There’s No Winning for David Price in Off-Field Issues

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On Saturday, David Price returned to the mound for the first time since May 3, earning a win in a performance that saw the left-hander throw 5.2 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, while striking out six on 93 pitches. The Boston Red Sox knocked off the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2 in Price’s third victory of the season.

I write “returned,” because Price was scratched from a start in Boston’s midweek series against the New York Yankees with what manager Alex Cora called a “mild case” of carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes pain and numbness in the wrist and fingers. It has been suggested that Price’s injury can be attributed to an obsession with Fortnite Battle Royale, an online multiplayer survival game that has soared in popularity within Major League Baseball since its September release.

I’ve never played Fortnite and I had to do some Wikipedia research on this game before writing it. Sorry, but I’m a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 kind of guy. At any rate, Price has become so preoccupied with Fortnite that he tells The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey that he and his Sox teammates will “play until 1 a.m., 1:30 a.m., 2 a.m., depending on what time our game is the next day. ”

Cora told reporters in Boston that Price’s video gaming habits are no reason for the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner’s hand ailment. But it’s Boston, and, well, the fans and media there need a scapegoat for any struggling player, and this is low-hanging fruit. It’s just absurdly lazy and silly.

Price has had a poor start to 2018, and frankly, an awful beginning to a longterm contract with the Red Sox. The five-time All-Star, if he chooses to not opt out after this season, will be paid over $30 million a year until 2022; his stats this year — 3-4, 4.38 ERA, 1.417 WHIP, only 38 strikeouts in 42.1 innings — suggest that’s a dreadful overpay.

But he’s also just getting warmed up after missing most of last season with severe elbow soreness and various blister concerns. He isn’t going to be perfect with an ailing elbow, but Fortnite, am I right? About that…

So, media in Boston (I’m not going to name names — let’s make this just a big ol’ subtweet of an article) vilified Price for lashing out at NESN analyst and Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley on a team flight last summer. Obviously, it is not necessarily ideal to have your supposed ace, whose massive contract leads many to believe he’s playing uninspired baseball, cursing out guys as respected and revered as Eckersley is.

David Price deserves to be cut some slack after his latest off-field 'issue.'Click To Tweet

The answer to this huge public relations problem is to chill out, don’t get into trouble, and make sure your off-the-field behavior is in check. Maybe just stay at home, remain out of media attention, and relax. Try playing some video games or something.

Until those video games, which have kept you from partying or jumping into fire with media, are the reason why you all of a sudden suck now. Evidently, there’s no winning for David Price in his off-field problems; it’s a classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

The narrative surrounding Price is so desperate for the two-time ERA crown winner to be a villain that media and fans in Boston will shape it any way they can just to blame his struggles on these off-field issues. He can’t stay out of the spotlight and out of trouble without, well, being sucked back into the spotlight and back into trouble.

Price is far from a perfect pitcher or a perfect human being, but he’s trying, and that’s more than a lot of the more detested pitchers around the big leagues can say. Pitching performance aside, if Boston is going to glorify Chris Sale, a guy who sliced up a bunch of Chicago White Sox jerseys with a knife and tried to force his way into an opposing dressing room after being ejected, then don’t disparage the guy playing video games.

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