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Papi says ...

Ortiz crosses the line by campaigning for MVP award

Posted: Tuesday September 12, 2006 11:59AM; Updated: Tuesday September 12, 2006 1:44PM
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In lobbying for MVP votes, the Red Sox's David Ortiz took an unnecessary shot at Yankees superstar Derek Jeter.
In lobbying for MVP votes, the Red Sox's David Ortiz took an unnecessary shot at Yankees superstar Derek Jeter.
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I love David Ortiz. I love the fact that he's a self-made megastar in Boston, a town tough enough to make New York seem warm and fuzzy. I love that he's the one remaining Red Sox icon who loves the hubbub of The Hub. I love that he returned from a heart ailment and picked right up where he left off, hitting home runs.

I love that he'll speak his mind, too.

Except this one time, when he should keep his thoughts to himself. I understand that this is election season, but ballplayers should not be out there begging for votes. It's unbecoming.

Put up your numbers and pipe down, Big Papi.

It's tempting to give Ortiz a pass this time, since maybe he isn't himself after suffering a health scare. Only days earlier he went off on an official scorer who ruled against a hit for his bash bro Manny Ramirez. That's definitely not Papi being Papi.

But at least that first little diatribe was intended to support his teammate and primary protection in the lineup. On Sunday, he went too far when he campaigned for MVP. I don't particularly like it when guys campaign for the Hall of Fame, but in the case of Cooperstown, at least they're not campaigning against anyone, just for themselves.

When you campaign for MVP, you're putting yourself ahead of other worthy candidates. And in case we missed that point, Ortiz spelled it out graphically when he recently told The Boston Globe, "They're talking about Derek Jeter a lot, right? He's done a great job, he's having a great season, but Jeter is not a 40-homer hitter or an RBI guy. It doesn't matter how much you've done for your ball club, the bottom line is, the guy who hits 40 home runs and knocks in 100, that's the guy you know helped your team win games.

"Don't get me wrong -- he's a great player, he's having a great season, but he's got a lot of guys in that lineup. Top to bottom, you've got a guy who can hurt you. Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be."

Oh, we're not getting you wrong. What you're saying is you deserve the MVP award and Jeter does not. What you're also saying is that your teammates aren't so hot, at least not compared to the Yankees. And what you're probably thinking is that you deserved the award last year, too, when Alex Rodriguez won it.

Ortiz has been the best every-day player in the American League over the two-year period but was unfortunate to lose a toss-up last year and probably senses that he's well on his way to yet another close defeat this year. My response to that: Hey, it's a tough world. And my second response: Hey, it's a tough field.

There's Jeter and there's the White Sox's Jermaine Dye, and there's the new M&M boys, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau of the Twins, and there's my new trendy pick (a trend I am hereby taking credit for starting, even if I wasn't the first) in Minnesota's Johan Santana. Ortiz is having a wonderful campaign (and by campaign I mean season), but he still has to clear two major hurdles: 1) he's a DH; and 2) the Red Sox were done by Labor Day.

People will change their minds in a close field (I've gone from Ortiz to Dye to Santana). Ortiz is having the best year of any every-day player, and he may still win it, although his team's plight is going to hurt him in a year when there are at least five other great individual seasons going on.

If anything, Ortiz's words are going to put Jeter in an even more positive light, as the candidate who lacks any interest in glorifying himself (and by the way, the scoring call that so upset Ramirez and Ortiz was an error on Jeter that didn't cause him to complain). Jeter's response to New York writers was predictable. "I'm not thinking about winning an MVP," Jeter said. "I'm thinking about winning the division. Our focus here isn't on individual awards." Perfect.

Oh, yes, Ortiz is sure to accomplish one more thing. He may not care a whit, but he's going to tick off Jeter, who does not easily forgive loose lips. For instance, when Rodriguez made the mistake of dissing Jeter in an Esquire article five years ago (what is it about Jeter that makes these guys knock him?), Jeter blew up their relationship as they knew it. They were close friends, then suddenly they weren't.

The one thing Ortiz will not accomplish by running his gums is to sway the voting writers, who take their privilege very seriously. There's no way for a player to talk his way into the winner's circle. Ortiz may still win, but it's not going to be because of his powers of persuasion.