There was irony Thursday at Fenway Park. There, in bold letters in the notes the team hands out to the media before each game, was a graphic titled 'Career Criminals.' It was a list of the team's all-time stolen base leaders, highlighting that Jacoby Ellsbury is already ninth. But maybe the name that should have been there in bold lettering under that headline is David Ortiz.
There was irony Thursday at Fenway Park.
There, in bold letters in the notes the team hands out to the media before each game, was a graphic titled 'Career Criminals.' It was a list of the team's all-time stolen base leaders, highlighting that Jacoby Ellsbury is already ninth.
But maybe the name that should have been there in bold lettering under that headline is David Ortiz.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Ortiz's name is one of the 104 on the infamous list of players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, when baseball first tested for steroids. Manny Ramirez, who already served a 50-game suspension for a positive test for a banned substance earlier this season, is also reportedly on the list.
The 2003 tests were supposed to be anonymous, used merely to determine if there was a drug problem in the sport, and they were supposed to be destroyed.
They weren't, and names are slowly being leaked.
There remains the possibility that Ortiz - who before this season said that anyone testing positive should be suspended for an entire season - did not do anything wrong. But so far none of the names leaked have been incorrect. They have all been cheaters.
And so the legacy of another baseball hero is on the verge of being destroyed. The memories of all those game-winning hits, all those majestic blasts into the bleachers, could soon run red with the taint of steroids.
"The first thing he needed to find out was whether he indeed tested positive or not, and he confirmed that this afternoon talking to the union," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "Now he needs to find out what he tested positive for. He needs to get some answers, and then he's going to stand up and answer every question."
He added, "We're surprised and saddened by the report, but before we can have a complete reaction we need the complete story."
Ortiz issued a written statement after the game, then briefly took questions.
"All I have to say right now is that I found out an hour before the game about the situation," he said. "I never turn my back on you guys, I always am a truthful guy with you guys, and honestly right now I don't have any information. I'm going to get more info ... and then I'll tell you guys what's up."
The Red Sox won 8-5 Thursday in the finale of a four-game series with the A's. Ortiz even played the hero, hitting a three-run go-ahead home run into the bleachers near the 420-foot marker in deep right-center field.
But all that was rendered secondary by the news that Ortiz tested positive for PEDs in 2003, that Big Papi was possibly a cheat.
"This blindsided everybody, including David," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He's going to deal with this head-on. I do think that today is probably going to be a difficult day to get answers you're looking for, because there aren't any yet."
Well there is one - he was on that list. What he was there for remains to be seen.
And if it was a steroid, well, be outraged.
Remember how you felt about Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, the guys who were exposed early in the steroids scandal, the disgust? Remember the glee when it was Yankees Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez?
Well just because Ortiz would be merely the latest, and just because he's someone who did so much good for the the Red Sox, brought so much joy to Boston and beyond, does not make him different than the others.
That doesn't mean there should be chants of Ste-roids. Ste-roids. when Big Papi comes to the plate at Fenway Park - he's still a key part of the hometown team, and earned the standing ovation he got after his three-run blast yesterday - but put aside the idolatry that once existed.
"Obviously David is our teammate and we love him," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He's done everything in the world for me and we're here to support him."
If it comes to light that Ortiz was on that list for steroids, the link between David Ortiz and PEDs helps explain a lot. It explains how a player who was released by the Minnesota Twins after the 2002 season, after never hitting more than 20 home runs, can explode into one of the most fearsome offensive forces in the game during his first five seasons with the Red Sox, including the 2006 season when he hit 54 home runs.
And it explains how, around the time Major League Baseball began a more stringent testing program, his numbers slid, to the point where the once-colossal Big Papi is hitting .228 with just 14 home runs through four months of the season.
As for what Ortiz on steroids would mean to the championships of 2004 and 2007, well, nothing.
The Red Sox had juicers. The Yankees, who Boston beat in the 2004 ALCS, had juicers (Rodriguez, Giambi, Sheffield). The Angels and Cardinals likely had their share of juicers in 2004. The game was getting better by 2007, more clean, but you can be sure there were still plenty of players finding a way to cheat.
It was a juiced game, and the Red Sox were merely part if it.
No, just as on May 7 when news broke that Ramirez would be suspended, the one tarnished would be Ortiz if it's borne out that he cheated. The list of Career Criminals indeed has a new name.
Eric Avidon is a MetroWest Daily News staff writer. He can be reached at 508-626-3809 or firstname.lastname@example.org.