NEW YORK — It was David Price’s night to pitch, so manager John Farrell understandably didn’t want to flood his head with negative thoughts as Price went over charts and video prior to Thursday’s start against the Yankees.
Farrell did say he would be discussing an ugly, expletive-laden incident involving Price after Wednesday night’s game. Price confronted a few reporters, most notably Comcast SportsNet New England’s Evan Drellich, for a couple of tweets in which Drellich reacted to comments in a column by the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy that indicated Price was through talking with the media between starts.
Price’s anger seems misplaced. It’s not beat reporters and columnists who have ripped him since he joined the Red Sox. It’s been mostly those on Twitter and talk shows. Yet Price seems to have clumped everyone together, and apparently lashed out against anybody who was in the vicinity.
It’s not Price’s fault he’s making $30 million a year, but when an athlete makes that much money the attention on him is going to be over the top. Price told Shaughnessy that there are days when he barely looks at Twitter, and that should be the case.
But apparently he looked at Twitter during Wednesday’s game, because Price was ready for Drellich afterward. When reporters went in to speak to Farrell following the Red Sox’ 8-0 loss to the Yankees, Price took Drellich aside and loudly voiced his displeasure. Attempts by other reporters to speak to Price were met with nasty reactions.
When Price signed a $217 million deal with a team from a passionate sports town, especially in terms of baseball, he had to know what to expect, didn’t he? He went 17-9 with a 3.99 ERA last season. Wouldn’t you take that every year? But for some fans that, plus a losing postseason record, wasn’t good enough. And even when Price criticized himself after games in which he didn’t pitch well, he still seemed thin-skinned about criticism directed at his performances from others.
How can you be thin-skinned and play in Boston?
So, as the manager Farrell is going to have to address this. Like we said, it wasn’t going to be before Price’s start, and Farrell didn’t see the run-in with Drellich since he was in his office for his postgame media briefing.
“That’s a situation that’s clearly between he and Evan,” Farrell told this reporter before his daily media scrum on Thursday. “David is a great teammate. He’s a strong, strong competitor and does his job the best he can.”
In the old days, such disagreements were between the reporter and the athlete. Nobody else had to get involved. Most of us in the media hate attention that comes because a player snapped at us. It’s part of the job sometimes. It’s hard to avoid, especially when you have to write that a player isn’t performing well.
But things have changed. Everything is so public now that it has to be addressed in a public way.
Farrell initially said it was between Price and Drellich, but later changed that to say that it would have to be handled. And he added that he expected all of his players to “deal with the media with respect.”
Has Farrell sensed that Price doesn’t like it in Boston?
“I really do think he likes it here,” said Farrell. “I say that by seeing how he reacts to his teammates. It’s a close-knit group, one that he cares a lot about. He’s extremely supportive. I think he does like it here and he’s here for one thing — that is to win.”
There’s always a fine line for a manager. How far should he push to get Price to stop focusing on things that really aren’t that important? Farrell insisted before Thursday’s game that the incident would not impede Price’s preparation for the game. It was Price’s third start and he pitched very well in his second start against the Orioles, looking like his old self in allowing one run and three hits over seven innings.
When I asked Farrell whether he knew that most of the criticism comes from Twitter and talk show callers and hosts, Farrell said, “I don‘t know that because I’m not on Twitter and I don’t listen to talk shows. I just know that playing here there are great expectations where baseball is a clear-cut priority here, and I think he thrives on that. But there’s no reason for me to believe that he doesn’t like Boston.”
Farrell also believes that Price is not thin-skinned. But while he played most of his career in Tampa Bay, which is a mild-mannered fan and media market, and then brief stints in Detroit and Toronto, he had never seen anything quite like Boston.
What’s strange is this blowup seemed to come out of left field. There was really no provocation. He spoke to Shaughnessy, said what he had to say, and indicated he was no longer talking to reporters between starts. Not sure what set him over the top with Drellich, who merely looked up whether there was any violation in the collective bargaining agreement for a player not speaking to the media.
We’ll see if Price apologizes for this inexcusable blowup, because he did himself no favors.
He also put his manager in a tough spot because Farrell has to address it with him after he told the media he would. And how will he react if Farrell tells him to knock it off and pitch? We’d all like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.