Let me start off by saying that I don’t like hating on my own team. I really don’t. And one of the worst things about this season was how upset and frustrated the Red Sox made me on a regular basis. I take my baseball very seriously, and throughout this season, I’ve often felt like my team did not.
David Price bore the brunt of my frustration, with his less-than-stellar performances, injuries, PR snafus, and $217 million-dollar contract. It’s not that he’s never had a good game in a Red Sox uniform – his 8 shutout innings against the Yankees earlier this season come to mind – it’s that we shelled out a ridiculous amount of money for him to pitch like David Price, not to just be some mediocre starter-turned-relief pitcher who embodies Forrest Gump’s “box of chocolates” mantra. It’s happened so many times; the Red Sox love these big contracts for players who end up disappointing us (Hey Pablo). We have not gotten what we paid for with Price, and turning him into a reliever doesn’t change that fact.
There’s been a lot of speculation since Price began this relief stint as to whether or not the Sox were ramping-up to a Price postseason start, and now we finally have our answer. When asked today whether or not Price would start a playoff game, John Farrell answered with a resounding, “no.” He maintained his confidence in Price, calling him ‘outstanding,’ but in a moment of wisdom, Farrell also acknowledged his pitcher’s limitations: “I don’t think we can ask anything more from David Price from a physical standpoint…” Coming from the manager who loves to leave pitchers in for a pitch (or inning) too many, this was miraculous to hear.
In addition to Price’s physical limitations, I’m sure Farrell & Co also factored his teammates into the equation. This team does not hit consistently, so when they’re not on their game, they need a pitcher who can hold down the other team, often for multiple innings. Hanley leaves players on base like that’s his job, Eduardo Nuñez is coming off yet another knee injury, and everyone else is just meh. Without David Ortiz, the lineup is too spotty to risk a David Price test-drive during the playoffs. It’s unfair to him and his fellow pitchers, but that’s the current state of the Red Sox. As Pedro said in the 2004 ALCS, ‘I can’t do anything if they don’t hit.’
In my postseason starters piece exactly one month ago today, I said that David Price should only be used for relief pitching. This isn’t to say I haven’t been impressed with Price in his last few appearances. Since taking on the late-innings role last month, he has not allowed a single run. Does this mean he’s ready to start? No. An inning or two every four or five games does not a dominant starter make. Less than forty pitches per appearance is not postseason starter-material. Going from ‘dude might need Tommy John’ to ‘and now, starting for the Red Sox, David Price,’ would be insane.
Keeping Price in the relief position is also a good move strategically. Last week, Price pitched in three games over a four-day span, including back-to-back appearances Friday and Saturday. He retired 12/14 batters, 7 via strikeout. It’s clear his stamina is improving, and his arm might be of better use to the team if he can come into multiple playoff games for shorter bursts. With strong later innings by Price, Addison Reed, or Carson Smith, Farrell is also able to take some of the pressure off of Kimbrel, who hasn’t recorded more than three outs since early August. Farrell also mentioned that Price could pitch after Kimbrel, and with this team’s penchant for extra-inning games, Price could be the deciding factor in an important win,
When it came to the postseason, as usual, Bostonians are as easily excited as they are quick to vilify. In Price’s case, I think the current sentiment is a combination of “Hell yeah, Price is throwing strikes,” and “this team is a mess headed into the postseason, but at least David Price is getting his act together.” It shows you how ridiculous the Red Sox have been lately that people actually want David Price pitching a postseason start. Remember when Papi destroyed him in 2013? Remember when he sucked in last year’s ALDS? But desperation is an overarching theme for this year’s Red Sox, and it shows when people talk about Price.
I do not think David Price is not ready for a postseason start, but I want him to do well here, and I’m very happy that he’s pitching well in his current capacity. But bigger picture: I want my team to win games and take home rings and trophies. So will I prioritize the Red Sox team/franchise/nation over individual players who come and go? Yes. I hope that David Price has a good showing in our postseason run and helps us win, and then I hope he comes back next year and throws absolute fire. I think he can come back to being a starter if he takes care of that magic self-healing elbow and maybe does a little attitude adjustment. But good on Farrell for not throwing him to the sharks when he’s not ready. Hopefully, sound judgment pays off with a good ALDS.