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Red Sox Nation is one of the more passionate fan base in sports, and 99% of the time that is a very good thing. However, Sox fans passion can lead to inaccurate assessments of the players on the team. Earlier this week, Patrick Green wrote a piece urging Sox fans to leave Jackie Bradley alone. In that same vein, starting pitcher David Price deserves more respect for his contributions and value to the team.
Former Cy Young winner David Price deserves more respect
Ever since joining the club in 2016, no player has undergone more scrutiny than Price. While some of this was self-inflicted, there’s a portion of Red Sox Nation that hates him with every fiber of their being. This type of hate is completely unjustified, as Price remains one of the best pitchers in the game and has given all he has to the Red Sox.
Most of the Price hate derives from three main categories: his contract, his perceived underperformance, and his attitude. However, when put under a microscope, all three of these issues are either nonexistent, out of his control, or blown way out of proportion. Let’s take a dive into each one of these issues, starting with his contract.
Let’s get this out of the way nice and early: David Price is not worth his contract. He never was, and the Red Sox knew that the minute they signed him. A seven-year, $217 million dollar contract is money that should be reserved for the likes of Clayton Kershaw, and Price isn’t at that level.
So why did the Sox give it to him? The answer to that lies in the context of the 2016 off-season. The Red Sox were coming off an absolute nightmare of a season. After letting team ace Jon Lester go the previous off-season, the Red Sox starting pitching core was a mess. Clay Buchholz started Opening Day, which should tell you everything you need to know about how bad the rotation was.
Additionally, this was general manager Dave Dombrowski‘s first year at the helm. He was looking to make a splash signing to re-energize the fan base, and fix the biggest hole on the Red Sox roster. The Sox desperately wanted Price, and refused to let him sign elsewhere. The Sox gave Price the contract of his dreams at their very first meeting, thus eliminating the chances of Price going elsewhere. It was clear that, at all costs, the Red Sox would not bring the “He’s the Ace” T-shirt back for a second straight season.
Ultimately, David Price is not worth his contract, but that’s not his fault. Imagine for a second that Dombrowski offered you, the reader of this article, $20 million a year to play for the Red Sox. Would you politely tell Dombrowksi that you’re not worth that type of money, and talk your own price down? If you think you would, then you’re lying to yourself.
The Red Sox have never shied away from spending money on free agents they want. Signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval didn’t stop the Sox from getting Price, and having all three contracts didn’t stop the J.D. Martinez signing from happening. If you want to get mad at anyone for Prices’ contract, get mad at Dombrowski. Price has performed as well as could realistically be expected ever since arriving. Speaking of Price’s performance…
Price’s Past Performance
Others still believe that Price hasn’t pitched up to his potential. He was signed to be the teams ace, yet he’s never been the best pitcher on any roster. While that is true to an extent, Price has actually performed admirably in his two seasons in Boston.
A lot of people view his 2016 season as a disappointment, primarily due to how it started. First impressions matter, and Price made a very bad first impression. To put it bluntly, Price was an absolute disaster early in his tenure. Through his first six starts, Price posted an ugly 6.75 ERA with a .270/.339/.432 slash line. These are terrible numbers, and a lot of Sox fans cite these numbers when claiming how bad he’s been.
However, after the first month of the season, Price has performed admirably on the mound. After fixing his mechanics, Price went on to post a 3.39 ERA with a .250/.292/.417 slash line while pitching 188.2 innings. These are very good numbers, but his performance was overshadowed by fellow ace Rick Porcello. Porcello came out of nowhere to win the Cy Young award, and Price became the teams number two pitcher. There was literally no better American League pitcher than Porcello, yet people still blame Price for being worse than Porcello in 2016.
Price’s 2017 was an interesting journey, and in many ways more impressive than his 2016. Once again, he was the second best pitcher on the team, but that’s because the Red Sox acquired Chris Sale. Sale is a top-five pitcher in the league, so of course he’s better than Price. Price would still be the ace on most squads, so the fact he’s number two speaks more to the skills of Sale than any underperformance by Price.
