David Ortiz Risks Legacy On PED Article
Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz recently penned an article for the website The Players Tribune professing his innocence and annoyance regarding claims of steroid use.
The longtime Sox designated hitter was outed by The New York Times in 2009 as a player failing a drug test during the 2003 season. The paper named seven of at least 100 players failing tests including Ortiz, teammate Manny Ramirez, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, San Francisco Giants legend Barry Bonds and two others. The lawyers speaking to the Times did not provide the entire list and would have faced judicial sanctions for releasing information sealed by a court. The document naming Ortiz and all others has been destroyed.
Since the Players Association and Major League Baseball agreed on performance-enhancing drug testing and punishment in 2006, Ortiz has passed every test. Still, his name is whispered by fans, especially of Boston rivals, every year of his Red Sox career, increasing in volume after his failed test disclosed in 2009. Pointing to a lack of decline in offensive statistics in his mid-to-late 30s and a World Series for the ages, those whispers may have merit.
To Ortiz’s defense, the once portly slugger slimmed down over the last five years and became a smarter hitter at the plate, knowing what pitches to layoff and placing the ball more to the opposite field. Is that the primary reason at 38-years-old Ortiz slugged 35 home runs for the first time since 2007 at 31?
With an understanding that haters will hate, the most perplexing part of what has happened recently is Ortiz himself coming forward to thrust his lack of use into the conversation. He explained himself in 2009 and, according to him, passed every urine and blood test since. Because his career goes against the curve for aging heavyset sluggers have gone through before does not mean he is cheating, no matter how much his name is mentioned in New York.
So why bring it up? Why would Ortiz turn the spotlight on himself knowing if he is indeed lying that his reputation will be long gone? Whatever you thought of Rodriguez’s first confession must have went out the window when his name repeatedly surfaced in the paperwork of Biogenesis. If all this bluster by Ortiz, followed by a rather thoughtful response by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, backfires as word of a failed test or an order for a PED untested for surfaces then he joins Rodriguez and others in the Hall of Shame. The public, especially the adoring one here in Red Sox Nation, will tolerate many sins provided there is some act of contrition after. Lying, on the other hand, will not fly.
If the point for writing the piece was to get ahead of the eventual curve if Ortiz starts this season hot, why risk it? Since his admission for his failed test, he has been outspoken in his disdain for steroids and advocates for suspensions longer than his union has bargained for. Now that he has put everything on the table regarding his innocence, the effort from those in the press wanting to prove him wrong will intensify.
With a probable invitation to Cooperstown awaiting five years after his retirement, was pushing all his proverbial poker chips into the middle of the table worth it?
As a fan of the game, one hopes he has the winning hand. If he is caught in a lie, however, the damage will expand well west of the Berkshires.