“It’s a war. It’s on. Next time he hits me, he better bring the gloves. I have no respect for him no more.”
That was David Ortiz‘s reaction to being plunked by then-Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price in the first inning of a game in May 2014. That beaning was a response to Ortiz pimping his home run trot during an American League Division Series game the previous October. Price then went on to (sort of) tweak Papi over the Buddha-bellied Boston basher’s All-Star absence.
“If he were (the same hitter), he would be here (in Cincinnati) right now,” Price said of the jolly juggernaut. Talk about a wicked pissah burn job. I’m honestly not sure how Papi was able to recover mentally from that, but his .273/.360/.553 slash line with 37 home runs, 108 RBI, and a 138 wRC+ (exactly at his career average) are proof that he somehow managed to.
As the prospect of Price striking gold in Boston went from fanciful to imminent, you could almost see baseball scribes’ column inches growing in anticipation. After all, is there really anything more fun than a good, old-fashioned feud?
No sooner had the sweat from Dave Dombrowski’s hot little hand evaporated from Price’s palm after their $217 million handshake than the media started shoveling coal into the engines of their respective narrative trains. Would these two big egos be able to coexist, particularly in light of their historically frigid relationship? Not far removed from a poisonous clubhouse atmosphere, the last thing the Red Sox need is kerfuffle that could escalate into a veritable Beantown beatdown.
Ah, but Papi set our minds — not to mention pens and keyboards — at ease by publicly burying the machete with his old nemesis. Ortiz spoke of his willingness to forgive and forget with a radio station in the Dominican Republic.
“No problems. All that’s in the past. Now he is my partner,” Big Papi explained to 102.5 in Santo Domingo on Wednesday. “When a person joins your cause, you must leave the past in the past.”
Because of course. And just like that, all the hot air and hotter takes ran out of fuel as we skittered off in search of the next set of non-topics to conflate and inflate (that’s a new one for you Boston folk, amirite?).
Maybe it’s my general disdain for East-Coastiness or maybe I’m just tired of fake Billy Badass bravado, but I never saw this situation as anything other than a minor slide-off on the baseball highway. Gimme Roger Clemens hucking a broken bat at Mike Piazza or Marty Brennaman and Hawk Harrelson against advanced metrics and general common sense any day.
Then again, maybe Price and Ortiz will come to blows over the postgame spread of beer and fried chicken and we can all celebrate the dysfunction by devoting a few hundred words to it. Pardon, what’s that? I just did that, you say? Yeah, well, I’m actually making a big deal out of those who made a big deal out a PG-rated spat between two guys who are now teammates.
It’s a fine line, so not all of you will be able to see it. In all seriousness though, I’m pretty stoked to see what goes on in Boston this year. Between seeing how the various other clubs choose to genuflect before Papi over the course of his retirement parade and how Bostonians will react if $31 million doesn’t buy them appreciable improvement, it should be hella fun.