David Ortiz doesn’t give a [expletive] about what you think makes a leader

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David Ortiz has, what I think anyway, is some righteous anger. It came out last night after the Sox beat the Orioles, and it came in response to reports that he called a closed-door meeting a couple of weeks ago in which the hitters yelled at the pitchers.

Since that meeting, by the way, the Sox have won 9 of 11 and the starting pitcher has been back on point.  Which, if you’re into these sorts of stories, makes David Ortiz look a hell of a lot like a team leader.  And, while he has done nothing to proclaim himself a leader  publicly — indeed, he was irked that the story of the team meeting leaked out  — Ortiz bristled at the Boston media’s notion of what a leader looks like. From Gordon Edes’ article:

“Well, let me tell you, I was reading an article [that] talked about the leaders people call ‘leaders’ in this town,” he said. “Basically, it seems like no matter what you do, it’s not good enough. And you can only call leaders the guys who are out diving for balls on the field or calling pitches behind the plate?” …

… “No. 1, I don’t agree with that,” Ortiz said. “And No. 2, what I do I don’t do for people to know. I do it for my teammates, to get to know things better. I don’t give a [expletive] about anybody knowing what we talk about, No. 1. And No. 2, I don’t give a [expletive] what they call leaders …

He went on to say “I don’t get no respect.” Which, while if it was said in an isolated way, could come off petty or self-centered.  But I think in context with all of this other stuff, he has a pretty good point.

Our ideas about leadership in sports are kinda screwy. When things go well for a ballclub, we look at certain people and call them leaders. When they go poorly, we rarely blame them for their lack of leadership. A couple of writers asked where Jason Varitek was when it was allegedly all going to hell for the Sox last September, but it was certainly a minority view. For the most part, guys who are cast as captains are only talked about in those terms when things go well. When things go poorly it’s because of screwups like Josh Beckett.

And, as Ortiz may or may not have intended to imply, it’s funny how the people we call leaders on ballclubs tend to fit a certain type. Everyday position players who, coincidentally or not, are often scrappy or fiery players. And, coincidentally or not, are usually white dudes. Why couldn’t David Ortiz be a leader? Why must someone like Dustin Pedroia be assumed to be? Why must it be a vocal person as opposed to someone who leads by example or behind the scenes? Why must it be one person? I often get the sense that we writers unconsciously project leadership on people who have traits that we understand or share ourmselves because it makes something amorphous and complicated a lot more understandable to us.

Anyway, I’m not saying that Ortiz is a great leader. I have no idea what he does along those lines. Maybe he had a good moment with that team meeting and the rest of the time he’s like everyone else.  Maybe the Sox’ good play of late is a total coincidence (if the Sox played poorly for the past week, would the narrative be “Ortiz sows dissension in the clubhouse?”).

But I can certainly see how he or other players could get a bit rankled when it comes to the leadership talk we like so much in the media.

(Thanks to reader Big Leagues for the heads up)

Tim Anderson on Joe West: ‘I don’t have much to say about him. Everybody knows he’s terrible.’

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During the top of the ninth inning of Saturday night’s 7-3 loss to the Cubs, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson was ejected by umpire Joe West. Anderson attempted to complete a double play started by second baseman Yoan Moncada, but Javier Báez slid hard into Anderson at the second base bag to disrupt him. Anderson’s throw went past first baseman Matt Davidson, allowing a run to score.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria challenged the ruling on the field, but it was upheld after replay review. Anderson had a brief conversation with umpire Joe West then went back to his position. Shortly thereafter, West ejected Anderson, who became irate.

After the game, Anderson said of West, via Vinnie Duber of NBC Sports Chicago, “I asked him a question, and he kind of got pissed at me. I asked him if he saw [Báez] reach for my leg in the replay. He asked me if I was going to argue that, and I said, ‘No, I was just asking a question.’ And after that I didn’t say anything else. He started barking at me. Kept staring me down. I gave him, ‘Why you keep looking at me?’ Did that twice and threw me out.”

Anderson then said, “I don’t have much to say about him. Everybody knows he’s terrible. But I didn’t say much and he threw me out. It’s OK.” Anderson added about the play in which one can see Báez reach his arm out to interfere with Anderson, “Yeah, definitely. You could see it in the replay. That’s just one of the many that they missed in New York, I guess.”

Anderson’s criticism of West doesn’t come as a surprise. West has had a reputation as an instigator for decades. Major League Baseball almost never holds umpires accountable for their conduct on the field and some umpires, like West, take advantage of this knowledge.

It was a bittersweet ending for Anderson as he homered earlier in the game, becoming the first White Sox shortstop ever to have 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season. It’s just the sixth 20/20 season in White Sox history, joining Alex Ríos (2010, 2012), Ray Durham (2001), Magglio Ordóñez (2001), and Tommie Agee.

Anderson accounted for the only run the White Sox scored on Sunday against the Cubs with an RBI double. On the season, he’s hitting .243/.284/.412 with those 20 homers, 26 steals, 64 RBI, and 76 runs in 594 plate appearances.