NEW YORK — I know this sounds odd coming from me, but folks need to lay off David Price. If you are a Red Sox fan you should be rooting for this guy to succeed. And that doesn’t always seem to be the case. For multiple reason$$$ — maybe because Price talked and tweeted too much when he first got to Boston or because he’s never won a playoff start — piling on Price has become a parlor game in New England over the last 12 months and it makes no sense to me.
Price initially got crushed for taking the Red Sox’ $217 million. Then he got crushed for not being his Cy Young self, for getting KO’d in his only playoff start, for talking about his dog on Twitter, and for not talking after a rehab start in Pawtucket — then driving away in a vehicle designed large enough to invade any Baltic nation.
Boston’s sports talk radio/TV cowboys (Rick Pitino’s “Fellowship of the Miserable”) love hooting on Price. The SportsHub’s Jim Murray does a Price imitation that’s radio gold. Social and mainstream media have gleefully jumped in. Everybody loves Chris Sale and Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, but nobody loves David Price.
Swell. But with the Red Sox surging (they’d won 11 of 15 before losing, 8-0, to CC Sabathia and the Yankees on Wednesday night) Price might be the guy who punches the playoff ticket for this team. Coming off a strong outing in Baltimore, he’ll make his third start of the season Thursday at Yankee Stadium. Inserting a healthy Price into the rotation makes Boston the favorite to win the American League East.
But for better or worse, it’s become clear that the vaunted Boston Baseball Experience — that Green Monster that devoured the likes of Edgar Renteria, Carl Crawford, and a raft of other folks who succeeded elsewhere — has changed Price.
Playing at Fenway for the Red Sox is not for everybody. It is not for the sensitive, thoughtful folks.
I caught up with Price in the Red Sox dugout before batting practice Wednesday and got a sense of a change that’s come over him.
How are you enjoying playing in Boston, I wondered?
“I love my teammates, man,’’ he answered. “That’s what I came here for. I came here to be with these young guys and to have a chance to win a World Series. We have that opportunity, not just for this year but for a long time coming. That’s what I want to be a part of.’’
Has playing in Boston changed you? Are you more cautious now?
“I’m not cautious,’’ he insisted. “I’m the same me. I don’t talk to the media every day like I did last year and I guess I get blown up for that. But I was honest with everything they asked me last year and I get blown up for that. So they did this to themselves. Talk to me on the day I pitch and that’s it. There are no more personal interviews. There are no more asking me questions on a personal level. That’s done.’’
Do you feel like people are rooting for you to succeed?
“I know I’ve got 24 guys in this clubhouse and all our coaches rooting for me, and my family and my friends. That’s all I need. Whatever anybody else wants to do, that’s on them. I’m fine. I’m at peace.’’
But do you like pitching for the Boston Red Sox?
“I love this team. We’ve got a really good team. I like the organization. Everybody’s been there for me for the entire time through the ups and downs. Everything. They’ve shown a tremendous amount of support for me, so I’m going to give it back.’’
It’s what Price doesn’t say here that speaks volumes. He likes his teammates. He likes pitching for the Red Sox. But he doesn’t seem to be enjoying Boston. He sounds like a man who thinks he’s been burned.
And he has. Where else can a guy come to town, win 17 games, and lead the majors in innings pitched, and still be presented as a failure?
There are plenty of great things in Price’s life. His bride Tiffany, his newborn son Xavier, and his dog Astro are waiting for him when the Sox come back from the road. He’s got enough money to support the next five generations of the Price family. It looks like he dodged the Dr. James Andrews bullet and he’s got a chance to get back to the playoffs. Life should be good.
I asked him about the notion that’s he’s always on Twitter. As one who has seen the dark side of social media, I wondered what his notifications look like.
“I don’t open up Twitter and read notifications,’’ he said. “That’s not what I use it for. I know it’s perceived a lot differently. I can reply to four or five responses in 30 seconds. That takes 30 seconds of my day. I guess people think I’m just on there all day long and that is by far not the case. Days go on where I don’t open Twitter.’’
He admitted to some fear when his elbow acted up after he pitched in a minor league spring training game Feb. 28.
“Those first 24-36 hours I wasn’t very optimistic. It was definitely different. But I felt like we handled it the right way and made sure I was healthy before we got it going, and now here we are.’’
On the mound.
At Yankee Stadium.