Few players receive league-wide farewell tours when they retire. Players like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter have recently enjoyed this honor during their final seasons in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
David Ortiz became the latest star to receive the farewell tour treatment when he played his final season in 2016. The longtime Boston Red Sox slugger established himself as one of the most beloved players in team history. His imposing presence and power carried him to team records for most home runs in a single season, most 30 home run seasons, and most 100 RBI seasons. Ortiz stepped up in the postseason as well, with 27 career postseason home runs (seventh all-time) and three World Series championships.
Ortiz is also incredibly charitable, founding the David Ortiz Children's Fund and serving as a brand ambassador for the UNICEF Kid Power Initiative. Ortiz's prolific play, coupled with his affable personality and selfless charity work, has made him a respected figure in the MLB world.
However, Ortiz had his fair share of rivalries. There were sportswriters who brought up his alleged PED use, pitchers who despised his long home runs trots, and even teammates who he felt disrespected him. Over the years, these tensions have calmed, and the two sides have smoothed things over. At the same time, it's worthy to note these tensions existed, and that even one of the "good guys" in the game wasn't always so exalted.
15 Lou Piniella & the Seattle Mariners organization
Before Ortiz’s time in Minnesota, he spent a brief tenure in the Seattle Mariners’ organization. He originally signed with the Mariners in 1992 as a 17-year-old, and by 1996, hit 18 home runs and 93 RBI for the Mariners Single-A affiliate in Wisconsin. Ortiz was set to receive a commemorative bat from Mariners’ manager Lou Piniella for his accomplishments in the Mariners’ system.
As most baseball fans know, Piniella never shied away from his true feelings, as evidenced by his numerous outbursts and ejections. Ortiz recounted Piniella’s actions to the Boston Globe in 2015.
“I was all excited ahead of time,” Ortiz said of receiving the bat and meeting Piniella. “He comes out on the field and basically threw the bat at me and walked away. That was very disappointing… It was something I never forgot.”
On top of that, the Mariners traded Ortiz to the Minnesota Twins in September of 1996 for third baseman Dave Hollins. It was the only time in Ortiz’s career that he was traded.
"It was one of the worst trades ever made," said Mike Goff, the Mariners' Single-A manager. "But it was something they wanted to do.”
14 Martin Kleinbard, CBS Sports Writer
If there is one smudge on Ortiz’s reputation, it’s his alleged PED use. The allegations (and it’s important to note that’s all they are) understandably anger Ortiz to no end. He repeatedly proclaims his innocence whenever the topic of his reported positive test from 2003 arises.
That denial did not stop CBS Sports writer Martin Kleinbard from mentioning Ortiz’s alleged PED use in an online article in 2016. Kleinbard wondered why Ortiz was exempt from the “PED witch hunt” since he was “the most back-of-career-heavy 500-home run hitter of all-time.” He says the evidence is “far more damning” for Ortiz than it was for Hall-of-Famers like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell.
He cites numerous graphs and charts comparing Ortiz’s post age 26 production to other players, illustrating the outlying stats. Still, he comes back to his conclusion that Ortiz has little defense when it comes to alleged PED use.
13 Joseph Tacopina, Alex Rodriguez’s Lawyer
Alex Rodriguez expressed support for David Ortiz during the 2016 season. Rodriguez said he was "happy" for Ortiz and hoped Yankee fans would give the Red Sox icon a standing ovation for his final game at Yankee Stadium. However, relations weren't always so rosy between the two camps. Past statements from Joseph Tacopina, A-Rod's lawyer, were critical of Ortiz's alleged PED use.
Tacopina appeared on ESPN Radio in January 2014 to discuss steroid use in baseball, and stated: "I'm not going to start naming all the other players, but some of them are God-like in Boston right now."
Ortiz took offense at the insinuation, and insisted Rodriguez call and explain Tacopina's statements. "At the time I thought it was [Rodriguez's] duty," Ortiz said in 2016. "Due to our friendship and mutual respect, to say something."
Rodriguez stayed silent, and the two didn't speak for nearly two years. Fortunately, they bridged their divides, with Rodriguez claiming "I love Big Papi. I have a lot of respect for him."
12 Minnesota Twins Management
With all of Ortiz’s legendary accomplishments with the Boston Red Sox, some younger baseball fans might not remember that he played with the Minnesota Twins. He did not arrive in Boston until his age-27 season.
The Twins had released Ortiz after the 2002 season. During his six-season tenure in Minnesota, he never garnered more than 478 plate appearances. Ortiz lamented how the Twins never gave him much of a chance at the major-league level, and that “nobody could understand” why he toiled in the minors for the Twins in 1999.
In 2016, Ortiz sat down with the Minneapolis Star Tribune to discuss his time with the Twins. Ortiz declared that then-Twins GM Terry Ryan felt bad about letting Ortiz go because “he also knows the Twins treated me bad.”
“The Twins would’ve won another World Series,” Ortiz claimed, when asked how Minnesota would’ve benefitted by keeping him.
