OK, so Saturday night was a bit of a disaster. Again. We’ve seen this story unfold, we’re not going to focus too much on how bad last night was. It’s been beaten to death. Let’s look to Game 3, and worry about how bad David Price was when it’s his next turn in the rotation because by all indications, Cora is standing by his man.
With that said, Game 2 was such a disaster, that it brought upon the question that we’ve heard since the contract was signed: “Will David Price opt out?” The short answer is no.
The longer version isn’t more complicated, but it’s important to know the context of opt outs, when they work for the player, and why this situation makes it very easy for Price not to opt out despite being a good pitcher over the last three years (playoffs not-withstanding). Opt outs are only beneficial for the player when they can make more money opting out, or gain something through opting out. The best argument for a Price opt out is peace of mind, but he has 127 million reasons to ignore that for four more years.
In Boston, Price has a 3.74 ERA in almost 500 innings of work. In terms of fWAR, he’s the 25th best starting pitcher in all of baseball since 2016, sandwiched between Carlos Martinez and Dallas Keuchel, a pair of pitchers who have thrown more innings than he has. The only pitchers in the top 25 with less than 500 innings are Price, Clayton Kershaw (6th), Aaron Nola (8th), Noah Syndergaard (12th), Stephen Strasburg (13th), James Paxton (14th), and Jon Gray (22nd). This should illustrate one point, for all the griping of what he’s done, there’s probably not enough recognition for what he’s doing on the field when healthy.
Price isn’t an ace anymore. He’s not playing like he’s worth 31 million dollars a year (frankly, nobody in baseball is, with the exception of Jacob deGrom, and probably Max Scherzer). In terms of contractual value, there was basically no chance of Price being the best pitcher in baseball, which is what he would have had to be to be worth that money. It hasn’t helped that we’ve seen the market die entirely the past couple of years. J.D. Martinez (who will almost certainly opt out himself after next season) himself had to settle for a pedestrian 5/110 contract, and we all know how awesome he is and what a difference maker he has been.
With all that said, Price has been a very good pitcher for the most part. This is most true in 2018, which has been his best overall season in a Red Sox uniform, depending on what you value in a pitcher. He hasn’t been 100% healthy himself, but he’s been a needed and reliable arm, especially in the wake of Chris Sale’s injury issues this season. Do the Red Sox win the division and home-field without David Price? They possibly do, depending on how they allocate their resources in a Price-less world, but it’s far from a guarantee.
Yet, no player draws as much ire in Boston right now as David Price. It’s been the story ever since he signed here. The media picks fights with him. He picks (or picked) fights with the media in turn. He blows up against the Yankees. The media fights again. He blows up in the playoffs. The media fights again. The fans get involved and start booing Price. Price gets frustrated. The media fights again. The entire process is exhausting, for David Price, for the media, and for the people who matter most: the fans.
For the last several months, the media has been quiet, and it’s been relieving. It’s hard to complain when your team wins 108 regular season games, I guess. After the All-Star break, Price was been incredible. He threw 68 innings in 11 games, with a 2.25 ERA, 9.00 K/9, and 2.12 BB/9. During this time frame he’s pitched against the Yankees (twice), the Astros, and the Indians. Four of his eleven games have been against playoff teams. He also pitched against the Rays in that stretch, who may be the quietest 90-game winners ever. He’s had a few stinkers, but he was mostly on-point, which is what makes last night’s performance so disappointing. We’ve seen that he’s capable of taking down a top team. We’ve seen he’s capable of beating the Yankees. He’s just yet to do it in the playoffs.
When David Price blows up, as we saw last night, the media gets punchy. The fans get snippy. And everyone loses, just as much as Price lost last night. A brief search on twitter will show you boat-loads of fans asking the same question, or expressing the same sentiment: “Hey, David Price, are you going to opt out?”
Sometimes, it gets nastier, I won’t be sharing any of those particular tweets here, but there are some people out there who really hate David Price, and probably need to have their priorities checked. I don’t know what Price personally did to them, but it can’t be as bad as what I’m reading.
Sometimes, you can see them literally begging Price to walk away. It’s not nasty, but it is a sad sight to look at, as you see fans literally begging for the impossible to occur. Some of these fans want their cake and to eat it too as well. I saw more than a handful suggesting he opt out, and re-sign at a lower cost.
All of these tweets share a common thread though. They all seem similar (to me anyways) to the stages of grief (in the informal sense, anyways, nobody has died, and we’re not trying to link this to something so macabre).
First, there’s denial. Rejection. Be it of David Price’s contract, his playoff performance, or anything else. Turning away, and refusing to see any sort of problem. In some cases, this is the best place to be, because it allows you to be optimistic about the future. That next time, the story will be different. That next time, David Price is going to be lights out. And to be entirely fair, it’s not as if David Price has never come up in the clutch. Maybe next time it will be different. We’ll find out in Game 5, possibly, if it gets that far.
After denial is anger. Anger probably best represents the hateful people on Twitter, who are saying such awful things that I don’t dare share them, and give them even the tiniest bit of exposure (by name). Things that I can’t say on this family-friendly network of sports blogs. These people get irrational, and often forget the human element of the sport, and that this is not a video game, that just because someone has “good ratings” doesn’t mean they can’t fail.
Following anger is bargaining. I would liken this most to asking Price to opt out, and re-sign at a lower cost, or praying that this time, the result will be different, offering up things in the hopes of changing a result. To bargain is to appeal to a higher power, to ask for salvation. In some respects, this is basically what happens whenever I eat jalapenos during a rally. I’m hoping for the future to change, by offering up some sort of pain of my own. We do not wish to feel the pain of another Price failure, so we are willing to do what it takes to make it less of a failure.
Then there’s depression, a stage which many people I know are presently dealing with. It may feel as if David Price is going to be here forever. Dreading the next four years. These people are less noticeable on twitter, because they blend in to our day to day lives, and don’t share the same angry or pleading tone that the above stages show. These people are despondent. They also typically believe that going forward, nothing is probable to change. The story is going to repeat. And there’s nothing that they can do about it.
Finally, though, there’s acceptance. Accepting that this reality is real. That it’s going to continue to be real. That there’s no getting around the fact that David Price is not going to opt out. That he’s definitely going to be here for the next four years. This is where people talk about re-organizing the roster to make it easier to accommodate Price, figure out how best to win with him, how best to utilize him, and where to move on from this point forward. It’s not that they’ve accepted Price being bad in the playoffs as something they are ok with, it’s that they’ve accepted Price being bad in the playoffs is the reality of what is presently happening.
If David Price has hurt you, then the stages of grief in this case are for you. Grief is part of healing. It is part of feeling better. But if David Price is one of your favorites, and he hasn’t hurt you, then you probably don’t need healing in the first place. So you can ignore all of that, and just be happy he’s here. This is probably where I am, though I can certainly understand the feelings of negativity and the above thoughts - after all, we had had players I’ve certainly disliked a ton.
So no, David Price is not opting out. Yes, David Price will be here for the next four years. Yes, he will be taking home 127 million dollars over those years. Yes, the chances he actually pitches like he deserves that much money is extremely low, if it is existent at all. But David Price is a good pitcher, even if he’s not an ace.
I think that’s the type of acceptance we should be looking for.