not going to feel as strong as I am.
“I don’t like to be talking about this steroid thing because people get the wrong idea. I just don’t want no misunderstanding ’cause I got no time for this [expletive] right now.”
Ortiz has not forgotten how to hit a baseball just as Shaughnessy has not lost his knack for ruffling feathers. Perhaps that is a better comparison at this stage in their careers. Shaughnessy is once again simply looking for attention by writing something with shock value.
During an interview with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez before Wednesday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins, Ortiz said he is “hurt” by the accusations.
“I have bad Aprils [and] they bury me, or some reporter buries me because of that,” he said. “I have a good April [and] it’s bad, too. You’re going to make me look like that just because I’m hitting good through 15 games?. I mean, it makes no sense.”
We know Ortiz had a lame excuse for his name appearing on the 2003 banned substances list, but that doesn’t mean he is taking steroids now. Neither does a solid start to the 2013 season. If Ortiz falls into a massive slump and hits .200 for the rest of the season, Shaughnessy will be first in line to call him a washed-up superstar who simply doesn’t have it anymore. Welcome to Boston.