Red Sox

How the Red Sox clubhouse will be a better place without David Price in it

Red Sox

David Price lorded over the Red Sox clubhouse like a raven.

Whereas most players find a pregame place to hide — be it the trainer's room, batting cage, or manager's office — Price spent more time at his locker than anyone, often facing out with a crossword.

Tucked in a nook behind couches on a short wall beyond the traveling secretary, he occupied prime real estate reserved for elder statesmen before him like Bret Saberhagen, Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, and Jonathan Papelbon.

The vantage point afforded Price a view of virtually the entire clubhouse, and he put it to good use, monitoring whatever interactions he wished. Even the simple act of interviewing a player became fraught, with both reporter and subject aware of Price's gaze.

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The result was a tension that hung over the clubhouse during a difficult 2019 season, which helps explain why the trade that sent Price and former MVP Mookie Betts to the Dodgers on Tuesday didn't just save the Red Sox $48 million. It should also significantly improve a culture that shifts away from the dour Price and towards the more outwardly positive Xander Bogaerts.

Deep down, Red Sox marketing people must be doing cartwheels.

Price's teammates will probably disagree, because they swore by him. But that doesn't make them right, just as a different generation of hurlers erred in following the lead of Beckett during the lost beer and fried chicken season of 2011.

Price's impact on a young team can't be overstated. He failed to hide his disdain for "Manager John" Farrell, which contributed to the skipper losing his players. Early in his tenure, he routinely hosted youngsters like Andrew Benintendi, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Robbie Ross at his locker, filling their minds with what he would call wisdom and others feared was poison. He certainly had Betts' ear. As one of the lone veterans overseeing a very young team, he held considerable sway as the Red Sox developed an us-against-them mentality.

 

He considered himself a great teammate, but his actions frequently made life miserable for everyone else in uniform. Jumping Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley on a team flight will always be disgraceful, and Price didn't do anyone any favors by dredging it back up for a news cycle last season after being alerted to a benign comment in a feature story.

Part of the problem is that Price exuded a vibe of wishing to be anywhere but Boston.

He felt unfairly criticized by fans and media, and he's a classic case study in the pitfalls of chasing the money. Multiple rivals believe he would've spurned Boston had he received $200 million from anyone else, even if the money was deferred to infinity, but the Cardinals couldn't get there, and so Price reluctantly signed here.

It was then pretty much all downhill, from complaints about disinterest in his charity endeavors to stubbornly refusing to embrace the Fenway fans — "I love my teammates and coaches," was a frequent, pointed response — to screaming at a reporter in Yankee Stadium because he felt like being a bully to using the moment of his biggest success to snarl, "I hold all the cards now."

That last quote came after Price beat the Dodgers in the clinching Game 5 of the 2018 World Series, and it ended a lifetime of postseason futility. Price should've been named MVP, and the Red Sox don't win that title without him, to be fair.

It was also telling that when the players gathered to celebrate in the tiny visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium, their first order of business was loudly declaring that outsiders should GTFO, a tone-deaf note of defiance in the midst of the champagne-soaked reverie that chagrined MLB officials wanted beamed coast-to-coast.

Price had helped foster that cocoon mentality during a 108-win season, so it should come as no surprise that when 2019 presented challenges like a 3-8 season-opening road trip, no reservoirs of positivity existed to fight the gloom.

Now that Price is being outfitted for Dodgers blue, though, he can leave Boston behind. I suspect he's happy to be rid of us, and at the risk of speaking for fans, I'd venture that the feeling is mutual.

Here's hoping the next inhabitant of his locker puts it to better use.