FEEL­ING THE HEAT

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TIM DAHLBERG

David Price sure has a lot of is­sues for a guy making $31 mil­lion a year. It showed in June when the pitcher went off on the Bos­ton me­dia over some per­ceived slights. Noth­ing ter­ri­bly news­wor­thy there, and Price is cer­tainly not the first player to take his frus­tra­tion out on those who cover base­ball. But when he went af­ter Den­nis Eck­er­s­ley, it be­came a dif­fer­ent story. We saw it Tues­day night at Fen­way Park, where Eck­er­s­ley basked in a warm ova­tion from the home crowd when in­tro­duced be­tween in­nings. They’ve de­cided who the good guy is in this dust-up, and it’s not Price. What was even bet­ter was what an­a­lyst Jim Kaat had to say while an­nounc­ing the game for MLB Net­work. “David Price didn’t con­front Den­nis Eck­er­s­ley, he at­tacked him like a school­yard bully,” Kaat said. “In front of all his team­mates to make him look like a big man.” That is pretty much in nut­shell what hap­pened, at least ac­cord­ing to ac­counts of the al­ter­ca­tion in the Bos­ton Globe. In front of a group of team­mates, Price con­fronted Eck­er­s­ley on a team plane for not giv­ing Red Sox play­ers the proper re­spect while work­ing as an an­a­lyst on the team’s lo­cal broad­cast. The thing is, Eck­er­s­ley isn’t just an an­nouncer. He’s a for­mer Red Sox pitcher him­self and a first bal­lot mem­ber of the Hall of Fame. He’s also one of the most in­ter­est­ing peo­ple around when you want to talk base­ball. But ap­par­ently Price al­ready knows every­thing about pitch­ing, so he went af­ter Eck­er­s­ley for making an offhanded re­mark about the pitch­ing woes of one of his team­mates. “The point is if you’re Price and follow the his­tory of base­ball, you have to have a lit­tle re­spect,” Kaat said on the broad­cast. Kaat is an old school player do­ing a game on a net­work that usu­ally bends over back­ward not to talk badly about any current play­ers. But both he and broad­cast part­ner Bob Costas seemed to want to go out of their way to make a point about how Eck­er­s­ley was treated. Not that Price seems to care. There’s been no apol­ogy from the pitcher, noth­ing to say he re­grets try­ing to em­bar­rass Eck­er­s­ley in front of the team other than a throw­away com­ment about per­haps some­day dis­cussing it with him. It can’t be that Price is too busy pitch­ing. Af­ter be­ing side­lines most of the first two months of the sea­son he’s on the dis­abled list again with el­bow is­sues. In the sec­ond year of a seven-year, $217mil­lion con­tract, Price has made only 11 starts all year for the Red Sox. It’s hardly the kind of pro­duc­tion Bos­ton ex­pected when it signed Price to be the star of a staff that is now led by Chris Sale. Maybe the pres­sure of try­ing to live up to a big con­tract is get­ting to him. Or maybe he’s just an­other ballplayer with a sense of en­ti­tle­ment who thinks that be­cause he pitches in the ma­jor leagues he knows all there is about the game and the peo­ple in it. Here’s what he may not know about Eck­er­s­ley. The right-han­der started 361 games, which by it­self would be a fine ca­reer stat for most pitch­ers. But af­ter be­ing con­verted to a re­liever he saved an as­ton­ish­ing 390 more, mostly for the Oak­land A’s. At the time of his re­tire­ment he had ap­peared in more games (1,071) than any other pitcher in his­tory. Eck­er­s­ley pitched 24 years in the big leagues, the last part coming dur­ing the steroid era. And he was elected to the Hall of Fame the first year he was el­i­gi­ble in 2004 with 83 per cent of the vote. He’s got num­bers Price will never reach. He’s got the re­spect of peo­ple in base­ball Price will never get. And he’s han­dled the Price sit­u­a­tion as well as he han­dled hit­ters dur­ing his prime. “I’m cool with every­thing,” Eck­er­s­ley told the Globe on Tues­day. “I’ve moved on. I’m just go­ing to keep do­ing what I do, which is call it like I see it. It’s all about the Red Sox and the ul­ti­mate goal of win­ning it all.” A team player, even though he’s no longer on the team. A for­mer Red Sox who will be cel­e­brated long af­ter Price is gone. The kind of guy fans stand up and cheer for like they did Tues­day night, and the kind of guy Kaat was more than ea­ger to stand up for when the mo­ment called for it. “I think he’d (Price) like a (sec­ond chance) be­cause he found out how pop­u­lar Eck is,” Kaat said. “He’s as hon­est and can­did a guy as there is, and deep down he’d love to see the Red Sox win. But as an an­nouncer he calls it like he sees it.” Just like the true Hall of Famer he is.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

David Price, pic­tured, con­fronted Den­nis Eck­er­s­ley on a team plane for not giv­ing Red Sox play­ers the proper re­spect while work­ing as an an­a­lyst on the team’s lo­cal broad­cast.

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