For David Ortiz, baseball means fun. His handshakes with Manny and jolly belly laughs have stamped him as a fan favorite, not to mention he won two World Series. However Ortiz has struggled with being taken seriously ever since he stepped onto the scene with his goofy behavior. He was never labeled as a leader, because you never heard him saying anything motivational and you never saw him rallying teammates. So yesterday, Ortiz went off on the media, scoffing at the idea that he wasn’t a leader for the team.
Ortiz went on an expletive-filled rant that essentially proclaimed that he was as much of a leader as Dustin Pedroia or former Red Sox, Jason Varitek. The problems stem from the void in the captain position that Varitek formerly occupied. Rumors say it’s going to Pedroia, which clearly didn’t make Papi happy. What angered him more was that the media found out about a meeting he held after the Josh Beckett mess. The Sox have been 9-2 since the meeting.
As a lifelong Sox fan, his leadership is evident, but not in the traditional form. He’s merged a very real divide between Latino players and American ones. Who doesn’t love David Ortiz? He’s the sort of player your mom immediately likes in the ten seconds she sees him running on Sportscenter. He’s affable, and that doesn’t only extend to housewives. The team feels his energy, and it shows.
The 2004 World Series champions weren’t intense and straight-faced like Kevin Garnett. They were jokesters who rallied around the phrase “cowboy up,” and Ortiz was part of that tone. In a sport with 162 games a year, fun isn’t only good, it’s essential. Papi’s contributions on the field are well documented, historic and the stuff of Boston legends. Nobody in his or her right mind can question that, but the skeptics who criticize his leadership don’t understand that being somebody that everybody likes, combined with an epic legacy, can lead without clichés and speeches. David Ortiz is a slugger, comedian, and loyal teammate, he’s also a leader.