'Drama' surrounding Red Sox wearing on Papi
Amid great season, slugger unsure whether he wants to return to Boston next year
BOSTON -- On the surface, it seems as if life has never been better for David Ortiz. At 36 years old, he is tearing the cover off the ball. Coming into Thursday's game against the Marlins, he had homered in three straight games.
But Ortiz told reporters on Thursday he's annoyed by the recent media-generated drama around the Red Sox and says that he's not having all that much fun.
He indicated it might impact his decision on whether to continue on in Boston, or to move somewhere else when he's again eligible for free agency this winter.
"I don't know, man, I'm just tired of dealing with the drama here," Ortiz said. "This is baseball, man. It seems like everything that goes on around here is like one of those Congress decisions that will affect the whole nation. It's not like that, man. This is baseball. We're supposed to have fun, to have our performance out there at the highest level. Every day is something new, some drama, some more [stuff]. I'm tired of that, man. I'm here to play baseball, man."
Ortiz made similar comments about the drama of Boston shortly after last September's epic collapse, but regained his enthusiasm about his role as a longtime member of the Red Sox shortly thereafter.
"David handles it as well as anyone I've ever seen," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "You might have caught him at a bad day today. He's really pretty good at the drama. The ninth-inning drama, I'd like to see him there."
The latest "drama" as Ortiz called it stemmed from a blog on ESPN.com in which writer Buster Olney labeled Boston's clubhouse atmosphere as "toxic." Red Sox players have spent the last couple of days answering questions about the article.
Following the 2010 season, the Red Sox picked up Ortiz's option for '11. Last winter, he was a free agent and accepted the club's offer of arbitration, narrowly avoiding a hearing and signing a one-year, $14.575 million deal.
That means Ortiz is again in a proving ground, as he is again eligible for free agency in the winter.
Ortiz was asked if he's tired of trying to prove himself.
"Hopefully this is my last, man -- my last year trying to prove people wrong," Ortiz said.
Numerous times over the last few years, Ortiz had stated he wanted to finish his career in Boston, the place he has starred since 2003. Does he still feel that way?
"I don't know. I'll think about it," Ortiz said.
Nobody disputes that playing in a market such as Boston or New York creates a different dynamic. Valentine has worked in both places.
"Most of the guys have been through this more than I have here. Maybe they can tell me about it," Valentine said. "Some of the young guys, I've talked to individually, just about keeping the eye on the ball. It's easy to get distracted. That's part of the game, right? That's part of the challenge. To be successful in a great baseball community like this, you have to overcome the opposition and you have to overcome the distraction. It's part of the challenge."
The one thing Ortiz has done exceedingly well this season is hit the baseball.
Ortiz belted a grand slam on Wednesday and is hitting .313 with 18 homers and 49 RBIs in 2012.
How is Ortiz performing at such a high level even in what could be the late stages of his career?
"There's no secret, man. That's just me," Ortiz said. "I've been here for 10 years, doing my thing. What's new? Keep on working hard and trying to win another championship. It's summer, man. Summer gets hot, Papi gets hot."
One thing the Red Sox were known for when they were winning those championships in 2004 and '07 was being a pretty fun-loving bunch. Ortiz indicated that it's hard to have that type of environment at the moment.
"It's becoming [what] it used to be," Ortiz said. "Look around, bro. Look around. Playing here used to be so much fun. Now, every day is something new. Not related to baseball. People need to leave us alone, play ball and do what we know how to do."
Ortiz was asked if it was the fans and the media that were getting him down.
"Let me ask you a question: Who came out with the news a couple of days. The fans or the media? Thank you," said Ortiz. "I'm done."
After that, Ortiz walked away from his locker and got ready for Thursday's game.
Was Ortiz possibly trying to rally the Red Sox with his comments?
"Yeah, and maybe a distraction for the rest of them," Valentine said. "Put it on his shoulders again, like we have for most of the season."