Nick Lehr, a diehard Boston fan, comes to terms with his love for Big Papi and pencils him in as our designated hitter.
It’s no coincidence that I’ve put off writing this one until the very end of the series. I’ve always admired Ortiz as a person and will be eternally grateful for what he’s brought to the Red Sox organization and the city of Boston. In the 2004 ALCS, he put the team on his shoulders, dragging them out of a 3-0 hole versus the Yankees and playing an integral role in the team’s first World Series title in 86 years.
Without David Ortiz, there would be no 2004. Maybe 2007 wouldn’t have happened, either.
But I’m no homer, nor am I in denial.
David Ortiz most likely did steroids.
Does this taint the World Series titles? Absolutely not, because if that’s the case—let’s be honest—just about every World Series winner between 1988 and 2005 would have to be put on trial.
Ortiz’s rapid ascension to stardom had always somewhat clouded his gaudy numbers and jolly demeanor. After the 2002 season, the Minnesota Twins deemed their part-time DH expendable, giving him his outright release. Up until this point in his career, Ortiz had played for the Twins for parts of six seasons and had only hit 20 home runs once. The Red Sox signed him for a meager $1.5 million—to back up starting DH Jeremy Giambi (who, ironically, admitted to using steroids two years later).
Suddenly, though, Ortiz transformed into one of the game’s most feared sluggers. In his first season with the Sox, he mashed 31 home runs. The following three seasons, Ortiz hit 41, 47, then 54 homers. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein looked like a genius; Ortiz, followed by Manny Ramirez, gave the Sox the most formidable 3-4 combo in the league.
Then, in July 2009, The New York Times reported a leak that implicated David Ortiz as one of the names on Major League Baseball’s (supposedly sealed) list of positive test results from 2003. When confronted with the allegations, Ortiz, a fan favorite and media darling, gave a tepid response, claiming, “I have to get more info about it, and then I’ll honestly tell you guys what’s up. Right now I have no answers.”
Like Rafael Palmeiro, who pointed his finger at members of Congress in righteous indignation (“Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period”), only to be humiliated by a positive test four months later, Ortiz, just five months prior, had demanded year-long suspensions for players who tested positive (“ban ’em for the whole year”).
While Ortiz could’ve taken a stance like Phil Nevin—outwardly opposing testing altogether—sometimes the opposite can look just as bad.
After all, nobody likes a hypocrite, whether it’s millionaire senators who support tax increases but try to avoid paying their own, preachers who rail against the sins of gay marriage only to be found smoking meth and having sex with male prostitutes, or baseball stars who publicly push for more stringent testing all while doping themselves silly.
Hours after the Times report, Ortiz issued the following statement to the press:
I want to let you know how I am approaching this situation. One, I have already contacted the Players Association to confirm if this report is true. I have just been told that the report is true. Based on the way I have lived my life, I am surprised to learn I tested positive. Two, I will find out what I tested positive for. And, three, based on whatever I learn, I will share this information with my club and the public. You know me—I will not hide and I will not make excuses. I want to thank my family, the Red Sox, my teammates, and the fans for their patience and support.
It was classic Ortiz—he was open and forthright, sounded genuinely shocked, and promised to get to the bottom of everything.
And so we waited.
Ten days later, Ortiz conducted a press conference where, flanked by representatives from the Major League Baseball Players Association, he denied ever having taken steroids and assured us that more answers would be coming.
Some called it a charade. The rest of us gave him the benefit of the doubt. So we waited. And waited some more. And some more. Where was the full explanation? How could this have happened? Where was the evidence that exonerated him? What was it, exactly, that the slugger tested positive for?
Eighteen months later, we’re still patiently waiting for answers. Until they come, we have no choice but to slot him in as our DH.
More From the All-Steroids Team:
- The Manifesto
- C: Todd Hundley
- 1B: Phil Nevin
- 2B: Bret Boone
- SS: Rich Aurilia
- 3B: Ken Caminiti
- OF: Gary Matthews Jr.
- OF: Brady Anderson
- OF: Jay Gibbons
- UTIL: Jay Bell
- DH: David Ortiz
- MRP: Brendan Donnelly
- SU: John Rocker
- CL: Eric Gagne
—Photo AP/Ben Margot