Chairman: Ortiz story crossed line

Updated: May 11, 2013, 2:51 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said a Boston Globe column stating that David Ortiz was widely suspected of using steroids "crossed a line," leading him to write a response that was posted on the team's website and which he also submitted to the newspaper.

Werner's written response, unusual for the owner of a professional sports team, objected to a piece written by sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy published Wednesday in the Globe and posted on the newspaper's website.

If that is defined as [Dan] Shaughnessy asking the tough questions, did he ask Tom Brady, who had two of his best years at age 34 and 35? Did he question the Celtics when they won an NBA title with a core of players that were in their 30s? Did he question Tim Thomas when he won a Stanley Cup for the Bruins at age 37?

-- Red Sox chairman Tom Werner

"You fit all the models," Shaughnessy said he told Ortiz in the column. "You are from the Dominican Republic. You are an older player. Older players don't get better. You've had injuries consistent with steroid use. You showed up on the list from 2003. You fit all the formulas."

At the time the column was published, Ortiz was on a 27-game hitting streak extending back to last season, and was batting .426. Since its publication, Ortiz has gone hitless in his last 13 at-bats (0-for-16 overall), his average dropping to .338.

Ortiz went 0-for-5 in consecutive games for the first time since 2004, then went 0-for-3 Friday night. In the three games since the column ran, Ortiz has come to the plate with a total of 16 runners on base and failed to drive in any.

"It's probably my style sort of not to respond," Werner said Friday night, "but I felt like the piece that Dan wrote really crossed the line. I know David responded to it, but I also took the approach that somebody else should stick up for David."

Werner said he told Ortiz that he thought the column was "over the top and outrageous" and that Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry also spoke to Ortiz on the subject.

"I also put it in the context that it was over the line regarding Clay Buchholz [the Red Sox pitcher who last week in Toronto was accused of throwing a spitball by two Blue Jays broadcasters, including former pitcher Jack Morris]," Werner said. "Do we really want to assume any time that an athlete does something admirable that he's cheating? I hope not."

In his piece, Werner noted that Shaughnessy wrote that Ortiz was suspect because older players "do not get better." Werner wrote that "most disturbing to me" was Shaughnessy writing Ortiz was also suspect because he is from the Dominican Republic.

"I fully acknowledge the right the media has to ask difficult questions and to express controversial opinions," wrote Werner, who then asserted that Ortiz has been tested five times for performance-enhancing drugs, and also submitted to a blood exam that tests for human growth hormone.

Ortiz
Ortiz

"Why then, should a writer publicly assert a presumption of guilt -- without any foundation, without any basis, and without any evidence?" Werner wrote. "Does this mean that whenever an athlete -- particularly a Dominican athlete -- does something exceptional, we have to assume he cheated?"

Ortiz, in an interview with a Spanish-language reporter Wednesday in Boston that was aired on a radio station in the Dominican Republic, also took exception to the suggestion that because he was Dominican, he fit the profile of a steroid cheater.

"The thing that stung me was his statement about Dominicans," Ortiz said. "You mean that in the Dominican Republic there are no players who try to do things right? We are all in the same boat. And the people here who have been caught, does that put everyone here in the same boat?"

Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory, in an email Friday night, said the newspaper is working with the Red Sox to publish Werner's submission as a letter to the editor.

"Dan Shaughnessy did what good columnists do," McGrory wrote in the email. "He gave voice to the questions that were on the minds of many people.

"Rather than fling accusations from afar, Shaughnessy went right to the source, respectfully posing a series of questions to David Ortiz, face-to-face, and receiving thoughtful answers in return. The insightful responses, quoted at length, gave readers a logical explanation to Ortiz's torrid start this season. The job of a journalist is to ask these hard questions, and then give a good airing and proper context to the answers. Dan Shaughnessy did exactly that."

McGrory's quote also appeared on Boston.com, where it was read by Werner.

"If that is defined as Shaughnessy asking the tough questions," Werner said, "did he ask Tom Brady, who had two of his best years at age 34 and 35? Did he question the Celtics when they won an NBA title with a core of players that were in their 30s? Did he question Tim Thomas when he won a Stanley Cup for the Bruins at age 37?

"And how come he hasn't questioned Mariano Rivera, who is 43 and 11 for 11 in saves and has returned from ACL surgery without missing a beat?"

The New York Times reported in 2009 that Ortiz tested positive for PEDs during the 2003 season. Ortiz later said a combination of then-legal supplements and vitamins likely caused a positive test.

On Wednesday, Ortiz told ESPN's Pedro Gomez that he does not entertain the thought of using PEDs.

"I've had a couple of bad Aprils and they have tried to bring me to the point of suicide, but the seasons have continued, and I got better and finished with good numbers, but they have continued talking about the bad Aprils. Now I'm having a good April and they attack me anyhow," Ortiz told the radio show Thursday.

As of Friday, Shaughnessy has not written again in the Globe. But in an interview that aired on csnne.com and posted on its website, Shaughnessy said of PEDs: "We all hate the topic. Nobody likes it.

"In 1998, the writers didn't ask the questions and we looked bad for not going up to [Mark] McGwire and [Sammy] Sosa and asking, 'Why are you hitting 73 home runs, what's going on here?' Now when you do that, it doesn't feel good, either. I understand that.

"It's created this horrible situation. Nobody likes it and I feel bad about it."

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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