Cue the Jay-Z track. Sportsmanship be damned, David Ortiz will continue on as baseball’s biggest home run pimp.
The clip I have included from last season’s July 27th game against the Rays has all of the best elements of a Big Papi home run – pause following contact, vicious bat flip, barely more than a walk to first base, and finally, gratuitous praise to the Lord upon crossing the plate.
Ortiz has hit 466 big league home runs. I have not seen each of the bombs leave his bat, but intuition tells me he has paused to admire at least 465 of them, accounting for at least one wall scraper. The pace of play rules instituted by MLB this offseason will no doubt cut back on Ortiz’s mean guy posturing, spitting, and batting glove slapping batter’s box routine. But yesterday, he made it clear that he will not alter his post home run routine.
Ortiz is the game’s most notorious home run pimper. Each blast results in at least five seconds of posturing, preening, hot dogging, and showmanship. His act has drawn the ire of many pitchers, most notably David Price, who has thrown at Ortiz on several different occasions.
Here is the rationale Ortiz cites when defending his right to admire his home runs:
“The way that works, basically, is how much time you have at this level,” he said. “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.”
Do not count me in the camp of David Ortiz fans. I find him to be incredibly arrogant, believing himself to be above the game. His lovable fat-guy image has allowed him to dodge multiple PED allegations and a positive test in 2003. Ortiz has played up the Big Papi persona to the max.
All that being said, Ortiz has every right to admire his home runs. When he puts his weight into a fastball, the results are majestic. His home runs are usually no-doubters. I have never hit a ball that far, and never will, but I can only imagine the feeling. Ortiz has hit 466 home runs, and will most likely reach 500 this year.
I will never be one to cite the old sports adage, “Act like you’ve been there before.” Every Major League home run is an incredible athletic accomplishment. Players in other leagues are much more brazen in their celebrations. NBA players mean mug and stand over opponents after dunks and NFL players have specific touchdown and sack dances. If you don’t like it, then get Ortiz out.
Baseball has always had players who admire their home runs. Sammy Sosa had his little hop, Yasiel Puig has his bat flip. Celebrations are a part of the game just as much as strikeouts, double plays and diving catches. Pitchers with far lesser credentials will pump their fists, shout, and act in all sorts of demonstrative fashion after a big strikeout.
These emotional outbursts are good for the game of baseball. Today’s fans, especially the younger generations, which baseball is in danger of losing, enjoy seeing their favorite athletes celebrate. The raw emotion in the moment allows us to see a deeper human emotion in the players we often place on a pedestal. We can sit here and argue the merits of sportsmanship in situations like this, but if we are honest with ourselves, we would hate it if players just circled the bases with their heads down or walked off the mound solemnly after a big strikeout. David Ortiz will continue to do what he does, and I do not begrudge him that.