It’s been a contentious couple of months for Red Sox starter David Price, who only made his season debut on Memorial Day and has seemingly spent as much time shouting at Boston media members as actually pitching. Last month he got into it with CSNNE’s Evan Drellich over an entirely inoffensive tweet; earlier this month he went after NESN broadcaster Dennis Eckersley on a team flight. But what remained mysterious until now was exactly what made Price so mad.
Dan Shaughnessy’s got answers. In his column for the Globe, Shaughnessy explores the particularly weird relationship the Red Sox have (and have long had) with the media, and reports out how Price’s confrontation with Eckersley went down.
For Price, the tipping point came when he learned Eckersley said “Yuck” when Eduardo Rodriguez’s poor stats were flashed on the NESN screen after a rehab start in Pawtucket June 29.
On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!”
When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!”
Many players applauded.
Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!”
When Price was asked about it the next day, he said only, “Some people just don’t understand how hard this game is.”
Yes, I’m sure Dennis Eckersley doesn’t know how hard baseball is.
This is a common refrain from players when dismissing commentary or criticism by media members who’ve never played the game, but the fact that they’re willing to break it out against a Hall of Famer shows its relative emptiness; this is more about players not wanting to be criticized at all, especially by media who are functionally their co-workers. (Shaughnessy’s column does a great job of giving historical context to this beef, and particularly interesting is how reporters stopped traveling on team flights decades ago to put up a wall between teams and those covering them. But with the rise of team-owned RSNs in recent years, that wall has come down, and indeed NESN’s crew flies on the team charters.)
Eckersley, seen as blunter and more critical than most broadcasters, is a frequent target for Sox players’ ire: This Jackie Bradley Jr. tweet has its own awkward backstory. And things haven’t really been smoothed over. After the Price incident, Eckersley received apologies from owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, CEO Sam Kennedy, and president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski—but nothing from Price or manager John Farrell. An antipathetic relationship between players and media isn’t unheard of, and it’s not necessarily unhealthy, but it can make things very bad over the course of a long season when the quarters are as close as this. Even worse when there’s a player as sensitive as Price, taking offense to what was pretty benign commentary on Eckersley’s part.
It’s a long season, and even longer if the first-place Red Sox make the playoffs. And Price is signed through 2022. Maybe some people don’t understand just how hard coexisting is.