As David Ortiz's final season looms closer, we can look back in wonder and appreciation at what he's given to us. He's been clutch in playoff games and big moments. He's been the face of three World Series championships, from The Idiots to the Bearded Brothers. Off the field, he's delighted fans with his larger than life personality, sometimes seeming more caricature than human. He's given an impassioned speech to a city recovering from trauma. Perhaps most notably, he and Rob Gronkowski have recorded four different songs in four different musical genres about their shared passion for Dunkin Donuts iced coffee.
We understand that the time comes for every athlete to hang up their cleats for that last time, but it will be hard to let go of the man who has been the foremost figure in Boston baseball over its most successful 14 years. As much as we will miss David Ortiz, though, there are those within the game who might not be sorry to see him walk away.
When you're as good as David Ortiz and when you've been around as long as he has, you're bound to make a few enemies. While Ortiz has only come to serious blows with one enemy -- may the phone in Baltimore rest in pieces -- others have voiced their displeasure at what they see as his attitude and how that affects his gamesmanship. Whether it's bat flips, his record-setting slow trots around the bases, or his casual sauntering to first base, people, particularly pitchers, have taken a lot of issue with what David Ortiz is about.
In July of 2011, in an at-bat against the Orioles' Kevin Gregg, three inside pitches in a row were enough to send Ortiz towards the mound, prompting both benches to clear. The situation was quickly diffused with warnings being issued, but reignited moments later when Ortiz popped out to center field.
Apparently Ortiz wasn't moving towards first at a fast enough clip for Gregg, who started yelling for him to run to first:
"After I hit the fly ball, he started screaming at me," Ortiz said at the time. "I ain't gonna take that like a little b----, you know what I'm saying? Everybody's a grown[up] man here, and you gotta be aware of the situation. I mean, you saw the argument before, and after that you're gonna act like you're my daddy? I ain't gonna take that. That ain't me, though. I haven't fought since I was in kindergarten."
The benches cleared once again and while no punches landed, both Ortiz and Gregg received four-game suspensions and undisclosed fines for their roles as instigators in the brawl.
"We are playing the game of baseball," Gregg said. "You got to go ask David what he was thinking. It's 3-0 and you are up seven runs and the opposing pitcher gets upset with you for hitting a weak fly ball and not running. If he thinks there's something with me saying that, then he's got other things he needs to figure out in this game."
When David Price signed a seven-year deal with the Red Sox this winter, it immediately brought up memories of his feud with Ortiz. It all started in Game 2 of the ALDS in 2013, when Ortiz hit two homers off of Price. When the ball on the second home run arced towards the foul pole, he took a beat to make sure it went out -- or, according to Price, to admire his handiwork. "He steps in the bucket and he hits a homer," said Price, "and he stares at it to see if it's fair or foul. I'm sure that's what he'd say. But as soon as he hit it and I saw it, I knew it was fair. Run."
In a match-up in May of 2014 against the Rays, Price got his revenge by drilling Ortiz, prompting the umpire to issue warnings to both benches.
"First at-bat of the season against me he drilled me? I mean, it's a war. It's on," Ortiz said, via The Boston Globe. "Next time he hits me he better bring the gloves." While he said he'd originally had "a lot of respect" for Price, his profanity-laden tirade, during which he referred to Price as a "little bitch", made it clear that this was no longer the case. Price responded to Ortiz's comments by saying "No one is bigger than the game of baseball." Shots were fired into the 2015 season, when Price was asked if Ortiz was the same hitter he once was. "No, he's not. He's just different," Price told WEEI.com. "If he was, he'd be here (at the All-Star Game) right now."
We're guessing the two are going to get along a little better now that Price is on the Sox and will benefit from any delayed Ortiz trots, but maybe the first day of spring training will be a little awkward.
Pitchers aren't the only ones who get fed up with Big Papi's bat-flipping artistry. As of this writing, David Ortiz has been ejected 12 times in his career, tied with Matt Kemp for most ejections by an active player. He's had some memorable on-field theatrics involving umpires, including two ejections in 2015. After being ejected for a super badass, cool, and awesome bat flip in a game against Kansas City this past season, Ortiz would not be outdone by home-plate umpire Bruce Dreckman. After some back-and-forth arguing, Ortiz pulled the rare "counter-ejection", gesturing for Dreckman to leave the field. Despite Ortiz's efforts, Dreckman remained.
David Price isn't the only Rays' pitcher Ortiz has feuded with, either. In July of 2014, Chris Archer tossed a changeup down the middle to Ortiz, who launched it towards right field for a home run to take a 3-0 lead against the Rays. Ortiz took a moment to watch the ball, flipped his bat, and circled the bases at a Tom Brady-esque pace. Archer was unimpressed.
''I never saw Hank Aaron flip his bat,'' Archer said after the game. ''I'm not comparing the two, but they're obviously in the same class of players as far what they accomplished.''
"Whatever, dude," Ortiz responded. "There's always going to be comments out there. He's not the right guy to be saying that, I don't think. He's got two days in the league, (shouldn't) be (expletive) and complaining about (expletive) like that."
Teammates came to Ortiz's defense. "If you've earned the right to pimp a home run, you can pimp a home run," right-hander Clay Buchholz said, who it should be noted has never "pimped" anything in his entire life. "And David Ortiz has earned the right to pimp a home run if he wants to."
There will always be those people who can't appreciate the artistry of a well-executed bat flip, or the subtle, majestic beauty of pimping a colossal home run. Luckily for us, Ortiz never seemed to think he needed to change to appease the haters.
"The way that works, basically, is how much time you have at this level," Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "If you've got two days in the big leagues, I don't agree with you doing crazy stuff out there. But you have 19 years in the big leagues like I do, you can do whatever the hell you want -- because you've earned that."