Tomase: Do Red Sox even need David Price? Making case for life without him

John Tomase
August 15, 2017 - 11:53 pm
David Price

Kim Klement/USA Today Sports


Not even a month before the 2016 postseason, the Indians received devastating news. In the span of a week, the Tribe lost starting pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco to season-ending injuries. There was no point in showing up that October. They'd just be cannon fodder.

We know how that story unfolded. Thanks to a dominating bullpen and some serious sleight of hand from manager Terry Francona, the Indians swept the Red Sox in the ALDS and advanced to the World Series, where they fell inches shy of defeating the Cubs in a classic Game 7.

A year later, I can't help but consider those Indians while posing the following question: Do the Red Sox even need David Price?

For much of the season, plenty of us believed the Red Sox couldn't win in October without their $217 million left-hander, an admittedly tenuous viewpoint given Price's playoff travails.

But the Red Sox weren't scoring a ton of runs (this was pre-Rafael Devers), we didn't know what to make of the rotation (Eduardo Rodriguez was hurt), and the bullpen felt like it had overachieved to unsustainable levels (that hasn't necessarily changed).

That made a pitcher like Price indispensable. The Red Sox would advance as far as Chris Sale, Price, and Rick Porcello carried them.

The month of August has altered that equation substantially, however. Price hit the disabled list on July 28, hours before he was supposed to take the Fenway mound for what shaped up to be the most fraught start of his career. The Boston Herald's Ron Borges had already called for fans to boo him in the wake of his disgraceful ambush of popular broadcaster Dennis Eckersley. The talk radio airwaves overflowed with bile. Observers decried Price's clubhouse negativity.

When Price went down with a sore arm, some questioned the legitimacy of his injury. More than two weeks later, with his return in doubt, we have put that lie to rest. But the question we haven't answered is whether the Red Sox are better off without him.

They're 29-25 (.537) this year with Price on the active roster. Tuesday night's 10-4 win over the Cardinals improved them to 39-26 (.600) without him, including 10-2 in August. Is that because he's a clubhouse distraction when he's healthy and active?

It's certainly interesting that his first media confrontation, when he castigated Comcast's Evan Drellich in Yankee Stadium, came after a 5-2 win over the Orioles that represented Price's best start of the season. Likewise, when he unleashed a surprise harangue of Eckersley on a flight in late June, it was after beating the Twins while touching 97 mph.

Did Price feel emboldened to lash out because things were going well on the mound? It doesn't seem coincidental.

Injured players can only exert so much influence, however. They might as well be ghosts. They're generally not in a position to "stand up for teammates" or whatever euphemism Price has used to justify acting like a brat.

Then there's the issue of Price's postseason failures. He's 0-8 in nine playoff starts, his most recent a 6-0 loss to the Indians in Game 2 of last year's ALDS, when he allowed a game-breaking homer to Lonnie Chisenhall, who had exactly zero home runs against left-handed pitchers during the regular season.

Price may be desperate to counter the narrative that he can't deliver on the big stage, but desperation in that setting isn't exactly a virtue. With Sale clearly starting Game 1, the Red Sox could hand the ball to Porcello, the defending Cy Young Award winner, in Game 2. Or they could choose Drew Pomeranz, the lefty who has very quietly posted numbers topped only by Sale and Cleveland's Corey Kluber since the start of June. Add E-Rod, who appears to be rounding back into form, and the Red Sox have reason to be happy with what's already in place.

At this point, why mess with it? Price should feel free to take his time, if he makes it back at all.

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