David Price

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Tomase: Dear David Price, can we start over? Because we're stuck with each other

John Tomase
February 13, 2018 - 12:15 pm
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David Price doesn't like us. And truth be told, we didn't much care for him last year, either. Not with Price dressing down reporters, glowering around his locker like the hardest inmate in Oz, and doing as much as any player since Nomar's red line to create an atmosphere of Us vs. Them hostility in the Red Sox clubhouse.

But it's 2018 and hope springs eternal and pitchers and catchers reported on Tuesday, so in the spirit of renewal, rebirth and fresh starts, an olive branch.

David Price, can we start over?

The Red Sox left-hander met the media on Tuesday morning in his first press conference of the spring and he sounded a conciliatory tone.

"I could've handled it better last year, absolutely, but I didn't, and I've moved on," he told reporters, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. "I look forward to getting back this year and getting off on the right foot."

Price arrived only two years ago on a record $217 million contract carrying two somewhat incompatible reputations. He was considered highly sensitive, but also an alpha leader and great teammate. We wondered how those two facets of his personality would co-exist in Boston, where a steady stream of criticism can either be taken to heart or dismissed as worthless white noise.

After a promising start on the former front -- Price patiently fielded repetitive inquiries into a rough April of 2016 -- cracks spidered across the facade.

By the time an elbow injury shut him down last spring and jeopardized his season, Price had already begun a full-flung retreat. Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez noted that enduring constant questions about ulnar collateral ligaments will try the patience of even the most media-friendly pitcher, and on that front, it's hard to lack sympathy. Who wants to be reminded of their career mortality on a daily basis when they have no answers?

"Everything I've been through in the past two years, it's been a struggle, absolutely, but I feel like I've gotten better from it," Price said. "I've learned from it. I look forward to continuing to learn."

That's no excuse for the way Price treated NBCSports Boston's Evan Drellich in a tunnel beneath Yankee Stadium last year, and it definitely doesn't pardon his ambush of Dennis Eckersley on a charter. Nor does it let him off the hook for convincing a young team that the media and fans are anyone's enemy, and lest anyone dispute the latter characterization, consider how many times Price responded to questions about winning over the faithful with declarations of love for his teammates. Like I said, Us vs. Them, and he didn't exactly take the bait when asked directly why he never seems to praise the fans on Tuesday.

"I'm fine," he said. "I've never said anything about it. I know what to expect. I just need to go out there and pitch well. You guys expect a lot. You've had a lot of championship teams. The Patriots have won a lot, the Celtics in '07 or '08, the Bruins. You guys expect a lot and guys coming into Boston know that. Go out there and win. Winning cures everything."

Now that it's a new year, we should be willing to put down the knives. After a year of conflict that we were as unwilling to drop as he was -- how many stories did we write about Eckersley, for instance? -- perhaps a reset is in order. Price even said he'd relax his no-media-between-starts rule, with a caveat.

"We can talk," he said. "But you're not going to come over and overload me with negativity. It's not going to happen. That's not going to happen."

Realistically, Price probably isn't going anywhere. His future will be a year-long parlor game, since he can exercise an opt-out and enter free agency in the fall. Many of us have operated on the assumption that if healthy, he'd leave town and never look back. But this strange offseason, which has seen virtually every marquee free agent remain unsigned into February, should be sobering.

If you're Price, do you walk away from a guaranteed four years and $127 million to press your luck at age 33 when you know you'll have to pass a physical with a bad elbow? Yu Darvish, for instance, just received one million fewer dollars over two more years to sign with the Cubs, and he's two years younger than Price will be next winter. Meanwhile, former Cy Young Award winner Jake Arietta remains unsigned, with his market supposedly down to the Twins and Brewers, who aren't exactly big spenders.

So both we and Price should accept the very real possibility that we're in this together for the long haul.

"I feel like it's pretty straightforward," Price said. "You know what you're going to get. If you go out there and pitch well and play well, you're going to have the support. That's something I've said for a very long time, and something I heard from James Shields: 'If you don't like it, pitch better.' That's always the motto, whether you're going good or going bad. You can always make things better by pitching better. That's what I've got to do. Go out there and throw the ball the way I threw the ball before I got to Boston."

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