BOSTON — David Price may actually be perfect for Boston.
With each wisecrack to the media, the lefty may be embracing the spotlight. He is inviting it further, brighter. But wait — is that his intent? He may simply want to take shots when he can, disguised as jokes. Or maybe they're just . . . jokes.
Let's run in circles. Maybe that's what he wants. Maybe that's what we, those who consume sports, want to do. Because Price and perception is far from a new subject.
Whether Price realizes it or not, his sarcasm is sublime. There's allure in the opaque. In sports, we want winning players and we want layered people. Price provides both, with no tangible downside to point to in 2018.
In the last two months, the Red Sox lefty has consistently entertained both on the mound and in interviews, underscoring his status as a thought-provoking figure in a city that devours personality. The motivations behind his jokes, or jabs, and their ultimate impact could be debated for a fortnight. They're speculative to begin with.
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On Tuesday, after six strong innings against the Angels in a 9-1 win, Price was asked if he’s looking forward to pitching in New York on Sunday. That game will be a national telecast, and Price’s first start against the Yankees after two misfires for health reasons.
"I don’t think I’ll be able to go, so I don’t think so," Price said dryly at Fenway Park.
A reporter, playing along, asked if he would not be able to pitch because of the video game that he and his teammates like, Fortnite.
"Yeah," said Price, who has a 2.72 ERA in his last nine outings, with a 7-1 record. “Fortnite."
Price is an example of a player who is sensitive. Which is to say, he is a person who cares about perception to the point that he reacts to it publicly, and has done so repeatedly. He is not alone, in the ranks of pro athletes or others.
At the same time, he is succeeding in his high-pressure job. In Boston, then, he is a walking oxymoron. Success and sensitivity are not supposed to pair here.
He may be more successful if he weren’t as sensitive, you suggest. And what if the outside world is the fuel he needs?
In 2017, Price’s sensitivity was detrimental. Not now, though. There’s no distraction, no concern he's treating people poorly.
The human instinct to reduce everything to a simple explanation will never disappear. A player like Price and his choices can be unpacked 18 ways. He’s compelling because he can create so many reactions. Simple quips leave so much to talk about.
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Price's snark, mild as it may be, has become a schtick, a running gag. He referred to himself as soft. He’s made light of his tingly fingers, a reference to his carpal tunnel syndrome and circulation issues that can lead to numbness.
If Price really is bothered, there’s an argument to be made Price is acting immaturely because he is not really working to fix the problem. Then again: he really may just be conveying dry humor.
He may be delivering a message he still solemnly feels at his core: “You don’t get me.”
He may relish the attention, he may enjoy the tizzy his words create for some. Those 18 points of view of oneself must be fascinating to see bandied about, over and over.
Maybe none of this is a revelation. When you consider how many other players in Red Sox history believed themselves to be mistreated by the media, or misunderstood by fans, Price seems just another in a long line. Embrace the ride, play along.
He’s the perfect water-cooler debate. He must know he’s making himself one, too. With no visible downside at the moment to boot.
He's winning. He's confusing. He fits.