Boston sports fandom has a unique character. Some would argue it’s a hubris, others would side more with simple passion.
Much of that manifests itself in positive ways. The teams sell out almost every game and the atmosphere at games can be electric. People deeply care —and as a sports city there isn’t much more you could want than the type of investment that Boston sports fans make.
But there is a phenomenon that continues to confound me — one that often permeates fans and media alike. I will never understand the overwhelming obsession — I would argue pride — in burying players who “cannot play in Boston.” This is where the hubris comes in.
I’ll admit I’ve attempted to stay as far away from the Price/Eckersley story as possible, partially because I don’t think it’s all that relevant, but also because I know how this narrative unwinds.
He can’t handle the media gauntlet of Boston.
He just isn’t a Boston guy.
Get him out of here.
Last season, David Price led the league in innings, started 35 games, and was an above-average to well above-average pitcher, depending on your preference for evaluating pitchers. This season, when healthy, he’s been good again. His $217 million contract, interactions with the media, or other off-the-field snafus hold little relevance to me in the context of his performance. And yet, next offseason David Price will have an option: Take $31 million to play in Boston — for a winner — or opt out, likely for less money, to play elsewhere. And as it appears, the fanbase and media are doing all they can to send a message to Price that he is not welcome in Boston.
Maybe (Probably?) Price opting out of his deal would be a blessing in disguise. He’ll still set to make $127 million more in the next four years. Getting out from under that deal would help free up money that the Red Sox will need to pay their younger players and chase other free agents.
But David Price makes the Red Sox a demonstrably better team, and though he may be approaching the back end of his career, he still presents significant value. In his current form, he’s an above-average innings eater, and I would challenge anyone to analyze his performance (both past and future) without mentioning everyone’s favorite number: $217 million.
More importantly, forcing David Price out of town with this type of vitriol perpetuates a dangerous and bewildering precedent. Why would you want to create an environment where players willingly turn down $127 million for less just so they can rid themselves of playing in Boston? Why is this a fanbase that takes pride in ventures like that?
Maybe I'm tone deaf. Maybe I just misinterpret the intent behind what the media writes and says. But everything written about Price's "character" reads to me like it's being written under the guise of arrogance, with a smirk and a chuckle.
Shaughnessy: Did the Red Sox know they were getting such a thin-skinned player when they signed Price for $217 million? What has been the response from the Sox front office?
Mazz: As we all know, Price has an opt-out in his contract after next season. Earlier this spring, when he seemed destined for Tommy John surgery, that possibility seemed doomed. Maybe it still is. But if Price has somehow dodged a bullet here, if he is truly back on the mound for good now, his fate rests in his hands. If Price can pitch well between now and the end of 2018, if he can stay healthy, he can still opt out and recoup all or even more of his money, the Red Sox can still make a run at a world championship, and everyone can get exactly what they wanted in the first place.
The media? The interviews? The politics?
Just pitch, David.
And we’ll try to say this as politely as possible.
Just shut up and pitch.
Drellich: As subpar outings become routine for supposed Red Sox ace David Price, so too have hollow explanations.
He is not executing. This is Price’s go-to phrase, one that illuminates nothing at all except the obvious — the outcome everyone sees.
David Price deserves criticism. He has done himself no favors in taking the Boston media bait and fighting back, and he has had what will likely amount to the two worst years of his career (still, I assert, well above league average). This argument is less about Price and more about the overwhelming attitude of entitlement that fills Boston media and fan circles. Price is not the first, nor will he be the last.
Carl Crawford was ushered out of town with ferocity — and rightfully so, given his poor performance and hefty contract that was weighing on the Red Sox’ books. Crawford didn’t mince words when looking back painfully on his time in Boston.
“I try and put (Boston) as far behind me as I can,” he added. “I would like to feel like that, but it still feels fresh at times. Just because it was one of the toughest times of my life. That’s a scar that I think will never go away. I’ll always remember that feeling.”
A scar. Playing baseball for a living in Boston left an irremovable scar.
Just last week, Pablo Sandoval finally got his freedom and took no time before expressing his distaste for Boston.
“I wish I could get back to that time, to get the opportunity to sign again,” Sandoval said. “I would sign (with the Giants). But it’s past. It’s past. I’m moving forward right now to do the best.”
It would be unfair to suggest anyone was responsible for Sandoval being a significantly below replacement level player other than Sandoval himself. And I understand he did himself no favors in the court of public opinion with some of his antics. But having him slander Boston in his very first chance to do so does the team no good, paints the fan base in a poor light, and sends a clear message to future free agents. Yet Boston fans will celebrate it.
If/when David Price opts out at the end of next year he will get the same treatment.
It takes arrogance to willfully (eagerly, even) create a fan/media environment that hinders athletes from flourishing in your city. That’s the Boston sports bravado, and I don’t expect it will ever dissipate. To some, that’s what makes Boston sports fans/media so great. I, for one, will never understand it.