When you become a New England Expatriate, you develop an even keener awareness that everything about Boston sports is magnified.
Life just moves more slowly everywhere else. Fans in smaller, less tradition-rich markets support professional teams but don’t live and die with them. And if there are dueling daily newspapers in those markets, they don’t have aging, entrenched columnists rapidly adapting to a click-bait world, eager to dish the dirt.
It doesn’t take much time before the circus seems a little silly. Perhaps that’s why I’ve long since lost patience with the dysfunction of the 2017 Red Sox, headlined and highlighted by David Price’s alleged ambush and verbal dressing down of Dennis Eckersley.
Just not for all the reasons some of you have grown weary of the situation.
Nobody has sufficiently explained to me why Price is automatically the heel and Eckersley the sympathetic babyface in this steel cage death match (excessive drama completely intentional).
Has Price fallen shy of $1 million-per-start expectations? I guess that depends on your preconceived delusions.
Sure, his earned run average of just a whisker beneath four is about a half-run above career performance. At least some of that can be ascribed to the adjustment period almost every acquired starter not named Pedro Martinez or Chris Sale has encountered when making the transition to what is still a hitter’s yard at Fenway.
The 31-year-old southpaw’s won-lost record of 22-12 (.647) with the Sox is eerily parallel to his career numbers of 126-68 (.649). And Price had well-established durability, postseason reliability and skin thickness issues in St. Pete, Toronto and Detroit.
In other words, Price is giving us precisely what he gave everyone else. I would argue that in the current market Boston shelled out the going rate to get their man. If you disagree with that, we can debate it until the end of time or the John Farrell administration, but it isn’t the player’s fault for scooping up every penny thrown his way.
That leads us to Eckersley, who — in case you didn’t get the memo from every pile-it-on beat writer and talk radio host in the market — is a hall of famer. God bless him for that, even though you can make the case conservatively that 75 percent of those credentials were built in Oakland, not Boston.
What I don’t understand is when or how The Eck ascended to the level of David Ortiz, Bill Belichick and the Pope in terms of infallibility. Well, in a way I suppose I get it. Boston fans are notorious both for overrating home sportscasters (Don Orsillo, Jerry Remy) and embracing ones that are hokey (Johnny Most), homers (Tom Heinsohn, Jack Edwards) and just plain awful (Scott Zolak).
The apparent source of the friction between Price and Eckersley was the latter’s off-the-cuff muttering of “yuck” when Eduardo Rodriguez’s statistics in a rehabilitation start were unveiled during a NESN broadcast.
Being a legend of the game, immortalized in Cooperstown, Eckersley should know that numbers in that environment mean less than diddly. Would he or anyone else have dared editorialize about Jon Lester’s line when Lester made his rehab start in Portland after cancer treatment a decade ago? Of course not, and E-Rod, despite the less-life-and-death ramifications of his knee injury, should have been extended the same courtesy.
Eckersley, like most of the other breathless yahoos that provide the soundtrack to sports broadcasts nowadays, has yet to learn the value of a pregnant pause or golden silence. Price, while clearly negligent in choosing an appropriate time and place, merely was pointing that out.
Sox fans, steered by a distorted view of Price’s non-performance and perhaps to some degree the racial intolerance that made their city infamous, almost unanimously took the side of the mullet-headed ace from the team’s most pitching-poor era in my lifetime.
Many of those same folks wonder aloud “where are the leaders” on a club that has struggled to keep up with the Yankees’ dizzying pace since the all-star break. Whether you endorse his methods or not, Price was being one. He took a stand against, essentially, a co-worker; one who was given ample opportunity to conquer his own demons as a player and person but is relatively quick to criticize ones who perform under a much different microscope today.
Yes, Price’s delivery was flawed, pardon the pun, but so was Eckersley’s. Yet the mountain of blame has come crashing down in its entirety upon the guy who draws the larger paycheck, simply because he’s had the nerve to be only pretty good instead of excellent in a Sox uniform.
Being OK with that is, at best, an intellectually lazy position … albeit the predictable, oh-so-New England one.
Kalle Oakes was a 27-year veteran of the Sun Journal sports staff. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. His email is [email protected]