David Price is one hell of a pitcher when he’s on. His history suggests that he is one of the elite pitchers in the American League, his playoff record notwithstanding, but to quote the great Crash Davis, “keep showing us that million dollar arm, because I’ve got a good idea about that five cent head of yours.”
The recent dustup between Price, and Hall of Famer and NESN color analyst Dennis Eckersley, has spiraled completely out of control following Price’s comments this past Saturday to the assembled media throng at Fenway, in which he showed no regret for his outburst against Eckersley, and frankly, no understanding of the problem he has caused. Even in professional sports, there are still some inmates who are allowed to run the asylum.
The caretaker of said inmate is the Red Sox ownership group and its front office, made up of John Henry, Tom Werner, Sam Kennedy and Dave Dombrowski. Regrettably, I think they’re just as responsible as Price is for how this melodrama has unfolded. John Farrell as well, but I want to leave him aside for the moment.
I heard Werner, Kennedy and Dombrowksi, when asked if Eckersley has received an apology from Price (and Farrell), all say within the last few days that they only speak for the organization. Isn’t David Price a part of the organization? Seems to me that in any one of these interviews, Werner, Kennedy or Dombrowski could’ve come right out and said that David Price should apologize, not simply that Eck was owed an apology. This presents a negative perception of the group, one that allows all of us to question how much control these guys have over David Price, but furthermore whether Price can be controlled at all. A reasonable person would take guidance from their boss, even if he disagreed, swallow hard, offer a mea culpa and move on. But no, not Price. He must be special. We’re talking about a guy who makes $31 million a year, who by all accounts, has shown himself to be so thin skinned that if he turned sideways, he’d probably disappear from sight, but his salary aside, when you get to his level, there needs to be a clear understanding of how to act professionally when dealing with criticism, be it from the media, or the fan base, and that education starts at the top.
Henry should be leading by example, demanding that Price reach out to Eck, not simply apologizing on his behalf. You don’t get to be a billionaire without knowing how to manage a multi-faceted operation, and while I’d agree that running a sports franchise is different than running a mainstream business, the rules of professional conduct still remain. I can’t say for sure, nor can any of us, that Henry didn’t try to lay down the law with Price, but if he has, then the lefty has become the poster child for insubordination.
John Farrell talked last week about the players receiving media training. I’d love to know who that person or firm is, because I know I can do a better job. If the Red Sox hired a media professional to prepare their players for the spotlight of playing in Boston, a city whose passion runs incredibly deep for its baseball team, than Price’s theatrics on the plane to Toronto would never have happened. OK, fine, nothing is guaranteed. But I’d bet against it. It doesn’t take much to act like an adult and ownership had to be seething when they heard about Price’s actions. The fact that they weren’t able to convince Price to apologize publicly in the immediate aftermath of this incident proves that Price runs to the beat of his own drum. Sure, they didn’t want the details to get out, but inevitably they always do.
Let’s step back for a moment. Price’s outburst was public. John Farrell was there. Dustin Pedroia was there. Numerous other players were there. Did Farrell, Henry or anyone else on that plane really think the details would never come to light? Why not take the proactive step, acknowledge the problem, tell the media and the fans that there’s been a meeting and an apology and everyone moves forward. Certainly, the story would be over if Price had told the press on Saturday that he regretted his buffoonery and will be apologizing to Eck as soon as he sees him, but it should’ve been over weeks ago.
On Monday morning, The Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy reported that the Red Sox are using “back channels” to try and set up the face to face meeting between Price and Eckersley, a meeting that Price himself said would happen. Forgive me for rolling my eyes, but the Red Sox need to use back channels to get Price to do the right thing? That, my friends, should tell you all you need to know about David Price, but it also says a great deal about the level of control that Henry & Co. have over their team.