Red Sox: David Price has put 2017 behind him

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 30: Pitcher David Price
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 30: Pitcher David Price /

The Red Sox pitcher was the center of negative backlash last year, and never wants to relive it.

The Boston Red Sox made all the headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2017. While some players found themselves on the wrong end of media attention, starting pitcher David Price was arguably the biggest offender.

But Price usually isn’t this resentful. According to Scott Lauber of ESPN, Price’s pitching coach Derek Johnson recalled how much Price has always enjoyed the game.

"“He played it like a little kid, and it was easily, by far and away, the most beautiful thing about him.”"

Lauber reports Price always had fun both on and off the field as a starting pitcher in the majors.

"He challenged fellow pitchers to goofy contests such as the “perfect sit,” in which they found a spot on the bench and tried not to get up, not even to use the bathroom, for nine innings. When he played for the Detroit Tigers, Price rode an electric scooter to and from home games. With the Toronto Blue Jays, he gifted monogrammed blue bathrobes to his teammates."

The common theme is: Price knows how to have a good time. The 32 year old positively impacts and influences the club house, and leads by example to the rest of the pitching staff. He wants to succeed, win championships and be the most likable guy in the dugout.

However, the laidback, delightful perception of Price changed once he became a $217 million dollar pitcher in a major market.

In Tampa Bay, the sun beats down while happy hour is any hour, in a pressure free environment. The Tampa Bay Rays nor Miami Marlins rarely — if ever — have had high expectations for season. If they failed to exceed expectations, the media wrote about the disappointments while the locals enjoyed a cocktail at the beach bar. Florida has always been a football and basketball state, and it never will provide a huge baseball market.

Detroit’s frigid city is filled with great sports history, but the media will never compare to the pressure of certain markets like Boston, Chicago or New York. While the city has had its fair share of stars and mini dynasties, Detroit fans expect to win without having unrealistic expectations. Athletes who thrive are cheered, athletes who fail are booed, but any are very rarely made public enemy No. 1.

Price’s most previous stop in Toronto consisted of a deep playoff run with high hopes from Blue Jays fans. Although the Blue Jays fell short of their World Series aspirations, Toronto has always been a hockey city.

One could argue the Blue Jays aren’t even the second most interesting sports franchise in Toronto.  The people of “The Six” have a growing interest in the Toronto Raptors since rapper Drake fuels ringing endorsements through the roof. There simply isn’t as much pressure to win as a member of the Blue Jays like there is as the Red Sox.

Life in Boston is simply a different animal. The media is often regarded as the most critical in sports, and the fans expect to compete for championships annually. Price knew every performance would be under a microscope, and both the media and fans would pounce on him when he fell short of expectations. After all, $217 million was the largest contract ever given by the Red Sox.

After a wildly average first year in Boston, Price looked to bounce back in 2017. However, last season was nothing short of a nightmare for Price.

He scoffed and scolded a reporter at Yankee Stadium following a poor outing.

He cut off communication from the Boston media except for when he pitched.

Then of course, the famous confrontational incident between color commentator Dennis Eckersley and Price over a critical comment Eckersley made toward Eduardo Rodriguez.

"“I could’ve handled things better last year, absolutely,” Price told Lauber. “But I didn’t and I’ve moved on. I feel like I’ve gotten better from it. I’ve learned from it.”"

Slowly but surely, Price’s smile turned into a frown. Defeated, disgruntled and exasperated, Price couldn’t escape criticism of how he handled his business on or off the field.

Price’s health was problematic last year, and didn’t make his first start until Memorial Day, only to return to the disabled list in July. The southpaw only made 11 starts in 2017.

"“Knowing him the way I know him,” added Johnson, now the Milwaukee Brewers‘ pitching coach, “the injury thing had to take a toll on him. It was obvious that he was frustrated. Because he’s a great teammate and a really good person, and I believe that with all my heart.”"

Despite being known as “the ultimate teammate” per former teammate James Shields, Price has been criticized for being a me-player on the Red Sox due to his run-ins with the Boston media. Price would criticized by both the media and fans nearly every time he took the mound last season. He became mad at the world.

"Price prefers to focus on the season ahead rather than looking back. But the 32-year-old does acknowledge that he was “mad at the world” as he attempted to cope with the first serious arm injury of his career."

This should come as to know surprise to any Red Sox fan to hear this. Price wears his emotions on his sleeve, and last year he very rarely had a smile on his face. Anything other than “mad at the world” would be surprising. He wasn’t producing as a starter, and when he was, he wasn’t smiling about it.

"“I feel like I’ve always been one to lead with my actions, and I didn’t do that very well last year,” Price said. “And I know that and understand that. I look forward to getting back to being that faucet and not being a drain.”"

Price is one of many on the Red Sox who are looking to bounce back this season. Whether it’s on the field with production, or off the field as a leader of the club house, Price knows he must perform to the high level he’s capable of. And if Price is smiling, having fun and staying healthy, the production will follow.

Price can opt out of his contract after this season if his time in Boston spirals down an ugly path like it did last year.

But let’s not forget the free agent agonies pitcher Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta endured this past offseason. Even if Price turns in an All-Star season, he likely won’t fetch another contract that is equivalent to the remaining four years and $127 million that he’ll earn for the Red Sox.

It seems like the Red Sox and Price are stuck in a marriage that rides out the remainder of Price’s career. If it isn’t a match made in heaven, fine.

Next: Red Sox: The Jose Altuve standard should apply to Mookie Betts

But winning cures everything.