FORT MYERS, Fla. -- David Ortiz saw what happened in the free-agent market this offseason, pulled aside teammate Mookie Betts and told the outfielder that he's putting himself in position to become a $250 million player.
"He's going to be one of the best players in the American League," Ortiz said, shaking his head at Betts' improved range of skills in a little more than a year of service time in the majors.
There are many talented young players in baseball trying to get better, but the other Boston Red Sox players see Betts as being very different because of his relentless pursuit of information and, more importantly, how he applies that information.
Questions posed by some players, even veterans, reflect a general insecurity, and really, that player is looking for reassurance and a reminder that a solution and better days are within reach. Some players like and need reminders of how good they are. When Alex Rodriguez was an MVP with the Texas Rangers, teammates recalled how even after a four- or five-hit day, Rodriguez would ask them how his swing looked, like a straight-A student asking peers whether a perfect grade was good enough.
But Betts' questions seem to be all about diagnostics. Ortiz and Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis talk about how Betts attacks them with questions, like a scientist looking for solutions to problems. Ortiz says that if he tells Betts something -- if he recommends that Betts put his foot down a little sooner, for example -- then the outfielder has the aptitude to implement a suggestion immediately. "The next at-bat," Ortiz said with amazement.