11 Pete Rose
Pete Rose may be baseball’s all-time hit king, but he unfortunately will never make it into the Hall of Fame. As someone who is banned for life from entering the Hall due to betting on baseball, it’s always ironic when Rose comments on the eligibility of a player to get into Cooperstown.
Yet, that is exactly what Rose did on FOX’s pregame show before the 2016 All-Star Game. When asked about Ortiz’s Hall of Fame eligibility, Rose quipped his chances were “borderline, because of how many hits he has.”
Sure, Rose has bragging rights over that stat, but failed to account for the fact that Ortiz did not built his reputation on base hits, but on home runs and power-hitting. Granted, Rose may have said it somewhat tongue-in-cheek, admitting right after “If he plays a couple more years, he’s a cinch.”
Still, Ortiz’s career achievements are self-explanatory: A .286 average, 541 home runs, 1,768 RBI, 10 All-Star appearances, seven Silver Slugger Awards, and three World Series Championships.
10 Chris Archer
The bat flip has polarized baseball fans across the country in recent seasons. Jose Bautista, Yasiel Puig, and others have made the bat flip a part of their home run celebrations, much to the chagrin of some pitchers.
David Ortiz is no different. He takes his time admiring his home runs and circling the bases. He added a bat flip to his ritual during a July 2014 game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Pitcher Chris Archer took exception to Ortiz’s showboating, and made his dissatisfaction known.
''I never saw Hank Aaron flip his bat,'' Archer said after the game. ''I'm not comparing the two, but they're obviously in the same class of players as far what they accomplished.''
Ortiz shot back at the less than favorable comparison, claiming, “He’s not the right guy to be saying that. He's got two days in the league, and (shouldn't) be (expletive) and complaining about (expletive) like that."
Archer was undeterred. “He feels like he is bigger than the game.”
It’s safe to say there is no love lost between the two.
9 Kevin Gregg
Bat flips aren’t the only point of contention between hitters and pitchers. Oftentimes, players take their time jogging to bases, or around the bases.
Such was the case between Ortiz and Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Kevin Gregg. During a July 2011 game in which the Red Sox were up seven runs, Gregg threw three pitches inside to Ortiz. Ortiz grew agitated, and started walking towards the mound. Benches cleared, but no fights broke out.
Ortiz popped out to center field later in the at-bat, and slowly jogged to first. Gregg yelled at him to move faster,
"He started screaming at me," Ortiz said after the game. “I mean, you saw the argument before, and after that you're gonna act like you're my daddy? I ain't gonna take that.”
Ortiz and Gregg received four-game suspensions as benches cleared again.
Gregg made his feelings known on Ortiz’s slow-jogging antics.
"You got to go ask David what he was thinking,” Gregg said. “If he thinks there's something with me saying that, then he's got other things he needs to figure out in this game."
8 Manny Ramirez
Relationships amongst teammates can get complicated. While Ortiz and Ramirez were very close for a large portion of their time together in Boston, there were a few instances where Manny showed a certain kind of disrespect for Ortiz.
Recounting the revelations of Ramirez’s positive PED test from 2003, Ortiz insisted, “That’s not the guy I know.” Ortiz spoke about the duo’s relationship in a 2014 interview, praising Manny as “a genius” but conceding that he could never reach out to Manny during his time in Boston. He claimed he “wasn’t thinking the right way” at the time and would cancel on lunch with Ortiz on many occasions. It convinced Ortiz to stay away from Manny because “he ain’t right.”
Fortunately, Ortiz saw Ramirez’s attitude improve over the years, and admitted in that 2014 interview how he “really manned up” and owned his mistakes from years past.
“Some people learn the hard way, some people learn the easy way,” Ortiz revealed. “He learned it the hard way.”
While it never bordered on a genuine dislike, Ramirez seemed to exhibit a lack of commitment from towards Ortiz at the time. From Ortiz’s statements, he seemed bothered by this.
7 Bobby Valentine
2012 was a down year for the Red Sox in many ways. The team finished with a 69-93 record, their worst mark in nearly 50 years. Ortiz missed 71 of the Red Sox’ final 72 games with an Achilles injury. The team made a massive late-season sell off at the end of August, dealing away Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers.
Bobby Valentine, the Sox manager at the time, took a shot at Ortiz over his injury. Valentine believed Ortiz was using his injury as an excuse to sit out meaningless games late in the season. “He realized that this trade meant that we're not going to run this race,” Valentine told Bob Costas at season’s end. “…and he decided not to play anymore. I think at that time it was all downhill from there.”
Valentine essentially blamed Ortiz in part for how the season ended. That disrespect wasn’t lost on Red Sox management. They fired Valentine, and re-signed Ortiz to a two-year $26 million contract.
6 Jim Palmer
David Gregg wasn’t the only Baltimore pitcher to criticize Ortiz. Orioles’ broadcaster and former pitcher Jim Palmer went after Ortiz on Twitter after Ortiz’s ejection from a 2015 game against the Minnesota Twins. Palmer applauded Ortiz’s ejection for arguing with umpire John Tumpane.
“FINALLY Ortiz gets tossed #disrespectful #zipitOrtiz,” Palmer tweeted. He added another jab by tweeting about Ortiz’s alleged failed 2003 drug test.
