There was a point during the season where you could have said that David Price was the clear cut ace of this team. And truthfully, with the way that a majority of this staff has pitched, you still could make that case. But the point then was, David Price was as good as anyone in the American League and had been the most reliable and consistent starting arm in the rotation. That was, until his beef with Hall of Famer and NESN color analyst, Dennis Eckersley, resurfaced following his interview with the Boston Globe.
On a team flight from Boston to Toronto on June 29th, 2017, the infamous incident took place where the $217 million lefty took aim at Eck while he was headed down the aisle of the plane.
To summarize quickly, Price took exception to some comments Eck had made regarding statistics from Eduardo Rodriguez’s rehab start in Triple-A Pawtucket. The analyst had said, “Yuck” when E-Rod’s stats were displayed. This then led to Price confronting Eckersley later that summer on the flight, where he stopped him and said, “Here he is–the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!”. You can get more details of the 2017 altercation here.
Following the aforementioned resurfacing of the incident, Price went on a little Twitter tirade and then addressed it with reporters where he said, “I apologize, I didn’t handle it the right way, and it continues to come up. There’s no reason for it. Honestly, I just think it’s trash.”
Prior to this issue a few weeks back, Price was pitching lights out. Frankly, he looked a lot like the guy the Red Sox had signed prior to the 2016 season. And in his 17 starts ahead of July 17th, his ERA sat at just 3.16 in 88.1 IP with a solid WHIP of 1.15.
His command appeared to be as good as it’s been in Boston and his confidence on the mound was palpable despite his inability to go deep into games. Everything seemed to be going right aside from his first two starts and a mid-season hiccup. Except for those few rough outings, he’d allowed two runs or less in 13 of those appearances and three runs in the lone remaining start.
Again, he painted himself as the ace of the staff while his co-dominant left-handed star in Chris Sale was, and still is seeing a down year.
But since the incident with Eck drew more media attention and brought itself back to the forefront of the Boston media landscape for a short time, he’s looked less like the guy fans had become accustomed to for 2019.
His first start came on July 19th and there was some question about whether or not this could serve as a distraction for Price as he’s shown to pay attention and care what the media had thought in years past. From a baseball perspective, the hope was that he could let this roll off his shoulder. But instead, he got tagged for 6 ER in just 4.0 IP against one of baseball’s worst hitting teams, the Baltimore Orioles. And things haven’t exactly been picking up either.
Since his media availability where he aired his grievances against Eck’s apparent desire–in Price’s mind–to keep pumping life into this story, he’s made three starts–including the one in Baltimore. In those three starts, he’s combined for 14.1 IP, 13 ER, 21 H, 5 HR an ERA of 8.16 and a WHIP of 1.81. His ERA’s also risen from 3.16 to 3.86.
Is it possible that this media scuffle with the Hall of Famer has drummed up some potential distraction, causing his focus to be drawn away from the game itself? Of course, there’s that chance. If we’ve learned one thing about David Price since his tenure in Boston began, it’s that he pays heavy attention to the media and the fanbase and it appears as though it matters what they think. And from what the numbers show, it’s had a ripple effect on his performances since.
But is there also a chance that this is just the case of Price missing his location and a need to draw attention to some mechanics issue? Sure, it could be that too, but you can draw your own conclusions on that.
There’s also always that slim chance that he’s now been cursed by Dennis Eckersley too but we’ll leave that one up to the conspiracy theorists.
It’s become pretty apparent that the Red Sox rotation needs Price to perform at a high-level. With the way that their fifth man has been a giant question mark for much of the year paired with down seasons for two other guys who are heavily relied on, Price’s remaining starts can really change the outcome of how this regular season ends.