NEW YORK -- David Ortiz has been out of action for a month now with a right Achilles injury, reduced to a spectator as his team flounders. For 20 minutes Friday, Ortiz sat in the Red Sox's dugout and talked about the team's lack of health, how much he supports manager Bobby Valentine and how excruciating it's been on the sidelines.
For part of the time Ortiz held court, there was only one other Red Sox player sitting in the dugout, the only other player who could qualify as the team's heart and soul.
Whether or not Dustin Pedroia could hear -- he likely could not -- seemingly didn't matter to Ortiz. The Sox slugger saw Pedroia hurting three days ago, when a report pegged the second baseman as one of Valentine's top detractors, and that shook both players.
"The other day, Pedroia was playing baseball out there [ticked] off and not focused on what he wants to do, because that report came out saying he was against the manager," Ortiz said. "How do you think he's going to feel out there? This game is 75 percent mental and the rest physical -- or 50-50 probably, but your mind has a lot to do with your performance, and when you see somebody trying to put you against your manager, it will be a distraction.
"And knowing the Pedroia that I know, that kid, he wants to do nothing but play baseball no matter who his manager is, no matter who's the umpire, who's the fan -- he don't care. He wants to go out there and beat the crap out of whoever he's playing against that day. I was really mad, because I've been able to watch him play the game the way we are used to watching him play -- especially in the situation we are, it's kind of [screwed up]."
Ortiz, hitting .316 with 23 home runs 58 RBIs, has been down since July 16 with a right Achilles strain. When the Red Sox's chances were better and the season was younger, he was a constant.
This week, team president Larry Lucchino said the team was a "long shot" to make the playoffs, and Ortiz seemed to take the comment realistically.
"I think I understand his point," Ortiz said. "We haven't been able to play well continuously with consistency yet, and we have guys in front of us playing really well. So the long shot that he means, I think, is us getting healthy, and out of the 50 games that we have, try to win the most we can. Which is something that can happen, but we got to really put it together, because we [have] Tampa [Bay], Baltimore and the Yankees ahead of us playing pretty good."
The problem for Ortiz, particularly this year, is that the drama doesn't seem to disappear. On the field, he has no doubt he'd be a difference-maker.
"Everybody knows as long as I've been here I've been a force for this organization," said Ortiz, who was not asked about his impending free agency during Friday's meeting with the media.
But what's been there this year more than any other, Ortiz believes, is the negativity. That's something he said "never will" vanish, but he also hasn't seen it quite like this.
"It's hard here. It's hard," Ortiz said. "This is a big market and you're going to deal with things. My only complaint about it is it's been left and right this year. More than what I can remember. I don't know if you guys agree with me, but it's been really bad this year. And we have a lot of new guys and they're not used to that, though. They don't know how anybody [is going to] react, but I saw Pedey's frustration the other day. That's the one thing I can tell you, and it hurt me because I know my man. I know Pedroia. ... Pedroia is the guy that you want to come to the field to watch him play. And just watch him not being able to focusing that day ... that day he was not comfortable."
Ortiz does not want himself counted as a player who wants a mutiny. All he wants is the team to play well, which he acknowledged won't make all the noise go away, but it will surely help. He's spoken out about the distractions before.
"I think Bobby's doing great, man," Ortiz said. "He had to deal with so many things through the season. A lot of guys' injuries, I guarantee that if he doesn't have that many guys going to the DL for the year, history will be different this year. And all the talk and all the negativity that comes out against him, I don't think [that] will be there. Because what's the need if you are playing well?
"The last couple of years it's been a roller coaster the way things have been handled around here. Hopefully it will get better, because playing the game is hard enough, but then having to deal with some of the [stuff] afterwards, I don't think it's fair. I know this is a big market just like the Yankees, just like Anaheim, but I don't think the other teams go through what we go through when it comes down to stupid things flying around and things that get players distracted."