We have reached a fateful season review on Fenway Frauds: the arrival of David Ortiz on the Boston Red Sox roster. We know Big Papi tested positive in 2003, as it was reported many years ago. Did he ever suffer any consequences for it? No. We have to assume he was using from at least 2003 on, so this is when the Red Sox organization went all in with Manny Ramírez, Ortiz, and (probably) many others.
Boston also knew the PEDs were working, as the club pushed the New York Yankees to seven games in the American League Championship Series before losing on an extra-inning home run. The Red Sox were close to ending their 80-plus years without a World Series title. The organization was committed at this point, and there was no turning back.
Exhibit A: Bill Mueller
He was 31 in 2002 when he hit a career-worst .262 for both the Chicago Cubs (.266 in 103 games) and the San Francisco Giants (.154 in 8 games) combined. What was a journeyman like Mueller to do? Guess. Joining the Red Sox gave him the perfect opportunity to rescue his career—and Mueller went on to earn an additional $11.2M over the final four years of his career after coming to Boston in 2003.
At age 32, he suddenly remembered how to hit, winning the AL batting title (.326) and posting a career-high (by a mile) OPS of .938 over 146 games. Mind you, this was at an age where his prime was basically over, as his 2002 season started to demonstrate. We suspect Mueller, who hit .289 with the Giants between 1996-2000 before they dumped him on the Cubs, found something to his liking with the Sox.
In those five seasons with the S.F. organization, Mueller was clearly not emulating Barry Bonds: He only hit 28 home runs in 2,098 ABs with the Giants. But somehow, at age 32 with the Red Sox, he hit 19 HRs in just 524 ABs. His SLG with the Giants was under .400, but with the Red Sox, fighting for his career and livelihood, he suddenly slugged .540 for Boston.
So, maybe it was Fenway itself? Well, Mueller played 173 games in Wrigley Field in 2001-2002, and his SLG mark there (.419) was nothing special. The reality is he probably got an idea in his head during his brief, second stint in San Francisco at the end of 2002—playing with Bonds again—and then went to Boston knowing there was opportunity there to extend his career and make more money.
Exhibit B: David Ortiz
We know the positive test exists, and we know Ortiz tried to make up shit to explain it away, multiple times in multiple ways. That is totally the behavior of a liar. But let’s look at the stats, too, and try to figure this out. In 2002 with the Minnesota Twins at age 26, Ortiz hit .272 with an .839 OPS. For a guy about to enter his prime, those numbers show a lot of promise. So why would the Twins release him?
Years later, they claimed it was a salary dump, as they didn’t want to pay Ortiz a $2M salary that arbitration would bring him. But maybe Minnesota knew something and didn’t want the guy on the roster. We are guessing, but it seems odd to release a guy with those numbers about to enter his prime seasons. The Red Sox signed Ortiz for just $1.25M, and you know what happened next.
Ortiz bumped his OPS to .961 in 2003 and would go on to post a .956 overall from 2003 to 2016 with Boston, playing until he was 40—and putting up a MLB-best 1.021 OPS in that final season. Again, we know he tested positive in 2003, and we know there were no consequences, so why would Ortiz have ever stopped taking PEDs, especially when he was making millions and winning World Series rings?
Exhibit C: Mike Timlin
This longtime reliever broke into the majors at age 25 in 1991 and won two World Series rings with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993. He was an average reliever with Toronto (3.62 ERA in 305 appearances) from 1991 to 1997, and by the time he reached the 2003 season, he was 37 years old. You know where this goes from here, right?
Timlin pitched the final six seasons of his average career (3.63 career ERA) with the Red Sox, pitching until he was 42 years old. In those six seasons starting in 2003, Timlin posted a 3.76 ERA. Not bad for a guy who was pitching the twilight years of career at a better rate than he was pitching in 1999 and 2000 just as his prime was ending, huh? He had 99 appearances with Baltimore to the tune of a 4.04 ERA then.
But get this: Timlin then went to pitch in St. Louis, and we wonder how close his locker was to that of Mark McGwire. With the Cards, he dropped his ERA to 3.36 over 134 appearances during his age-34 to age-36 seasons. It is interesting to see his prime seasons with Toronto produce about the same ERA as his overall career—and how he still managed to pitch almost as effectively into his 40s with Boston.
Conclusion: When the coincidences and data are too hard to ignore
By this time, players had to know Boston—like San Francisco or even St. Louis, for that matter—was a place to go for extra stuff and a career-extending opportunity to make millions and perhaps win a World Series. Players whisper among themselves, and they probably all knew who was using and who was not. The Red Sox clearly collecting PED users and had money to spend on more of them.
Mueller’s brief return to San Francisco before his Boston revelation is too coincidental to ignore, as well, in light of his statistical trends. The same can be said for Timlin, after his years with the Cardinals. As for Ortiz, we have the proof of the positive test. Again, at this point, the Red Sox were committed to winning at any cost, and they would soon reap the benefits of their modus operandi.