Price’s posted strong numbers in 2017, in spite of difficult circumstances. Despite a painful elbow injury that easily could have justified surgery, Price rehabbed aggressively to return to the starting rotation. As a starter, Price went 66 innings with a 3.82 ERA and a .239/.309/.389 slash line. Considering what he was going through physically, these numbers were great.
Price’s elbow injury flared up in late July, yet he was able to return as a bullpen arm late in the season. While the 2017 Red Sox went one-and-done in the playoffs, Price was easily the best pitcher late in the year. Price pitched 8.2 regular season innings in relief without allowing a single run. Price also played in best in the playoffs. Those against Price constantly mention his history of playoff struggles, but overlook his 2017 postseason. The lefty made two appearances against the eventual World Series champion, and once more didn’t allow a run. He was easily the best pitcher on the playoff roster, as most everyone else struggled at some point or another.
Price’s Current Performance
Price entered 2018 fully healthy, and dominated through the first two starts. Price went 14 innings without allowing a run, striking out ten and allowing just seven hits. Some don’t give him much credit for this, since he was pitching against a terrible Tampa Bay Rays squad.
However, that’s doing Price an injustice. You can’t choose the opponents you face, all you can do is face whoever the schedule tells you to play. Price played a bad major league team, but his stat line would have been impressive even if he did that to the Rays AA affiliate.
Additionally, the rest of the rotation faced the same low level of talent, and none performed as well as Price. Granted, everyone pitched well, but Price was the best of the bunch. If you take credit away from Price, you also need to take it away from Sale, Porcello, and the rest of the pitching staff.
He struggled in his third outing against the New York Yankees, but the poor results weren’t his fault. Price allowed four runs in just one inning before leaving the game with an injury. After the game, it was revealed that Price lost feeling in his hand, and couldn’t grip the baseball.
Losing feeling in ones hand obviously makes it difficult to throw a baseball. Some people are saying Price faked the injury as an excuse for a bad outing, but that is utter ridiculousness. Price has been plagued by poor hand circulation his whole life, and he’s had documented issues dating back to 2015 with the Detroit Tigers. It sucks that this injury affected him when it did, but it’s futile to get mad at a guy for a condition he was born with.
Of course, arguably the biggest complaint about Price is his attitude. It’s certainly the most overblown complaint. Price has earned a reputation as a team distraction and a locker room cancer. Most of this stems from an incident midway through 2017, when Price had the audacity to get mad on a plane.
Don’t get me wrong, Price shouldn’t have yelled at Eckersly. He was in the wrong there. However, that incident has been overblown beyond belief, and has completely overshadowed everything Price has meant to the team.
Price has been labelled a bad teammate by the media, but there’s minimal evidence to back that up. All members of the Red Sox say that Price has been a phenomenal teammate, and the majority of his actions back that up. Look at the 2017 season as a prime example. Move past the Eckersly situation, and Price actually went above and beyond for the club.
Price’s first selfless act came before the season even started. Early in spring training, trainers discovered a serious injury to Price’s elbow and recommended Tommy John surgery. Despite the suggestion, Price got a second opinion and decided to pitch through the injury. There was no financial benefit to him doing this; his contract was guaranteed either way. Regardless, Price put his body on the line to pitch during the 2017 season.
Price’s elbow acted up again in July, and it would have been easy to end his season right there. He was never healthy enough to return as a starter, but he still found a way to contribute to the team. Price came back in September as a bullpen arm, and quickly became one of the best arms in the bullpen.
Price pitched 8.2 inning of relief in the regular season, striking out 13 and walking just two batters without allowing a run. Long known for his playoff shortcomings, Price made two appearances in the postseason without allowing a single run.
Actions speak louder than words, and Price’s 2017 actions show he’s a team player. He risked significant injury and played through a sizable amount of pain in order to help his team. Additionally, he was one of the best players on the team in spite of his injury. If that’s not the type of player you want on your team, then I don’t know what is.