The Boston Red Sox have had a solid start to their 2016 season, compiling an 18-13 record and placing second in their division. With the exception of the 2013 championship season, this early result has been a positive development given their last place finishes under manager John Farrell in 2014 and 2015 where the cellar-dwellers posted a .459 winning percentage.
The Red Sox results to date can be attributed to a handful of factors; from David “Big Papi” Ortiz’ swan song season to the emergence of Travis Shaw as the new third baseman, to knuckle ball pitcher Stephen Wright as a go-to rotation starter. There is much to be optimistic of as the season enters the second full month. Unfortunately for Boston, there have been a couple of key disappointments that have tempered some fan enthusiasm. Whether is be the abysmal failure of Pablo Sandoval to the severe inconsistency of veteran hurler Clay Buchholz. While these examples should be enough for Sox fans, the most notable struggles that have caught fan and sports radio’s attention rest with newly minted ace left-hander David Price.
On the heels of signing a seven-year $217 million contract, there was much to look forward to. Price has delivered as an ace top-of-the-rotation starter with Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Toronto. Unfortunately, for Red Sox fans the prior season results have not consistently transferred to Boston; posting a bloated 6.75 ERA in seven starts. Clearly the hefty price tag (pun intended) hasn’t transferred yet to on-field performance commensurate with the spend thus far for the five-time All Star.
Price’s struggles under the white-hot spotlight as Boston’s ace should not come as a total surprise; as the lefty’s postseason performances have left much to be desired. Despite an impressive playoff showing as a rookie in 2008 with Tampa Bay and his one game outing in the 2014 playoffs, Price has struggled mightily since the chill of October air rolls in. Throughout his career, Price has a 2-7 record and 5.12 ERA in 14 postseason outings. Matching up with the league’s elite teams in the fall have not produced positive results; something that the Red Sox apparently placed little credence in when signing him to a contract that will pay out $30 million per season.
One has to wonder; when (or perhaps if) will we will see the pitcher who entered the 2016 campaign with a 3.14 ERA; good for fourth best among active pitchers? Having a couple of bad outings is no reason to be concerned; but when you couple a string of rough outings with a decline in fastball velocity; there could be more at play here than bad pitch selection. Despite all the attention on the struggles, it is Price himself that continues to assert that the burden of being the ace in an intense baseball marker like Boston, or the massive contract signed in the winter have any bearing in the 2016 struggles. Make no mistake, not every start has been a disaster. In fact three of Price’s four wins are considered more then a quality start; surrendering just two runs against Cleveland, Toronto and Atlanta. The only concern should be “why has each good performance followed be an absolute stinker?”.
In recent days, Dustin Pedroia has been vocal about what he believes is a cause of Price’s inconsistency; a simple mechanical change in Price’s delivery from prior seasons could be all the doctor ordered to turn the lefty’s season around. Perhaps that is true, but until consistently strong performances begin to occur, the intense pressure will just mount on a player who says all the right things off the field, but yet to put it together on the diamond. Red Sox fans will have to wait until at least Thursday to witness whether the 2016 struggles can be reversed.
For this life-long Red Sox fan, I will remain positive in my view of Price as the needed piece for another championship season; and that there are still 131 games remaining in the 2015 campaign. In fact barring injury, Price could make another 30 starts in 2016; more than enough to win back Red Sox fans and help us forget what has been put forth to date. If so, this contract will become less of an issue than it appears to be currently.