MLB – THE DAVID PRICE/DENNIS ECKERSLEY DUST-UP REVEALS LACK OF LEADERSHIP IN BOSTON
WHAT WE KNOW
On the evening of June 29, 2017, after the Red Sox wrapped up their 4-game series with the Twins at home, they boarded their team charter pointed towards Toronto.
As with any other regular season road trip for Boston, a group of about 10 team employees embarked on the aircraft along with the players and team management. Included was NESN color commentator and Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley who had been filling in for long-time broadcaster Jerry Remy due to a medical issue.
Reportedly, Price confronted Eckersley and said, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!” When Eckersley attempted to respond to the 31-yr-old lefthander, Price shouted, “Get the [expletive] out of here!” drawing applause from the other players. A source confirmed that one of those clapping was veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Later in the flight, when Eckersley got up to walk towards the front of the plane and passed by Price, he was again heard saying to him “get the [expletive] out of here“.
The next day, Red Sox manager John Farrell confirmed the incident(s) happened and that it was “being handled internally”.
Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy also reiterated at the time, “David met with [Red Sox President] Dave Dombrowski and John Farrell. It was dealt with at that level.’’ But, no formal apologies were made to Eckersley from either Price or Farrell.
Instead, Kennedy revealed on a radio broadcast Thursday that “less than 12 hours after the incident happened” he personally called Eckersley at his Toronto hotel room, woke him up, and said he was sorry for happened to him on that plane.
Still, one month later, no apology from Farrell and/or Price.
It has been theorized in the media that the reason Price has so much disdain for Eckersley is that the 62-year old Hall of Famer has called him out for his poor play this season while on air, along with several other Red Sox players in his very honest and blunt way.
Eckersley is someone who has a reputation for telling it like he sees it. But, word is amongst his constituents, that his intent is not malicious and meant to hurt anyone. It’s just his style.
In fact, Eckersley commands a lot of respect in the league, as he is very knowledgeable dating back to his successful pitching career and was elected into the HOF during his first year of eligibility (2004).
Still, Price finally got fed up about Eckersley’s comments the day the confrontation took place when during the game, Eckersley said “Yuck” as another Red Sox player’s poor stats were put up on the screen.
So, Price seems to have taken it upon himself to gather the troops and stand up to Eckersley for the team on that day in June.
Unfortunately for Price and the Red Sox, he unknowingly set in motion the likely demise of this team’s success the rest of the season and strengthened his reputation for being overly sensitive and mentally weak.
Yes, he was disgruntled because he’s had what one MLB beat writer has called a “strange and volatile season” on the mound. An elbow injury caused him to miss over a month of spring training plus 49 regular season games already.
And, yes, he’s been called out by others in the Boston media (CSNNE’s Evan Drellich) and has had other bizarre conflicts with reporters, but it was a very bad decision for Price to pull other players into his lair of hypersensitivity and provide the wrong kind of leadership to the many young players on this team who look up to veterans like him.
Fact is, Price may have ruined the delicate chemistry this team needs to survive in the tough AL East Division by prearranging a sneaky ambush on a respected Hall of Famer and yell obscenities at him without allowing the man to defend himself. On top of that, he has yet to apologize and the Red Sox manager seems to defend his players actions.
I think this is all shocking, unconscionable, and what Price did was totally divisive.
Most fascinating is that neither Farrell nor any other higher-up in the organization has yet to denounce Price’s actions. They’ve let that bully off the hook and roam around the clubhouse unscathed.
Well, I guess we all know why they are dealing with this player like this: they need him.
It may have felt good for Price to get it off his chest and yell at Eckersley that day in June, but this incident will have long-lasting negative ramifications for the entire team.
Price has always had the reputation for being sensitive to criticism and unable to handle tough situations mentally. Enough so, that when Boston acquired him in late 2015, I had a gut feeling he would struggle in that tough baseball town and wrote about it.
My exact words before he even set foot on the dirt in Fenway at the start of the season were, “Price has lashed back at critics (and fans) in the past when his struggles have come to light. [He] seems to be very feisty and sensitive with criticism. Will this affect his pitching? How will he handle the bright lights, big city and Boston? … I smell trouble”.
Unfortunately, my prediction has come true.
But, as a Yankees fan, I can’t say I’m too disappointed this happened to Boston.
The AL East is up for grabs and the least bit of chemistry imbalance from one team to another could be the tipping point.
Like I’ve said previously, if I were the Yankees (or any other team in this division), I’d think long and hard about that trade deadline coming up and take advantage of Boston’s misstep with Price, especially after reading “comments” in articles by Boston fans.
Someone said he was a “poison”, another: “driving a wedge between the fans and this team”, and yet others who said Price “lacks humility and respect”, and is a “coward”, among others.
Additionally, many fans seem to be upset that management is letting this Price/Eckersley incident go unchecked and are losing respect for this team. Some even threatened to boo Price during his next scheduled start tonight (Friday) versus the Royals.
Bottom-line, Boston fans are pissed. That is not going to help chemistry, is it?
But, oh – Price and the Red Sox may have just avoided backlash in the near future by the fans.
I just read that Price will miss tonight’s scheduled start at home vs. the Royals (because of his left elbow issue). Hmm…
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