Commentary

David Ortiz wanted 'something different'

Slugger says he's 'fine' with Sox picking up option but doesn't understand doubters

Updated: November 16, 2010, 11:41 PM ET
By Jackie MacMullan | ESPNBoston.com

David Ortiz reports he doesn't have a single pain in his body -- not so much as a twinge.

"When I get up in the morning, I jump out of bed like my [6-year-old] son, D'Angelo," he said. "I feel great. I'm working out every day, running, lifting, hitting, cardio. I can't wait for the season to start."

Ortiz I can't go back to 27 again, but I just came out of a good year. You can't blame me for asking for something I felt I deserved. It's not like I came out of a terrible season and asked for a lot of money. I came out of a good season. I hit for power, knocked in runs. I did what I was supposed to do.

-- David Ortiz

In his first public comments since the Red Sox picked up his $12.5 million option Nov. 4, Ortiz said Tuesday that he's "fine" with the one-year contract, even though he had expressed his desire for a two-year pact.

"I was trying to get something different," Ortiz said. "I wanted to stay here longer. But I got what the team offered me, and I'm fine with it.

"My agent tried to talk with [the Red Sox] about something else, but that didn't work out. I thought what I've done here in Boston was well-deserving of two years, but I can't do nothing about it now except come back and play.

"People are doubting me, I know, but I don't really understand that. It's not like anyone is asking me for something I haven't already done. So you want me to come back and hit? Haven't I done that every year?"

Ortiz struggled this past April, batting .143 with one home run, but then settled into a productive season in which he batted .270 with 32 home runs, 102 RBIs and an OPS of .899. He played in 145 games.

Ortiz, who turns 35 on Thursday, insists he's healthy. But he's grown weary, he said, of people expecting him to break down because of his age.

"Look," he said. "I can't tell you what I can do three years from now. But I can tell you what I can do next season, because that's only five months from now.

"People say the older you get, the more risk you have of getting injured. But history will tell you in my case, I've not been a injury-prone guy. One time [in 2008] I injured my wrist. But go back and look how many games I've played in my eight years with the Boston Red Sox."

After becoming a fixture in the middle of the Sox lineup during the 2003 season, Ortiz logged 150 games in 2004, then 159, 151, 149, 109 (the year he injured his wrist), 150 and 145.

Ortiz stands to be the highest-paid designated hitter in the American League in 2011. Texas slugger Vladimir Guerrero's $9 million option was not picked up by the Rangers, but, Ortiz said, he fully expects Guerrero to remain in a Texas uniform.

"This is not the end of the relationship between them," Ortiz said. "I guarantee he will go back and play for Texas and get good money. You can put that down right now.

"I'm going to tell you one thing -- he'll get more than one year, too. You wait and see."

It's natural for players such as Ortiz with uncertain futures to take note of other players in similar situations. Just as Ortiz monitored Guerrero's transaction, he's also paid close attention to the contract talks of Derek Jeter, who is coming off a subpar year both offensive and defensively but is seeking a four-year extension from New York predicated on his status as the face of the Yankees.

"I was hoping he'd sign his deal right after the season ended," Ortiz said. "I wanted him to get rewarded for all he had done for them.

"People got the wrong idea when they heard me say I wanted more years. They thought I was greedy. They thought I wanted something I didn't earn.

"I know it's all about business. I know I have to produce. If I didn't, I'd be sitting home doing nothing, eating all sorts of crap, instead of taking care of myself.

"I can't go back to 27 again, but I just came out of a good year. You can't blame me for asking for something I felt I deserved. It's not like I came out of a terrible season and asked for a lot of money.

"I came out of a good season. I hit for power, knocked in runs. I did what I was supposed to do. People want to say I'm declining.

"I don't feel that way."

Ortiz has long been a powerful and positive presence in the clubhouse, but he admitted that when he was mired in his April slump and subjected to a healthy dose of second-guessing, it affected him.

"I had trouble with the negativity, the dark side of things," he said. "People doubting if I could hit, was I done? Well, I'll come back and prove them wrong again.

"I never thought I'd be challenged like this at this point of my career, but that's OK. My whole life has been a challenge. I'm happy to be here in Boston. The fans here are the greatest. After the team picked up my option, I've seen a lot of happy faces.

"It's good to hear them say they want me back. Sometimes that's worth more than the biggest amount of money, to know people have my back."

Ortiz is aware that if he gets off to another slow start in April, the naysayers will again question his effectiveness and his longevity.

"I know how it goes," he said. "You want to ask me, 'What have you done for me lately?' Kick some ass, that's what."

Jackie MacMullan, who has spent nearly 20 years as a beat writer and columnist in Boston, is a columnist for ESPNBoston.com.

Jackie MacMullan

ESPNBoston.com columnist

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