“Is that how he wants me to respect him?” Ortiz responded (via FOXSports.com). “It’s not going to happen.”
Palmer defended his tweets in an email to ESPN. “I was tweeting about his conduct yesterday, which, in my opinion, is indefensible,” Palmer wrote. Whatever the reasoning behind Palmer's tweet was, it made it clear that he doesn't think highly of Big Papi.
5 Umpire Ron Kulpa
Speaking of ejections, Ortiz got into another heated spat with an umpire during a 3-2 loss to the Yankees in 2016. With Ortiz facing a 3-1 count with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, umpire Ron Kulpa called strikes on two borderline pitches from Yankees closer Andrew Miller. The calls angered both Ortiz and Red Sox manager John Farrell. Kulpa eventually ejected both from the game.
Kulpa kept his cool in answering questions about the incident after the game. Kulpa admitted that Farrell’s ejection stemmed from “doing his job as a manager” to defend Ortiz. On the other hand, Kulpa said he ejected Ortiz because he continued arguing over the calls from the dugout.
Ortiz responded by saying Kulpa looked “really bad” with his supposed missed calls.
4 Tom Kelly
Minnesota Twins management did not seem too keen on Ortiz’s talent early in his career. Otherwise, they would not have let him go after a 20 home run, 75 RBI season in 2002. Ortiz spoke about his trade from Minnesota in a 2015 interview with the Boston Globe. He called Twins GM Terry Ryan a “good man” whose decision to trade Ortiz “wasn’t all his.”
Meanwhile, he believed Tom Kelly, the Twins manager at the time, never liked him.
“I don’t know why,” Ortiz said. “He was hard on young players. He was the kind of manager who liked veteran players. He never liked me.”
Ortiz spent one season under Ron Gardenhire in 2002 before his offseason move to Boston.
3 David Price
Ortiz and Price may have been teammates in Boston in 2016, but they weren’t always the best of friends. Ortiz became embroiled in a feud with Price when the former Cy Young-winner was the ace of the Tampa Bay Rays staff.
Ortiz hit two home runs off Price during the Red Sox 2013 postseason matchup against the Rays, which he postmarked with his trademark slow home run trot. Price took exception to this showboating, telling Ortiz simply: “Run.”
He hit Ortiz with a fastball in the teams’ first meeting of the 2014 season. “It’s a war,” Ortiz proclaimed after the game. “It’s on.”
When Price signed with the Red Sox in December of 2015, he admitted he was nervous about meeting Ortiz as a teammate instead of a rival. “When I get done working out, is he going to be in the clubhouse,” Price wondered to The Boston Herald in 2016. “What do I do? I don’t know what to do.”
Fortunately, Ortiz welcomed Price with open arms, telling the pitcher “I got your back.” While Price was no fan of Ortiz in the past, the two have since buried the hatchet.
2 Dan Shaughnessy
It is evident from this list that Ortiz remains highly sensitive over questions about his alleged PED use. Some reporters, even those in Boston, constantly bring up Ortiz's reported failed 2003 test. Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe is no exception.
Ortiz recalled a run-in he had with Shaughnessy in 2013. Writing in The Players Tribune, Ortiz remembered Shaughnessy as "the reporter with the red jheri curl from the Boston Globe" who questioned him on his steroid use.
"You're from the Dominican," Shaughnessy told Ortiz. "You're older. You fit the profile of a steroid user. Don't you think you're a prime suspect?"
Apart from being an off-topic question at that point, it was also a rude question to ask to Ortiz. He was so angry with Shaughnessy, he remembers "I wanted to kill this guy."
Shaughnessy responded to Ortiz's essay with his own column in 2015. While he acknowledged Ortiz's importance to the Red Sox and Boston as a whole, he stood by his words from 2013.
“Everyone is all about denials — until it turns out to be true," he wrote. “Are we supposed to believe that you are the one and only positive tester who was truly wronged?"
The two still are not on speaking terms.
1 New York Yankees Fans
This choice might be a bit anti-climactic, if not overly broad. At the same time, no one harbors dislike for Ortiz and the rest of the Red Sox organization like Yankee fans. The bad blood between the two teams may have lessened in recent years, but the rivalry has not completely simmered down.
Even for Ortiz's final game at Yankee Stadium in 2016, a good portion of fans booed him. Ortiz had the audacity to say he would "love" if fans gave him a standing ovation.
One such fan, Neil Keefe, spoke about his disdain for Ortiz in a 2016 interview with Michael Hurley of CBS Boston. He admits that while he "hated David Ortiz" as a player, he will miss him as part of the rivalry.
“My psyche is both of happiness for him leaving…and of anger that the Yankees are going to honor him," Keefe said.
When asked if he would ever clap for Ortiz under any circumstance, Keefe remained blunt. “There is no circumstance or scenario in which I would ever clap for David Ortiz on a baseball field," he said.
It's safe to say that while many Yankee fans respect David Ortiz, the man, there is no love lost for David Ortiz, the baseball player. He was a Yankee killer and fans will never forget that.
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