April 27, 2018

Plunking Ortiz Was a Continuation of Price’s Fall Last Fall

June 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

So, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price was finally fined last week for hitting David Ortiz and Mike Carp, forcing Red Sox fans to put down their torches and pitchforks, at least for now.

The question for fans should be, has this phase passed, or will this be just an early part of Price’s “Possessed Rebel” moment?

Red Sox fans may remember Roger Clemens, a pretty fair pitcher who some say overheated emotionally circa 1990. Remember the eye black worn as war paint? Being thrown out of a playoff start by umpire Terry Cooney? Some wondered whether Clemens was psyching himself out, in part because he was trying to lead an inferior team against some Major League powerhouses.

Well, Price may not be playing it out the same way that Clemens did, but do his actions betray similar cracks in his psyche?

To review, let’s go back to October 2013, and the events following a 7-4 playoff loss to the Red Sox.

First, Price lashed out at the media after the post-game interview, saying, “Nice question, Nerds.” While Price should be credited for both keeping the language clean and accurately depicting the media, it was not the nerds who hit the two home runs, but David Ortiz, who either stood to determine if the second home run was a fair ball, or stood admiring it.

Price then shared his feelings with the world on Twitter. As we all know by now, Twitter is to athletes what drunk dialing is to young urban professionals, and so the Tweets went pretty much like drunk phone calls:

First Price assured folks he was OK, and then told them how good he was: “Trust me I don’t want sympathy … I got beat tonight…so be it..I’ll bounce back…3X ALLSTAR…2 time player choice…runner up cy…AND CY”

Then he got mad and took some verbal swings at critics: “Dirk Hayhurst…COULDNT hack it…Tom Verducci wasn’t even a water boy in high school…but yet they can still bash a player…SAVE IT NERDS.”

He apologized, and the matter was dropped for seven months, until Price plunked Ortiz in the buttocks on May 30.

It was not the first time something like this happened between the two teams. When Boston’s Alfredo Aceves hit Tampa’s Sean Rodriguez in Spring Training 2013, some questioned whether it was because Rodriguez had homered against him earlier in that game, or because he’d also homered in May of the previous season. Some felt it was an example of Aceves’ unstable temperament.

Price couldn’t even get thrown out of the game after hitting Carp a couple of innings later.

Aceves hit Rodriguez in a meaningless spring training game. Price hit Ortiz to put two men on base in the first inning, during a stretch when his team was struggling. To settle a score that was seven months old.

So, understanding that if Dirk Hayhurst couldn’t hack it and Tom Verducci wasn’t even a water boy in high school, one could probably make the point that they didn’t cost David Price that playoff game. David Ortiz did, but whether he breached baseball etiquette, the ball was going out of the park.

In Sunday’s “Baseball” column, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo presumed that with the draft over, the Rays would listen to offers for the left-handed Price, either now or in the off-season. “Price still has great stuff, but his velocity is down, which is always a red flag,” Cafardo wrote.

Perhaps that could be part of the problem, too. Maybe Price feels his mortality, and that’s increased his urgency, and the pressure to win.

Is David Price taking his eye off the ball? Certainly. And I suspect that if he read this, he’d have a name for me.

Dave Rattigan is host of View from the Lone Red Seat on the Seamheads podcasting network, joined by co-hosts Chris Mascaro and Bob Lazzari.

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