For whatever reason, David Ortiz hates it when you bring up that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 (a fact confirmed by the union). The latest target of his ire: MLB Network hosts who declared he has received a "free pass" for his transgression.
It started over the weekend, when Baltimore's Nelson Cruz—now an all-star starter, less than a year after serving a 50-game suspension for a failed PED test—went 3-for-3 off of John Lackey. Lackey made reference to Cruz's doping, but without explicitly mentioning Cruz.
"I'm not even going to comment on him. I've got nothing to say about him. There's things I would like to say but I'm not going to. You guys [in the media] forget pretty conveniently about stuff."
OK. Step two: Orioles manager Buck Showalter fired back at Lackey, taking him to task for forgetting about a certain beloved Red Sox slugger—again, casting shade without explicitly mentioning Ortiz. (Notice the pattern here?)
"We need to all make sure we check our own backyard before we start looking at someone else's."
Well, MLB Network doesn't mind getting dirty. In a Monday afternoon segment that Ortiz happened to watch, one host (the Globe says it was former pitcher and current color commentator Joe Magrane) said Ortiz has received a "free pass" from fans and media for PED use, while Cruz still gets hammered for his suspension stemming from the Biogenesis scandal.
Without being prompted, Ortiz went off to WEEI.com.
"What pisses me off is the whole thing about, why does my name got to be mentioned in that? What did I have to do with that? I saw on MLB the guys talking about it, and then they brought my name up, and one of the guys said that I got a free pass on that. It was the Lackey and Showalter thing, going back and forth. Showalter didn't say anything about me.
"But then, when they are commenting about what Showalter said, they brought my name up. Then one of the guys wanted to say that I got a free pass. And to be honest with you, in this country, nobody gets a free pass. He wants to make it sound like I got a free pass because nobody can point fingers at me directly. But the reason why I got that fake [expletive] free pass that he's saying is because they pointed fingers at me with no proof. It's easier to do it that way than having something that they can say, 'Yes, you did this, you did that.' My [expletive], I call straight up bull. Let me tell you. You don't get no free pass here, especially a guy like me. I don't get no free pass. That free pass B.S. that they want to talk about over there, they can shove it up their [expletive].
"That's reality. You don't use the words that I get a free pass. You don't get a free pass on this. MLB don't play that B.S. MLB don't play that. There's a reason why I've been drug-tested like eight times and we're not even at the break. Is that a free pass? There's a reason why I've been tested like 40 times since they approved the policy, the drug policy. Is that a free pass? They can get that free pass and shove it up their [expletive]."
In their own particular ways, both Ortiz and Cruz have been done wrong by steroid hysteria. Ortiz's name popped up (retroactively, six years later) on 2003 survey testing agreed to by MLB and the union to determine the level of PED use in baseball. The results were supposed to remain confidential, and for most of the names on the list, they did, so Ortiz got screwed there. But more fundamentally, there were no PED penalties for those 2003 tests. If Ortiz was using that year, he was doing so completely legally. He hasn't flunked a test that counts, so he has, both de jure and de facto, done nothing wrong.
Cruz, meanwhile, has never failed a drug test. His name was all over the Biogenesis documents, but MLB had to stretch its Joint Drug Agreement pretty damn hard to justify a suspension. But Cruz accepted 50 games, backed into a corner by the timing of the plea (with exactly 50 games left in the season) and the lack of support from a toothless and reeling MLBPA.
So no one's getting a free pass here. Both guys are forever tainted by something for which they've served the prescribed punishment (in Ortiz's case, none). But Ortiz, who's managed to be especially dickish lately, is probably just blowing off steam at getting dragged into a conversation he didn't start and wishes would end. Even though Ortiz is not naming names—that wouldn't be polite—maybe John Lackey will get the message and bite his tongue next time.