The longer David Price fights with the tenacious Boston media — and that squabble probably won’t be ending anytime soon — the better off the Yankees will be in their ongoing battle for AL East supremacy. Over time, if the relationship becomes untenable, Price could even opt out of his Red Sox contract after 2018, jettisoning the final four years of his $217-million deal.
While that’s still a ways off, and plenty hinges on his performance, things appear to be getting uncomfortable for Price in his second season with Boston, from the incessant drumbeat over his poor playoff record (0-8, 5.74 ERA in nine starts) to being an easy target on Boston’s sports-talk channels for missing the first two months of the season with an elbow strain.
Now that Price is back, he still couldn’t escape the same unfortunate narrative Thursday night in the Bronx, where the Yankees hammered him for six runs in five innings in their 9-1 rout. Gary Sanchez hit two home runs off Price, who dropped to 0-4 with a 8.72 ERA in his last four starts at Yankee Stadium, all while wearing a Red Sox uniform.
Here’s a helpful tip to Price: If he wants to endear himself to New Englanders, being competitive against the Yankees would be a good place to begin.
Price also might want to throttle back a bit in his tempestuous dealings with the Boston media. On the eve of his start, he got into an expletive-filled clubhouse argument with a reporter over a Twitter post, of all things. The commotion was such that Red Sox manager John Farrell tried to defuse the controversy before Price took the mound, insisting that “David is focused on what he has to do.”
If so, Price had a funny way of showing it by essentially not showing up. Afterward, he and Farrell denied that the incident had any effect on the subpar performance, with Price saying, “Absolutely not.”
The timing is curious, though. Price actually looked great in his previous start — his second since coming off the DL — holding the Orioles to one run in seven innings at Camden Yards.
So did the Yankees deserve credit for lighting him up? Or was Price’s implosion related to the distraction of the testy off-field stuff? If it’s the latter, the Red Sox should broker a peace between Price and the media, regardless of his attempt to shrug things off after his pounding.
“It was not tough at all to focus,” he said. “That’s baseball.”
The Yankees have their own rotation crisis in trying to figure out what’s wrong with Masahiro Tanaka, but at least they’re sorting that out quietly. Their starters have mostly outpitched Boston’s Big Three of Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello, a combined 11-11 with a 3.82 ERA through the first 59 games.
As for Price’s recent volatility, you could tell a storm was brewing when he blew off reporters after last month’s rehab start at Triple-A Pawtucket, and the nastiness approached hurricane strength Wednesday night in the visitors’ clubhouse. That’s where Price, after an 8-0 victory by the Yankees in which he did nothing but watch, waited inside a hallway to loudly berate Comcast reporter Evan Drellich (full disclosure: a former Newsday intern).
Price took exception to a relatively tame Twitter posting by Drellich, who highlighted a screen shot of Price’s own quote to The Boston Globe, referring to the fact that he would speak to the media only on the days that he starts. After that initial dust-up, however, Price made it clear, in non-family-newspaper language, that he was angry with the entire Boston media corps. Asked Thursday night if he had any regrets about his behavior, Price replied, “I stand behind it.”
But after that episode percolated for a solid 16 hours, well- documented in newspapers and on websites, Farrell spent Thursday’s pregame media briefing spouting clubhouse diplomacy. The best he could do was assure reporters it would be addressed with Price. “There will be a follow-up,” Farrell said. “We’d like all of our players to deal with the media with respect.”
That’s a good policy, especially given that Red Sox owner John Henry also counts The Boston Globe — New England’s largest newspaper — as one of his properties. Don’t fault the Yankees, however, if they sit back and enjoy the show.