Dan Shaughnessy has done us a great service with his secondhand account of the David Price/Dennis Eckersley on the team plane a few weeks back:
On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’
When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’
Many players applauded.
Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’
When Price was asked about it the next day, he said only, “Some people just don’t understand how hard this game is.’’ After his next start, Price said, “I stand up for my teammates. Whatever c—- I catch for that, I’m fine with it.”
It’s been said many times, many ways already, but this is shitty and unprofessional behavior. Forget the Hall of Fame: If Eckersley counts as a work colleague, that’s not how you treat a work colleague. If he doesn’t, then Price ought to mind his own damn business.
There is an argument to be made that since Price is the only disgruntled Red Sox actually speaking his mind, he should be commended for at least being up front about it, especially compared to Jackie Bradley Jr., who was unbecomingly passive-aggressive in trolling Eck two years ago. This argument is wrong. It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference they feel. It matters what they do.
On that note, there is an argument to be made that, if the players are to be judged on what they do, external factors like their contract size, family life and media relationship — within reason — ought not to affect their coverage on a day-to-day basis, when they plainly do. They are correct, but, while they may not be happy about it, it’s clearly a part of doing business as a star baseball player, and there are still boundaries across which you do not cross.
Out of context, Price clearly crossed this line. There is some important context missing, though, which is even more damning to him. Eckersley doesn’t regularly like to interact with the players for a very good reason:
Eckersley does not like to travel with the team. He’s a recovering alcoholic and seeks to avoid the trappings of the road. He’s also aware that many Sox players dislike his blunt, sometimes critical style. One would think that his Hall of Fame resume and 24 major league seasons (which included two divorces, getting released, career-threatening injuries, and being a stand-up guy after epic failures) would insulate him from the anger of today’s players. That would be incorrect.
There is an argument to be made that perhaps Eckersley’s limited interaction with the players on this front has allowed resentment over his blunt-object booth approach to fester into whatever stinking, putrid flower it has become, and if that’s true, the players are to blame for blowing this out of proportion. Eckersley is uniquely good at his job, full stop. On Dave O’Brien’s first regular season night as NESN’s new lead announcer, he boasted that he’d “call it like I see it,” and it’s understandable if local announcers sometimes fall short of that goal. I’m not saying O’Brien has, but I think he’s capable of it, just as you or I would be. I do not think Eckersley is capable of it, and that’s what makes him great.
The penultimate thing I’ll say is that, while not intending to split hairs, I’m not sure Eckersley’s Hall of Fame status grants him an exemption here when it’s the very thing Price is attacking. If Eckersley had the skill of Steve Lyons, he’d be a fair and easy target for the same reason Fire Joe Morgan worked so well. Price is bothered because Eckersley’s in the Hall of Fame, not despite it.
Finally, this whole incident can be solved by going back to kindergarten and re-learning the simplest lesson of all: Don’t be jerks.