I’ve complained about David Price a lot over the past few years. But can you really blame me? The guy is talented, but hard to love. Expensive, but can’t pitch well in the postseason. Beset by injuries, but snarky with the media. Talks a big game, but couldn’t overcome the Yankees.
For most of his first two seasons in Boston, David Price was a disappointment. This isn’t to say he was a disaster, but he definitely wasn’t who we thought he’d be or who he had been.
With Tampa Bay, he was a 4-time All-Star, who won the Cy Young and led the American League in wins in 2012. He also was a 2-time American League ERA leader in 2012 and 2015, and in 2014, led MLB in strikeouts. He hasn’t done anything like that in Boston.
And so, David Price gets a very bad rap. Part of that, honestly, isn’t his fault. Red Sox Nation is tougher on its team than any other fanbase; I’d even venture to say they’re the most intense of all the Boston sports fan bases. But Price has, often times, displayed a bad attitude, something that might fly with other fan bases, but never here. The Dennis Eckersley incident was a disaster. Price’s quips to the media amidst his Yankee woes were embarrassing. But had he been pitching well consistently over the past couple seasons, the bad attitude, while not ideal, would’ve been less of an issue.
Aside from Pablo Sandoval, I can’t think of any Red Sox player in my lifetime who has been subject to as much scrutiny and criticism as David Price. But that’s what happens when your team signs a Cy Young pitcher to the most lucrative contract in baseball history. Our expectations for Price were higher than the Monstah, so of course, anything less than perfect was automatically terrible. In his first two seasons with the Sox, Price posted a 3.84 ERA with a 23-12 record. But in 2017, he was sidelined with injuries, and only pitched 74.1 innings. He was effective towards the end of last year, and in the ALDS, but only used as a reliever. To go deeper than a division title, we need him to be a starter, and an effective one at that.
It’s taken him over two years to become the pitcher the Red Sox thought they were signing ahead of the 2016 season. Price even said so himself yesterday, after serving up 8 scoreless innings to the Cleveland Indians:
“This is the pitcher Boston signed. So for me to get back to that, it’s about time.”
I guess self-awareness comes with good pitching.
And what good pitching it’s been. With Price on the mound yesterday, the Red Sox were not only able to salvage the 4-game series against the Indians, but walk away with a series split and a shutout victory.
In 6 starts since the All-Star break, Price is 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA, the lowest ERA in the American League, second-best in MLB. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of those games. The Sox have won each of his last seven decisions at home, and 16 of his last 18 starts. He’s now 14-6 on the season, and the Red Sox owe a large part of their wonderful 90-39 record to him.
Ahead of this season, I wrote that I wanted to root for David Price. I want to root for every player on my team. But I’m not of blind faith; I needed time and results to convince me. A complete game against the Orioles wasn’t going to do it for me. Beating up on bad teams is easy, and even the most inconsistent starting pitcher can have a lucky night. But series finale wins against the Yankees and Indians? Those kind of high-stakes, high-pressure games are what prove Price can get the job done, and he has. I’m thrilled to be able to root for him.
Now, of course, the ultimate test for Price will be the postseason. It will be his third with the Red Sox, and his 9th career postseason run. In eight postseason appearances, Price has an overall 5.03 ERA and a 2-8 record. Only twice have his teams made it past the ALDS, neither time, a Boston team. Will this third straight division title be the charm for Price?
As of right now, this version of David Price is great for Boston and bad for everyone else. If he keeps this up and Chris Sale comes back strong, the rest of MLB should be terrified, and Boston should be over the moon. The David Price we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived.
Photo: Boston Herald