Known for his bat, Big Papi plays defense

Known for his bat, Big Papi plays defense

David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox has never been known for his defense, but he was surrounded by an all-out defensive effort on his behalf on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

There were press releases issued by Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and the Boston baseball team that all carried one theme -- the value of the list of players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 is highly suspect.

David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez

Ortiz did step forward at the news conference before the Red Sox-Yankees game to make the boldest statement: "I never bought steroids or used steroids."

The Red Sox went above and beyond the call of duty to defend their popular player and, in fact, relied on the message of the Players Association in the second paragraph of their press release:

"The Players Association made it clear in its public statement today that there are substantial uncertainties and ambiguity surrounding the list of 104 names from the 2003 survey test. Indeed, there is even uncertainty about the number of players on this 2003 government list, whether it is 104, 96, 83, or less. Many of those uncertainties apparently relate to the use of then-legal nutritional supplements that were not banned by Baseball."

In other words, if you are a player and your name is on the list and no other information is made public, no problem.

The good thing about the 2003 testing is that there were enough positive results acknowledged by both the Players Association and Major League Baseball that a tougher testing program was put in place.

Other than that, there is nothing but confusion that came out of the 2003 testing program.

The most interesting part of Saturday's events was the way Major League Baseball, the Players Association and the Red Sox presented the same basic message at a time when Ortiz had promised the media he would step forward and present the facts of the matter where he has been in the storm of a controversy.

There are valid reasons why everyone involved wants to move on from the mess of a testing program that took place six years ago.

Drug Policy in Baseball

Ortiz is a popular player -- if no longer a productive one -- for Boston and his reputation has been placed on the line; the Red Sox have seen their World Series titles of 2004 and 2007 come into question; and both MLB and the union would prefer to talk about today's testing program rather than the results of what seems to be a flawed testing program.

In view of everything that unfolded on Saturday, it seems that you have to take Ortiz at his word and let "Big Papi" go back to his fun ways at the ballpark.

Ortiz said he hasn't slept in a week or so as he has worried about how his world has been turned upside down.

For his sake, let's hope the big slugger gets back to some sound sleep and finds his productive stroke once again.

On the other hand, if there comes a time and more is known about the list and it shows that Ortiz did test positive for steroids, the nightmare of "Big Papi" will just be starting.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. He is the author of "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.