By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Although the win-loss results haven’t been horrendous, you probably haven’t been the biggest fan of David Price. And I’d be willing to bet that you’ve wished that Price would just ‘shut up and pitch’ at some point in the last year and a half or so. You’ve almost certainly done the Jim Murray as David Price voice at some point within the last 24 months, too. Don’t even try to lie.
Since we’re telling the truth, let’s be honest with the fact that David Price probably does not like being here all that much, either.
Price may like his role with the Red Sox, his top-of-the-line pay — and he certainly likes his teammates — but beyond that? Inject Price with truth serum and you’ll get your answer: The Boston experience has been a largely miserable one for No. 24.
But it’s an experience Price has almost purposely soured to (successfully) turn himself back into the ace the Red Sox need.
Asked to be worth $30 million a season while also pitching just once a week, it was always going to be almost impossible for Price to ever be ‘worth it’ to Red Sox fans. Even after a 17-win first year in Boston, his continued postseason struggles in a first-round sweep at the hands of the Tribe by all means negated whatever regular-season figures you cared to throw at somebody.
Price further (and truly) seemed to alienate himself from the Fenway Faithful in 2017 when he unleashed an on-plane tirade against NESN broadcaster Dennis Eckersley. It turned out Sox fans had a stronger allegiance to Eckersley — a player that actually spent more time in Oakland than Boston (with the Cooperstown plaque to prove it), and a player with just seven more career wins in Boston than Clay Buchholz — than Price, an active player on their team. That further strained this relationship, and put some fans in an odd spot where they were actively rooting against Price despite the fact that he played for their favorite team.
All because he said a mean thing to a part-time color commentator on an airplane. As if we do not live in a state where your traffic jam language borders on a felony. Honestly, you’ve probably cussed out Jerry Remy while stuck on Storrow and just never realized it. Nothing about this outrage made a lick of sense if we boiled it down to what it really was.
But Sox fans continued this tolerate-hate relationship with Price through the rest of the regular season. And it took until a sensational relief outing at Fenway in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Astros for Boston to give Price a standing ovation.
By then, though, I don’t think Price had an interest in anything they did. His success wasn’t for them. It was for his team.
And when Price was scratched from a start at Yankee Stadium on May 8 earlier this season, you had a feeling it was going to get real bad once again. Not only was Price allegedly ‘dodging’ the high-powered Yankees in an absolute nightmare of a stadium, but the timing could not have been worse. There was no possible way for Price, who had surrendered seven earned runs in 3.2 innings in his previous outing, and 12 runs in his last 9.1 innings overall at that point, to escape criticism.
People were also quick to point to Price’s video game habits, and blamed Fortnite for his hand sensations and pain.
With Price previously unable to tune out the noise, even with those special video game headphones that make you look like Lobot from Empire Strikes Back, you couldn’t help but feel if we were bound to read about another in-flight evisceration from the 32-year-old. The Red Sox probably hid Dave O’Brien in the cargo hold of their team plane just to be safe.
But Price stayed quiet, returned to the rotation, and let his pitching speak for him. Upon his first four starts back, Price went 3-0 and allowed just seven earned runs on 17 hits and struck out 27 batters in 25.1 innings of work. When Price was nailed with a comebacker in that fourth start, though, he decided to invite criticism back with a sarcastic postgame meeting with the media.
“You know me,” Price, whose meetings with the media come with a look like he’s having the fun of somebody doing their taxes while getting a root canal, began. “I’m the softest guy in this clubhouse. If it bothered me, I’d be out of the game. I’m soft.
“I’m soft, period. It’s not a joke. I’m soft. It’s cold. Can’t pitch. My hands tingling. Can’t do my job. That’s it.”
It was as biting (but also as tongue-in-cheek) as Price has been during his three-season tenure in Boston.
Since he described himself as ‘soft,’ the 6-foot-5 lefty is undefeated. Same for since his scratch in New York. Over that span, Price has dropped his ERA from 5.11 to 3.76, and batters have gone from hitting .255 against him down to .229.
Price was at his absolute best in Thursday’s win over the Mariners, too, with one run on five hits and seven strikeouts through seven innings of work in a 2-1 victory. Price displayed tremendous command throughout the night, and continued to challenge a dangerous Mariner lineup with his fastball, which almost hit 97 MPH (a new season-high). I suppose that once you challenged Boston fans and media and came out on top, Seattle’s lineup was probably akin to a walk through Single-A.
The now-infamous ‘soft’ comments may have been nothing at the time, but they’ve essentially confirmed that Price almost needs to be combative to be at his best. And when I say combative, I mean combative across the board.
It no longer feels as if Price truly cares about feeling loved, respected, or even welcomed in Boston. He doesn’t need the praise or confidence from anybody besides his manager, coaches, and teammates to be an ace. He also doesn’t need fluff stories from an often-vampiric media parade to be a legitimately great pitcher. He’s here to punch in, be a rotation-changing ace, and punch out. One would argue that it’s actually the best way for a high-priced free agent addition — especially a pitcher — to handle Boston.
And those ‘soft’ comments, unprompted in a lot of ways, can almost be read as Price forcing himself to keep pushing his own game. As if he can’t allow himself to enjoy his own success because he knows that that’s when fans and media will devour him.
This is something that if you’re a Red Sox fan has to be absolutely, well… loved, respected, and welcomed.
If Price continues to pitch like this, he can play Fortnite every night of the week. If Price continues to be an aggressive hurler owning the inside edge of the plate, he can literally call himself the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man as he dunks a baseball on a reporter’s head. That stuff is all completely meaningless compared to the impact Price’s performances will bring to a heated race for the American League East. Questions will continue to surround Price, of course, from his postseason woes as a starter to his magical elbow. And that’s without factoring in the potential for another bizarre postgame presser or last-day scratch.
In the now, however, it’s become clear that Price just wants to shut up and pitch.
And finally, it’s that pitching that’s making everybody else shut up.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.