Ortiz's sunny demeanor as well as his offensive production have helped to keep the Red Sox afloat this season. "This team has been so up and down all year," says first baseman Kevin Millar. "One constant has been David's hitting. He has saved us."
"Beyond his numbers, David is a huge clubhouse presence," says outfielder Gabe Kapler. "He knows exactly the right thing to say or do at the right time to fire us up and get us going again."
Ortiz is often seen flashing his wide, gap-toothed smile, but don't be fooled, he is a fiery competitor. On July 16, after being ejected for complaining about a called third strike, Ortiz threw two bats onto the field and narrowly missed hitting two umpires. (He received a five-game suspension.) During the brawl Ortiz swung at Yankees starter Tanyon Sturtze (he missed) and then wrestled the righthander to the ground. While most of the Boston players downplayed the melee after the game, Ortiz said, "I think it's the best thing that ever happened to us. It's the start of something good."
-- Albert Chen
--Reprinted from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, August 2, 2004
FENYWAY'S NEW FAVE
The man who traded Red Sox icon Nomar Garciaparra--or, in the local dialect, Nomah--in a four-team deal that brought shortstop Orlando Cabrera and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz is free to safely walk the streets of Boston again. All it took for general manager Theo Epstein to be able to show his face in public again was a 17-game stretch in which the Red Sox played so ridiculously well that after a Fenway Park security guard threw a textbook flying tackle on a field intruder on Sept. 3, manager Terry Francona deadpanned, "I guess all facets of our game are strong right now."
Cabrera, with his quick hands and footwork, has been critical to the leather upgrade. On Sept. 2, for instance, with the Red Sox holding a one-run ninth-inning lead on the Anaheim Angels, Cabrera picked a mean short-hop throw from catcher Jason Varitek and tagged out Troy Glaus on a steal attempt. Boston held on for a 4-3 win. "Early in the season," Curt Schilling says, "that ball's in centerfield, the runner goes to third, he scores on a sacrifice fly, and we lose in extra innings."
Cabrera is no Garciaparra with the stick, but his glovework and energy have made him popular in the field and in the clubhouse. In his first at bat with Boston, Cabrera ripped a home run--only seven other Red Sox had done so--then suffered intense pounding by teammates on his helmet as he returned to the dugout.
He has fit right in. In a 2-0 win over the Texas Rangers on Sept. 3, Cabrera completed his race from first to third with only one shoe after his stylish red-white-and-black number flew off while he was rounding second. The next day, after grounding out during an 8-6 loss to Texas, he flipped his batting gloves into the stands in mock surrender.