David Price already got his World Series ring in 2018 with the Red Sox, so it’s not as emotionally wrenching as it could be that, after opting out of this season, the lefthander wasn’t part of the Dodgers’ first championship since 1988.
“I will miss my teammates and will be cheering them on throughout the season and on to a World Series victory,” Price wrote when he made the decision that “it is in the best interest of my health and my family’s health for me to not play this season.”
As it worked out, Price did get to cheer the Dodgers on to that victory, and the decisive Game 6 of the World Series may well have been Price’s night to start. Instead, it was Tony Gonsolin in the rotation with Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Julio Urias, and Tuesday night turned into a bullpen game after Gonsolin gave up a run on three hits in 1⅔ innings.
But Price has had that experience before, too, having gone seven innings in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium two years ago to outduel Kershaw in Boston’s clincher. Maybe that experience made it just a little bit easier to sit out this year and know that even though Los Angeles had a great shot at a title, missing out on it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
That might make it more palatable to miss out on winning a title, but Price still did sacrifice what could have been one of the best moments of his career because of a sense of personal responsibility and doing what was right for himself and his family. It was hard not to think about this, and to think about all the people who have missed weddings, lost their jobs, not been able to say goodbye to dying relatives, as COVID-positive Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner celebrated on the field and pulled his mask off while sitting front and center in the team picture after the game.
Price’s calculation was that Major League Baseball’s attempt to get through this season was not about getting it done safely, but about recouping as much money as possible in a country where the government has, at best, abdicated responsibility for public health, and at worst decided that it values enriching the already wealthy over basic science and human life.
Not that Price isn’t set for life himself, but he was willing to cut his 2020 salary to $0 to protect himself and his family. He gave up that money, gave up the chance to be part of another championship team, and gave up a year of his career, which is no small thing at the age of 35. Price is signed through 2022, and surely that security made his choice a little easier, but who knows how much time he has left in baseball, or what baseball will look like in 2021?
We know what it looked like in 2020, though, from the outbreak-riddled start to the recklessly idiotic finish, in which one of Price’s teammates was somehow allowed to play without being medically cleared, allowed to stay in the game despite an inconclusive coronavirus test, allowed to remain in the building after his positive test game back, and finally allowed to stage his own potential superspreader event in the championship celebration.
Price’s decision was hard, but he should rest easy. He did the right thing to protect his family, and sitting out and cheering his teammates on to victory is a whole lot better than putting people he loves at risk from a deadly virus.