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Boston Red Sox: Could David Ortiz’s Desire for Contract Extension Turn Ugly?

Papi and Sox Not Being in Agreement on a New Contract Could Spell Trouble

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Designated hitter David Ortiz is the face of the Boston Red Sox and among the greatest players in the history of the franchise.

Although he has another year remaining on his current contract, he is already stumping for a new deal, and if he doesn't get it, there is a potential for things to turn ugly.

The 38-year-old has spent 11 of his 17 years in the majors playing for the Red Sox. During his tenure, the team has been wildly successful, winning three World Series and making the playoffs four other times.

When he retires, the left-handed hitter will have a good case for the Hall of Fame, as he has already accumulated a .287 batting average, 431 home runs and 1,429 RBIs along with a litany of other big numbers and recognition.

Ortiz's 2013 season was one for the ages, as he hit .309 with 30 home runs and 103 RBIs. A brief but emotional speech he gave at Fenway Park shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings in April went viral. He capped everything off by hitting .688 in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, taking home the World Series MVP Award as his team claimed the championship.

According to The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, when Ortiz signed his current two-year, $26 million (plus possible incentives) contract prior to last season, the player and the team agreed not to negotiate another deal until the previous one expired.

Most recently, Ortiz denied to there ever was ever such an agreement.

It appears he is hoping to gain security as he reaches the twilight of his career. Rob Bradford of recently reported the slugger expressed his desire for a new contract when speaking at his recent charity golf tournament. Ortiz explained, "My agent and them, they're talking right now to see if we can get another year. Right now, I'm very happy with the way things went last year."

It's hard to imagine the Red Sox wouldn't want Ortiz for as long as he is productive. He has pushed his way into the pantheon of all-time great Boston athletes, joining the likes of Larry Bird, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Bobby Orr and Tom Brady.

Despite his popularity, the team could have some reluctance to move too quickly on an extension. Because of his age, injuries have to be a concern for Ortiz moving forward. Although he appeared in 137 regular-season games last year, he missed the first few weeks of the season and another 72 games last year because of a heel injury.

It's also unknown how long Ortiz can maintain a high level of production. After finishing in the top four in American League MVP voting each year from 2004 through 2007, he experienced a steep decline in 2008 and 2009. However, he seemingly reinvented himself, telling's Luke Hughes how he changed his approach. Always a smart hitter, his improved mechanics combined with his ability to read pitchers led to a major resurgence that has continued to the present.

Boston general manager Ben Cherington was effusive in his praise but unwilling to commit to an extension in comments he recently made in a conference call with's Alex Speier. "What I can say is that we have incredible respect for David," he said. "And as I've said before, and I'll reiterate, our hope certainly is that he finishes his career in a Red Sox uniform. So at some point there will be a conversation about that. I don't know when that will be."

"The door will always be open to David," Cherington continued, "and I'm sure at the appropriate time there will be an appropriate time to have the conversation. And I hope he's in a Red Sox uniform the rest of his career."

Ortiz didn't sound interested in waiting to do an extension next offseason, according to what he told Bradford. "I just hate the situation where I have to sit down at the end of the year and talk about my following year. Let's do it now."

When asked if he thought he could get a new deal signed sooner rather than later, Ortiz replied, "If they're smart I will. You know what happens every time people challenge Papi."

If an impasse does happen, it will be interesting to see if it takes a negative tone. After all, both sides would be right. Ortiz has done more than enough to finish his career well paid and with the security that when he is ready he can leave the game on his own terms. On the other hand, the Red Sox are running a business and can't let sentiment dictate their checkbook unless they are confident it's a good move.

As outlined by ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes in 2010, Ortiz has bristled in the past at having to work on one- or two-year contracts. Despite his amazing career, he has never received the type of massive contract often associated with a player of his caliber in today's game.

For now, it appears amicable conversations are happening. However, if Ortiz doesn't receive what he wants, it has the potential to create negativity that could seep into the 2014 season.

Ortiz and the Red Sox clearly want and need each other, and it's hard to imagine something can't be worked out that will satisfy both sides. But until anything is finalized, it's difficult not to have at least a few worries.

In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.

You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.

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