There is supposed to be hate, but there is only love. The retiring David Ortiz -- probably the face of the end of "the Curse" in Boston -- should be loathed by the Yankees. But he is not.
Even the only Yankee he has publicly beefed with, Alex Rodriguez, expresses admiration for Ortiz. A-Rod turned to Boston’s second greatest sports rivalry -- the Celtics and the Lakers -- to make his point about Papi.
“I came up watching Larry Bird and Magic Johnson,” Rodriguez told ESPN.com. “To me, in many ways, he is our version of Magic Johnson. He is loved by everyone, respected by all. He is a large voice in our game and is one of the most prolific clutch hitters in the history of the game. He has been the centerpiece of three world championships. I can’t say enough great things about him.”
Neither can the rest of his Yankee teammates. They love Papi.
Yankees fans have always disliked Papi because he was instrumental in ending the curse, because of his clutch hits, because of his celebrations and because of his alleged involvement in PEDs that failed to put much of a dent in his reputation.
As for inside the Yankees' clubhouse? Sure, the Yankees want to beat Ortiz, but they don’t wish him any ill will.
“He is a great person, a great human being,” said Beltran, who has been as clutch as Ortiz -- just not as memorably in the same uniform. “In my case, you play against certain guys, and in David’s case, he is such a nice guy, you just don’t wish him bad. He is one of those guys you can’t wish bad. He’s been great for Boston.”
The difference for players and fans, of course, is personal. Although the thought of a Yankee socializing with Ortiz might sound like treason to some Yankees fans, most of the current players would have it no other way.
At 29, Nova is 11 years younger than Ortiz. In 2004, Nova was 17, growing up in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. The fact that Nova can now scroll down his phone contacts and find a Dominican legend’s digits brings a huge smile to his face.
“He texts me to see how I feel,” Nova said. “I never thought that guy would text me to see how I feel. That’s why I’m blessed to not only have a chance to play against him but have that relationship that we have.”
Nova has gone out to eat with Big Papi. Describing it, Nova looks as excited as a young fan after receiving his first autograph.
Because of his outgoing personality, Ortiz has managed to make a big impression on a diverse group of Yankees. For Miller, who was hurt during the 2013 Red Sox's title run, Ortiz made him feel welcome.
“He was incredibly generous,” Miller said. “He was incredibly nice to me as a player who wasn’t exactly thriving when he showed up with the Red Sox. I remember some of the things he did for the team that we did go through and win the World Series. He is just an awesome guy, and I’m really happy I got to play with him.”
Miller thinks of himself as an old-school type of guy, so some of Ortiz’s antics that bother fans could gnaw at him, but Ortiz, in Miller’s eyes, is one of the guys who maybe should be allowed to savor each long ball.
“Sometimes you will hear from the crusty, old guys like myself that some of the celebration stuff steps over the line,” Miller said. “A lot of times, what you will hear is that guys have to earn it. I think a lot of times guys will get mad when it's someone who hasn’t earned it. If anyone has earned a chance to stand back and admire a home run, it is going to be David Ortiz. You probably shouldn’t be throwing that pitch. When he is on the other side, it makes you mad and angry.”
From CC Sabathia to Mark Teixeira to every Yankee asked, they talk about how instrumental Ortiz has been to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. They really like Ortiz, even though they don’t like thinking about all the big hits he has logged against them.
“I’d rather not think about too much of that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been great. He’s great for Boston and the rivalry. But at a much bigger, global level, he has been incredible for the growth of our sport.”