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Friday, June 20, 2014

David Ortiz needs to quit whining over official scorers’ calls

George Scione

Justin Timberlake is taking the stage at TD Garden on July 19. Perhaps he should shift the venue to Fenway Park so he can play David Ortiz’s theme song prior to, during and after the Kansas City Royals face Big Papi’s Red Sox.

Ortiz appears to have more personalities than Sybil. They’ve all taken turns showing themselves over the last few seasons. ...

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Justin Timberlake is taking the stage at TD Garden on July 19. Perhaps he should shift the venue to Fenway Park so he can play David Ortiz’s theme song prior to, during and after the Kansas City Royals face Big Papi’s Red Sox.

Ortiz appears to have more personalities than Sybil. They’ve all taken turns showing themselves over the last few seasons.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 10th inning Wednesday afternoon, Ortiz did what he does best. The Red Sox designated hitter deposited a 2-2 pitch from Minnesota Twins reliever Casey Fien into the right field seats to tie things up. When first baseman Mike Napoli finished off the winning rally with a solo shot of his own into the center-field bleachers, all seemed right with the world.

Unless you live in Ortiz’s world.

Despite his clutch, 10th-inning homer to tie the game, Ortiz was still fixated on a seventh-inning single that wasn’t. At least not according to official scorekeeper Bob Ellis, who is hired by and paid for by Major League Baseball to remain impartial.

Ortiz hit a sharp grounder to the right of Joe Mauer. The Twins first baseman had the ball go off his glove and Ortiz made it safely to first base. Ellis ruled the play an error and Napoli followed by bouncing into an inning-ending double play.

Ortiz was fuming as his walked off the field. No, he wasn’t peeved because the Red Sox blew a scoring opportunity that could have put the game away prior to extra innings. He was furious at the scorer for taking away his single.

He stormed off the field staring at the press box and gesturing to anybody willing to watch the early stages of Baby Papi’s temper tantrum. You’ve got to love the Terrible Twos. It’s one persona fans just don’t get enough of with professional athletes.

He finished his meltdown with one final glare up toward the press box, extended his arm and gave the thumbs-down sign.

So cute. Even in this stage, when they are acting out, it’s hard to hold back a laugh.

Ortiz sure isn’t laughing much lately. He’s hit under .200 in the last month and as of Thursday morning was hitting .246 for the season.

At least he’s got his manager’s support.

“He’s in a stretch where he’s working on some things mechanically at the plate,” John Farrell said. “Certainly there’s some frustration that comes to the surface. You get a chance to talk with him once things calm down, but David’s a competitor, as we all know.”

Ortiz is obviously upset with himself. But we know how that works in professional sports – heck in life. When you’re down, it’s everybody else’s fault. Or in his case, it’s Ellis’ fault for taking one hit away on a play that could be ruled either way.

“I thought people were supposed to have your back at home, and it never happens,” said Ortiz in post-game interviews. “It’s always like that. I’ve been here for more than a decade and the scorekeepers here are always horrible. This is home, man.”

Yes, it is home, where the scorekeeper – despite being charged with the job of impartial rulings – is expected to lean in favor of the hometown team or player on every marginal call and some not so marginal.

Ortiz has no regrets for his public display of dissatisfaction. In fact, he stressed that such flip-outs are a necessity to get his point across.

“Yeah, you gotta make it clear,” Ortiz said. “It’s not my first rodeo, man. Do you know how hard it is to get a hit, man?”

Or an RBI as the case was on Aug. 3, 2011. That resulted in one of Ortiz’s more publicized attacks on scorekeepers, and again came after a team win.

In the first inning of Boston’s 4-3 win over Cleveland, Ortiz stroked an opposite-field single to score Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis. Originally, Ortiz was credited with two RBIs. Upon further review, scorer Chaz Scoggins, of Lowell (Mass.) Sun fame, changed the play to just one. Scoggins eventually ruled that Youkilis was originally being held up at third by third-base coach Tim Bogar and only crossed home plate from second base because Indians left fielder Austin Kearns bobbled the ball before getting it back into the infield.

The next day, Ortiz burst into then-manager Terry Francona’s press conference cursing and complaining about Scoggins’ decision.

It’s nothing new for Ortiz to question the scorekeepers. It’s just recently in the last five years reaching Wade Boggs and Nomar Garciaparra levels.

It’s nothing new for Ellis to be thrust into the spotlight because a player is concerned about statistics or their legacy.

On April 26, 2001, Hideo Nomo’s bid for his second no-hitter in 23 days was denied by Minnesota’s Torii Hunter. Well, some fans would credit the no-no disappearing to Ellis, who ruled that the sliding attempt by right fielder Darren Lewis was not ordinary effort and thus a hit by Hunter.

Ellis stated his case that night.

“The rules of scoring call for ordinary effort. That was not an ordinary effort,” said Ellis, who was scoring his first Red Sox game after spending multiple seasons as the scorer for the Lowell Spinners (Red Sox Class-A affiliate of the New York-Penn League). “I felt confident from the moment I saw the play.”

Of course the fans booed as the hit was flashed on the scoreboard and Ellis became another official scorer to hate by fans and players alike.

And Big Papi sure doesn’t like those evil hometown hating, hometown scorers. In Ortiz’s world that’s a perfectly legit feeling to have. When guys like Scoggins and Ellis – who rule by the book and not the fan, coach or player reaction – make a call that hurts Ortiz’s numbers, it’s not just a statistical downer, it’s shot at his legacy. His pride won’t let such an injustice go unnoticed.

If only J.T. would shift his concert venue. He could be the new right-hand man of the scorer, serenading Ortiz with “Cry me a river,” from the press box every time the slugger looks skyward for a favorable call.

How about the Red Sox just replace “Sweet Caroline?”

At this moment in time Timberlake’s 2002 hit is much more relevant than Neil Diamond’s 1969 single about Caroline Kennedy.

I wonder how the scorekeepers would rule this one, and if Ortiz would even approve. I’s obviously his way or the wrong way.

George Scione can be reached at 594-6520 or gscione@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Scione on Twitter (@Telegraph_BigG).