Living in the shadow of steroids! You Suck Papi..

I never think about tenses when I hear Latin Americans speak English. If it’s their second language, you can’t blame them for being technically imperfect. Then again …

I definitely was a little bit careless back in those days when I was buying supplements, vitamins over the counter. Legal supplements, legal vitamins over the counter. But I never buy steroids or use steroids.

Past tense for the first sentence, present tense for the second. Was that an intentional slip by David Ortiz in Saturday’s news conference? Did he pull a Sammy Sosa and dumb himself down? Technically, he didn’t lie if he isn’t buying or using steroids right now. Of course, nobody was asking about right now. We wanted to know what caused Big Papi’s positive PED test in 2003. And the answer was, “I never buy or use steroids.” Present tense intended to be past tense. Or maybe not.

David Ortiz

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesWas Big Papi’s loose use of past and present tense a mistake or a safety net?

These are the things baseball makes you consider in 2009. You study favorite players the same way you’d study a potentially cheating spouse or girlfriend. You analyze tenses, soak in body language, search for double meanings. You try to catch them in lies. You compare their facial expressions with ones from the past, almost as if you’re sitting at a poker table with them. You evaluate a pattern of performance and hope everything adds up. You worry about good memories becoming tainted by other ones. You worry.

The word “taint” can go a number of ways. Some interpret it as “ruin.” I think of it more like “affect.” The shadow of that effect depends on the person — how optimistic you are, how forgiving you are, how spiteful you are — but the shadow never totally disappears. On Saturday, when ESPN Classic showed Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series (the Bloody Sock game), I watched it a little differently. Yes, it made me happy and brought back some fond memories. But I couldn’t help seeing Ortiz and Manny and thinking, “Do they look bigger then? Were they using? Did they inject each other with the needles? Was it a big needle orgy before every game? Am I overthinking this?”

Again, just a shadow. But I could see it. Will it fade away over time? Will it get bigger? That’s the part I cannot figure out.


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