BOSTON -- David Ortiz is not the first player, nor will he be the last, to show his displeasure at an official scorer's call while a game is in progress.
I was in San Francisco in 1993 when Will Clark, a star of the first magnitude at the time with the Giants, became enraged when a pop fly he hit into shallow center field fell between two fielders and was scored an error by the official scorer, Susan Fornoff of the Sacramento Bee.
When he saw the ruling on the scoreboard, Clark threw his hands up in disgust. When he scored from second base, he pointed and yelled at the press box after crossing home plate, and continued his tirade from the dugout. When he took his position at first base the following inning, he gave the "choke" sign to the press box.
Clark was unrepentant when asked about it afterward by reporters, denying what had occurred in clear view, though his manager, Dusty Baker, said afterward the player had apologized to him. Clark was in a slump at the time, striking out six times in his previous 12 at-bats.
"He's frustrated," Baker said afterward. "No one knows the frustration he feels hitting .175, and it's frustrating for us to watch him be frustrated. He apologized to me [for his reaction]. He said, 'Sorry, man.' I told him that don't bother me."
Should the scorer have awarded Clark a hit? It was similar to the ball Ortiz hit in Texas earlier this season that was originally scored an error and changed to a hit, so I'm inclined to say yes.
Did Clark make himself look petty and selfish by making such a public display of anger in a game in which the Giants were winning handily? Of course.
Ortiz did the same Wednesday afternoon. The game was scoreless in the seventh inning when Ortiz hit a sharp two-hopper just to the right of Twins first baseman Joe Mauer. The ball bounced off Mauer's glove and rolled a few feet away. The off-balance Mauer was unable to recover, and Ortiz reached first base safely.
The official scorer, Bob Ellis, after viewing a couple of replays, charged Mauer with an error. When the inning ended, according to several reporters watching, including Kyle Brasseur of ESPNBoston.com (I'd gotten up to use the restroom), Ortiz could be seen yelling at the press box, making a thumbs-down motion several times to indicate his displeasure with the call.
Unlike Clark, Ortiz owned his reaction, but also defended it.
"I thought people were supposed to have your back at home, and it never happens," he said. "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.
"I always look like the bad guy, but they always end up changing it."
The "changing it" comment was a reference to the scorer's call in Texas.
Red Sox manager John Farrell, like Baker, downplayed the scene. He, too, cited frustration, noting that Ortiz has been struggling of late, which is true: Ortiz's average is down to .246, its lowest point since he ended the 2009 season batting .238.
"He's in a stretch where he's working on some things mechanically at the plate," Farrell said. "Certainly there is some frustration that comes to the surface. You get a chance to talk to him once things calm down. David is a competitor as we all know, and an ultimate competitor. He's working through some things right now."
Ortiz felt justified in venting.
"I've got to make it clear," he said. "It's not my first rodeo, man. You know how hard it is to get a hit, man?"
Was scorer Kelly wrong in not awarding Ortiz a hit? He made a judgment, based on his understanding of what "normal effort" entails, and in his view Mauer could have made the play with normal effort and thus deserved an error. Ortiz disagreed, vehemently, and sure, he may have had a point. A game rarely goes by in which players, reporters, broadcasters and fans at home don't disagree at least once with a scoring decision. That is the nature of judgment calls.
But because this is not Ortiz's first "rodeo," he knows there's a protocol in place in which a player can request that MLB review a scoring decision. That's how Ortiz got the play in Texas to be reversed. A scorer is not going to reverse a call because a player is railing at him from the field.
Sure, Ortiz is in a slump. But given how much difficulty the Sox were having generating baserunners -- they had one hit through the first nine innings -- if he had the team's best interests ahead of his own, he would have been content to have reached first base. Imagine if a pitcher threw his hands up in the air every time a hit was awarded when he thought it should have been an error, putting his ERA ahead of the situation at hand. Deep down, Ortiz knows that. And while other Sox players have complained -- privately -- that Fenway scorers are not even-handed, surely Ortiz must know it's not the scorer's job to "have his back," either.
Three innings later, he hit a game-tying home run, one batter before Mike Napoli's walk-off smash, which helped defuse what would have been a much bigger issue if the Sox had lost.
But in that one brief moment in the seventh inning, Ortiz let his frustration get the better of him (think punching a dugout phone in Baltimore) and that made Big Papi look small.