David Ortiz flatly denied ever taking steroids as a professional baseball player during an interview yesterday afternoon on New York City sports radio station WFAN.
Ortiz, the retired Boston Red Sox superstar, is currently promoting a memoir called Papi: My Story, co-written with Boston-based WEEI and CSN New England host Michael Holly.
Ortiz called it a career after the 2016 season, finishing up with 541 total home runs, which includes 11 walk-off homers (two of which came in the playoffs), among other accomplishments on his stellar baseball resume.
Ortiz is a three-time World Series champion (2004, 2007, and 2013) with the Red Sox. The Sox were also well positioned to win it all in 2003 had then-manager Grady Little decided to bring in a relief pitcher to replace an obviously tired ace Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the American League championship series.
Rumors of steroid use could stand in the way of Ortiz, a.k.a. Big Papi, being the first MLB designated hitter to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, however.
The so-far-underperforming Red Sox, who are hovering just about 0.500 at this writing, obviously miss Ortiz’s offense, apart from the team’s pitching woes. In a 20-year MLB career, Ortiz logged 14 seasons with the Red Sox (preceded by six years with the Minnesota Twins), where he emerged as one of the most clutch hitters of all time.
In July of 2009, the New York Times published an anonymously leaked report compiled by federal investigators that claimed Ortiz was allegedly one of about 100 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. In a press conference about a month later, Ortiz denied the allegations.
In a 20-minute-plus conversation with WFAN’s Mike Francesa that covered a lot of topics from the new book, including his appreciation for the mentorship from Pedro Martinez and Bobby Valentine’s disastrous 2012 managing stint with the Red Sox, the steroid issue came up. (Parenthetically, Francesa called Ortiz “Pedro” twice during the interview.)
When specifically asked by Francesa if he ever did steroids, Ortiz responded emphatically that he never took PEDs of any kind, although he did ingest nutritional supplements as other athletes do, adding that he put up his best numbers after MLB implemented regular drug testing.
“Never. That wasn’t my purpose. I was a guy that I worked extremely hard to get better… I keep on saying to people that I got more drug testing than anybody ever has in baseball, and I never failed one… It was just a rumor on the street. Nobody ever came to me and told me, ‘This is what you tested positive for.’… And you saw what the commissioner say: ‘This was inconclusive.’ I mean, it was their word against mine basically…”
As far as his Hall of Fame chances, Ortiz pointed out that he would consider it an honor but that the vote is out of his control.
“And honestly, I tell you, I never used the steroids,” he declared.
Listen to the full interview below.
Francesa also asked David Ortiz about whether close friend Manny Ramirez’s PED suspension was a factor, but Ortiz rejected the guilt-by-association implication, CBS New York noted.
“Manny’s last name is Ramirez. My one is Ortiz. So if Manny go out there and kill somebody, should I be guilty?” Ortiz asked rhetorically.
Big Papi also told Francesa that among the things he’s most proud of during his MLB career are the relationships he was able to build up with other players around the majors in addition to his teammates.
David Ortiz finished up his career with a 0.286 batting average, 2,472 hits, and 1,768 RBI. He is a 10-time MLB All-Star, a three-time AL RBI leader, and an AL home run champ (2006). The occasional first baseman is also the all-time leader in home runs at the DH position (485) and well as RBI and hits. He acknowledged that he would have liked to keep playing, but chronic, painful injuries to his feet eliminated that possibility.
In his last season of action, which amounted to a retirement tour when he was honored by his own team as well as by opposing teams, Ortiz blasted 38 home runs and drove in 127 runs, with a season batting average of 0.315 in the regular season before the Red Sox were abruptly swept out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Indians.
Do you accept David Ortiz at his word that he was never on the juice? Should rumors of steroid use affect the MLB Hall of Fame chances of David Ortiz?
[Featured Image by Elise Amendola/AP Images]