- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The MLB powers-that-be giveth, and they taketh away.
So what happens Wednesday if David Ortiz arrives at Target Field and learns that his game-deciding 40-foot squibber, originally ruled a hit in Tuesday night's 4-3 win over the Twins, is changed to an error, which by most objective measures it was?
"Oh my God," Ortiz said, cackling. "Wait till tomorrow. The scorer might say, '[Expletive] this, I ain't [messing] with Papi."'
There were long stretches of time the last two years when Big Papi, the grand persona, went AWOL on the Red Sox, the jokes and uproarious laughter and good-natured repartee all fading into black because of bad starts, public second-guessing, contract uncertainty and headlines linking him to positive drug tests.
Well, questions remain about what the Sox intend to do about his contract going forward, which can still cast unwelcome shadows, but let there be no doubt that Ortiz's mood these days generally tilts toward cloudless skies, worry-free nights and an invitation to join in the merriment.
Take, for example, the business about the scorer. Earlier Tuesday, Ortiz learned that he had gained credit for the run batted in that had been taken away from him last week in Boston when the scorer changed his original call and ruled that an error had accounted for the run. The Red Sox appealed that decision with the commissioner's office, even before Ortiz burst into manager Terry Francona's daily pregame session with the media in an upstairs interview room and loudly complained about it.
Ortiz's behavior won him few admirers, which he acknowledged before the game when he announced, "I got my RBI, I'm a selfish [player]."
"To be honest with you, I didn't even know what Tito was doing in that room right there," Ortiz said after the game Tuesday.
Seriously? He didn't know Francona was meeting with the media, the way he does every day?
"Not one chance in hell," Ortiz said. "I thought he was filming a commercial. He's in every commercial. You know how many times I walked into that room and never bumped into [anyone]?"
Tuesday night, with one out and the bases loaded in a 3-3 tie in the seventh, Ortiz came to the plate against Phil Dumatrait, a No. 1 draft choice of the Sox in 1997 who was traded to the Reds in 2003 (for Scott Williamson), blew out his elbow a year later, went 10 years before making it to the big leagues and last season was the only American on a Korean team before signing with the Twins.
The night before, Ortiz had four hits, including a 438-foot home run and a line single in the ninth that drove home the go-ahead run in Boston's 8-6 win. He also scored a run in the eighth inning when Twins catcher Joe Mauer dropped the ball on an attempted tag at the plate when, Ortiz said, "he heard the big elephant coming."
This time, a mighty swing produced a slow roller down the first-base line.
"You hit a ball to the pitcher like that, he's got to chase it, you've got to run, somebody's coming in [to home], a lot of things are going on at the same time," he said.
With a mind to make a play at the plate, Dumatrait tried to pick up the ball barehanded. Instead, he fell as Ortiz, not even halfway down the line, chugged past him and reached first base without a play.
Was it Dumatrait's turn to hear the big elephant?
"No," Ortiz said, "Actually I was light-stepping so they don't know I was coming."
Even if Dumatrait had made a clean pickup, chances are that he would not have caught Dustin Pedroia, who broke quickly to the plate. The play should have been scored a fielder's choice, with Ortiz getting credit for an RBI and Dumatrait charged with an error.
Francona had a different perspective.
"See," he told reporters afterward, "I told you we'd get that squeeze, sooner or later."
Ortiz was asked which was more satisfying, Monday night's tape-measure home run or the bleeder.
"All depends what the situation is," he said. "To win a game, I'll take both."
Ortiz professed surprise at hearing that the Sox have the big leagues' best record on the road, 35-21 -- or 35-14 since they lost their first seven away from home -- even though someone had mentioned it to him the night before. But it's an especially reassuring trend, given that the Sox are in a stretch in which they play 14 of 17 away from the Fens.
How does Ortiz explain it?
"Because we're the Sox," he said. "Not apple Sox. We ain't no barbecue Sox. We're the Red Sox."
OK, so maybe Ortiz is stretching the definition of a homonym there. Go with it.
Ortiz feigned indignation upon hearing that Pedroia, in his Sports Illustrated cover story this week, made a disparaging remark about how Ortiz dresses. ("What he wears is embarrassing," says Pedroia, who needles Big Papi with no fear of retaliation, perhaps because he knows how much Ortiz likes him.)
"He's my boy, man, the best player in the game -- Dustin Pedroia," Ortiz said Tuesday night.
But his boy, he added with a look of hurt on his face, was wrong about his threads.
"I'm the only Papi, man," he said, smoothing his shirt over his designer jeans. "Man, I'm as clean as they come. Always. Right, people?"
He didn't stick around for an answer.
"All we do is win," he chirped as he walked out the door. "Win, win, win."
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
13hJesse Rogers and Jerry Crasnick
13hTony Lee, Special to ESPN.com