So Much For Big Papi As A Social Torchbearer

And here we thought David Ortiz might be socially aware, that he grasped the distinction between a ballgame and life, that he actually understands why we’re on this earth together. You recall the image of Big Papi, standing with a microphone in front of a gargantuan American flag inside Fenway Park, a Dominican-born slugger joining the pantheon of New England icons as he delivered an emotionally charged speech after the Boston Marathon bombings.

You remember: “All right, Boston. This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say `Red Sox.’ It say `Boston.’ … This is our (bleeping) city, and nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong. Thank you.”

It was such a rousing moment, the FCC didn’t care, with the boss tweeting his support to Ortiz after the nationally televised speech. When Ortiz led the formerly cursed Red Sox to a third World Series championship in 10 years — a span he has symbolized — Sports Illustrated thought about naming him Sportsman of the Year.

Well, forget all that. Because David Ortiz is just another silly man who became a baseball multi-millionaire and never grew up in the clubhouse culture. The wrath that seemed so proud, thoughtful and transcendent last year has been directed at a pitcher, Tampa Bay ace David Price, who happened to plunk Ortiz with a fastball Friday night. There is history between them — Price called out Ortiz during last year’s American League divisional series for overly admiring one of two home runs that day, with the controversy exacerbated on Twitter by Price and a lady friend — and, yes, Price also is a silly man for throwing at Ortiz in their very first plate encounter since last October. But how disappointing to see Ortiz, after a wild game that required four Red Sox managers and John Farrell and two coaches were ejected, lose all perspective in a petulant rant about Price afterward.

“It’s a war,” Ortiz said. “It’s on. Next time I see him, he better put his gloves on. I have no respect for him anymore.”

A war, David, is when two brothers are planting killer bombs on Boylston Street. I thought you knew better.

“You can’t be acting like a little girl out there,” continued Ortiz, still seething about Price. “You’re not going to win every time. When you give it up, that’s an experience for the next time. If you are going to be acting like a little bitch every time you give it up and put your teammates in jeopardy, that’s going to cost you. I was going to let him know. I respect everyone in this league and expect the same from everyone. If you are mad because I take you deep twice, let me let you know. I’ve got almost 500 home runs in this league. That’s part of the game, son.

“He knew he screwed up. He did that on his own. No manager sent him. No player was comfortable with the situation. He did that on his own. Which is (expletive). He can get somebody else hurt. You can’t be doing that (stuff).”

The FCC boss is issuing no approval tweets today.

Ortiz mentioned that Price had called him last October, during the playoffs, in an attempt to clear the air. Again, Price acted like a weenie in throwing at Ortiz. But we don’t expect maturity and upstanding behavior from David Price. We do from David Ortiz, Mr. Boston and Sportsman of the Year candidate.

“I had a lot of respect for the guy, man,” Ortiz said. “It is over now. I have no more respect for him. Last year, we kicked his butt in the playoffs and he went off talking crap about everyone. We go to talk on the phone after we kind of straightened things out. He was upset, and then I let him know how I felt. Later on he called me and apologized because he knew he was wrong. Everything was cool, so the first at-bat of the season against him, he drills me.”

Price, likely to be traded this summer in a typical Tampa Bay fire sale, didn’t win respect points by denying intent. “I’ve got to establish my fastball in,’’ he said. “I had six lefties in that lineup, that’s my favorite side of the plate to go to. Got to establish it in.”

First pitch. Right. As Farrell said, “David is heck of a pitcher. He comes in with two hit batters and eight walks on the year. He’s got the lowest walk rate in the American League. And when he throws a ball and hits David Ortiz in the back, there is intent to that. They can dispute that all they want. There is intent to that pitch.’’

But the next day, Price gained my respect — he went to Duke, meaning he should be well-educated — by voicing what was so wrong with Ortiz’s war declaration. Said Price: “He was mad, so I get it. We all say stupid stuff when we’re mad. (I have) been there. I’m sure he probably wishes he wouldn’t have said some of the things he said. You can’t relate the game that we play to a war. Kellen Winslow got a lot of crap for saying he was a soldier. You’re not a soldier. This is not war. We have troops fighting for us that are in a war. It’s not a good comparison.

“Sometimes, the way (Ortiz) acts out there, he kind of looks like he’s bigger than the game. That’s not the way it is, not the way it goes. … Nobody’s bigger than the game of baseball. You ask pitchers from 10, 15, 20 years ago — that’s normal, part of the game.”

Purpose pitching shouldn’t be part of the game, seeing how a baseball is a lethal weapon that could kill. But Price’s point is well taken nonetheless: Ortiz acts bigger than the game because he has been enabled by fans and commissioner Bud Selig, who has extolled Ortiz’s virtues for years though he was among 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.

The Red Sox and Rays may not be going anywhere this season, in an AL East oddly topped right now by the Toronto Blue Jays, but the drama bubbles every time the teams play. They can’t stand each other, and in baseball, that isn’t big news.

When David Ortiz is a hypocrite, that’s a story.

We should have known better. In matters of worldly importance, the athlete will let you down almost every time.