The Media Column: David Price, and only David Price, is to blame for rebirth of ridiculous one-way feud with Dennis Eckersley

Alex Reimer
July 18, 2019 - 10:54 am
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One of the characteristics that defines Dennis Eckersley throughout his extensive profile in Boston Globe Magazine is his humility. The man remains cordial with the ex-teammate who stole his wife, never mind Eck’s friendship with Kirk Gibson, who hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history off of him to kick off the 1988 World Series. The walk-off blast boosted the Dodgers to an upset series victory. 

And that’s just some of the more baseball-related adversity the Hall of Fame hurler has faced. Alcoholism almost jeopardized his sterling career, and now he’s been sober for more than 30 years. Rick Manning, the aforementioned teammate, is the stepfather of Eckersley’s eldest daughter. They now share grandchildren with each other. 

Eckersley talked about all of this with Chad Finn, showing a vulnerability that few hyper-masculine professional athletes would dare display in any fashion. And yet, David Price attacks him for being arrogant and aloof. It is the definition of character assassination. 

Price’s ludicrous rant about Eckersley in the clubhouse Wednesday propelled this now-two-year-old story story from a sidebar to the front page. The madness all started Wednesday morning, when Price quote-tweeted the headline to my aggregated story about the Eckersley profile, which contained one of his few comments to Finn about Price’s airplane ambush in 2017. 

“I don’t plan on seeing him, never,” the quote reads.

Then Price went on a mini-Twitter tirade, declaring the beloved broadcaster just “needs attention” and correcting the record to a random woman named “Maria” about how he did organize a meeting with Eckersley after the incident, but Eck cancelled. (At the time, Eckersley was forthright about his disinterest in speaking with Price, asking our own Rob Bradford why he would ever want to talk with him.)

I make no apologies for cherrypicking one of Eckersley’s quotes about the Price episode and putting it in my headline. It was the newsiest portion of the profile, and whenever I aggregate stories, I am looking for clicks. Guilty as charged. The onus falls on Price to actually read Eck’s words before using his platform to besmirch the Red Sox legend. Finn writes the incident “still bothers Eckersley,” who essentially gives a sharp no-comment about the ordeal. 

“I didn’t know how to deal with that. I don’t plan on saying a word to him, I don’t plan on seeing him, never,” Eck said. “I don’t really give a (expletive) one way or another. I don’t think he really cares one way or the other.”

Unfortunately, Eckersley gave Price too much credit. The defending World Series champion obviously still cares deeply about the whole thing, opting to blast Eckersley in front of reporters before the game, and outright lying about his MLB Network documentary. 

“Honestly, I just think it’s trash,” Price said. “He had an unbelievable career, 25 seasons. He’s a Hall of Famer. I saw his special on MLB Network. It was cool. One thing that stood out to me is he had zero former teammates in that interview. Not one talking about him. It was him talking about himself. If anybody ever does a special about me after baseball, I won’t need to go on that interview. I will have former teammates, former coaches, they can all vouch for me. He didn’t have that. To me, that’s all you need to know.”

That is a falsehood that would even make Kellyanne Conway blush. Eckersley’s MLB Network special, which director Bruce Cornblatt told the Globe was supposed to mostly be Eckersley reflecting on his own career, features interviews with several ex-teammates, including Ron Darling, Mark McGwire and Fred Lynn. The Globe feature story includes illuminating anecdotes from former manager Tony La Russa and Jim Palmer. 

And again, it is worth mentioning Eckersley is civil with the guy who was cavorting with his wife while they were still together. There is no greater form of modesty.

With those facts in mind, it is ridiculous for Price to claim Eckersley doesn’t have any teammates who will vouch for him. The only more laughable accusation would be to say Eck, who gave up the Gibson home run, doesn’t understand how hard the game is.

Price said that two years ago.

David Price is the only person to blame for the escalation of this one-way feud. Keep in mind, this all started because the left-hander apparently took exception to Eckersley’s one-word quip –– “yuck!” –– about a subpar rehab start from Eduardo Rodriguez. The backstory is outrageous.

Eckersley is not going around ripping Price two years after the fact. Hell, he didn’t even do it when the story was at an apex. He was asked a question and answered curtly. Then I aggregated the answer, just like every good blogger worth his page views would. 

The whole Eckersley incident was ancient history for Price. It’s hard to say fans adore him, because it’s difficult to love a pitcher who works at an interminable pace and admits he only opted to return to the Red Sox because of the money. But the adulation he received walking off the mound in Game 2 of the World Series –– two runs over six innings in a winning effort –– has carried over into the season. Right now, Price is the rock of the Red Sox’ rotation, and has been treated as such.

Now, however, he goes back to pariah. That’s what you get for lambasting Eckersley with lies and misrepresentations. It is a worthy sentence.

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The “Gronk Return” cottage industry: There is a developing cottage industry around Rob Gronkowski’s possible NFL return, which has been rumored since he announced his retirement just four months ago. 

People can’t seem to wrap their minds around the possibility that Gronk, who’s undergone at least nine operations over the last decade, including multiple back procedures, might not want to put his body through the beatings any longer. So the guessing game about whether he will come back is well underway. ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, who’s tight with Gronk’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, chalks the odds of Gronk’s return to 40-percent. NFL Media’s Rich Eisen, who recently interviewed Gronkowski on his radio show, said Wednesday he thinks there’s a “100-percent chance” the All-World tight end plays football this season. 

This is all meaningless speculation, based off preconceived notions about Gronk and some choreographed cryptic social media posts. This is turning into Brett Favre redux. 

Stupid NFL lists continue to fan the outrage flame: Few things get us more riled up than meaningless lists curated by random NFL pundits who slight Tom Brady. Most recently, USA Today’s Doug Farrar ranks Brady as the 19th best player in the NFL, behind Aaron Rodgers (17), Philip Rivers (15), Russell Wilson (9), Drew Brees (3) and Patrick Mahomes (2). So in essence, Farrar is saying Brady is the sixth best QB in the league, behind Rivers, whom the Patriots dominated in the Divisional Round and has never reached the Super Bowl in his career. 

As Chris Simms can attest, few things keep an NFL analyst more relevant in the slow summer months than ranking Brady lower than he should be. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me a million times, shame on me.

Enes Kanter played media well in introductory presser: Enes Kanter bought himself lots of goodwill with one viral joke Wednesday at his introductory press conference. The Celtics’ big man said he is wearing No. 11, because he doesn’t want anybody to wear it again. The barb is an obvious dig towards Kyrie Irving, and the assembled press lapped it up. 

Rip on the boogeyman, and we love you. Contrary to popular belief, we are easy to please. 

Related: David Price just won't allow us to change our minds about him