Reimer: Backstory to David Price's confrontation with Dennis Eckersley reveals broken Red Sox culture

Alex Reimer
July 24, 2017 - 12:35 pm

Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

There’s a chance David Price will opt out of his contract at the end of next season. But his poisonous sensitivity could pollute the Red Sox for years after he's gone. 

Perhaps the most revealing portion of Dan Shaughnessy’s expose in the Boston Globe about Price’s charter plane blowup earlier this month at NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley is the support the $30 million hurler appears to receive from his teammates. According to Shaughnessy, “many players” applauded Price at the end of his tirade, which reportedly started because he took issue with Eckersley saying “yuck” when Eduardo Rodriguez’s bad minor league pitching line was displayed on the NESN telecast June 29. 

“When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane, 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!,'" Shaughnessy writes. “When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, 'Get the (expletive) out of here!'’’

This is at least the second time in three years that Eckersley, who’s often more critical than his NESN colleagues, has been the target of a player’s ire. In 2015, Red Sox centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. posed for a picture with the Hall of Famer, sarcastically thanking Eckersley in the caption for doubting his skill level. Eckersley apparently didn’t know Bradley was using him as a passive aggressive photo prop. 

The Bradley incident underscores the anti-media environment that seems to be permeating throughout the Red Sox clubhouse. The team has been on a Trump-like crusade against the supposedly “fake news media,” with manager John Farrell and general manager Dave Dombrowski admonishing reporters several times this season. Price also had a confrontation last month with Comcast SportsNet’s Evan Drellich, within earshot of everybody in the clubhouse. 

As the highest-paid member of the team, and pitcher in baseball history, Price possesses the cache to influence how others act around him. Bradley, who’s in the formative years of his Major League career, seems to respond immaturely to criticism –– as evidenced by the two-year old Eckersley tweet. Price is probably only further fueling Bradley’s worst inclinations. 

And that might wind up being Price’s legacy in Boston. The Red Sox’ talented young core –– Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Bradley, Rodriguez –– are watching Price on a daily basis. Instead of learning how to cooperate with members of the media, they’re learning how to chide them. 

Though Shaughnessy says members of the Red Sox brass have spoken with Eckersley since the plane incident, neither Price nor Farrell have relayed an apology to the color commentator. That means this behavior is encouraged, or at least overlooked, within the clubhouse. 

The Red Sox knew what they were getting into with Price before inking him to a seven-year, $217 million contract. He infamously hurled insults at the TBS postgame crew in October 2013, calling analysts Dirk Hayhurst and Tom Verducci “nerds” because they criticized Price’s atrocious performance against Boston in Game 2 of the ALDS. 

But president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who also acquired Price in Detroit, apparently did not care. He likely thought Price’s stellar pitching would overshadow his negatives. Two years into the contract, however, Price’s most memorable performance has come on the team plane instead of the mound. It’s surprising his applauding teammates didn’t ask for an encore.