Many couldn’t forgive him for yelling at Red Sox great and NESN broadcast analyst David Eckersley on the team plane. After that, Price became the symbol for all things deplorable about the 2017 Red Sox. And there was plenty to dislike.
A lot of that disdain also stemmed from Price’s contract, a $217 million deal which still towers ominously over his underwhelming statistics and performances. His two disappointing seasons have led to backlash from media and fans. That has led to apparent frustration from Price. And the cycle has continued like a washing machine filled with — what else? — dirty water.
Everyone was to blame.
But Price turned a corner in the 2017 postseason. Relatively fresh off an injury, he pitched well, albeit from the bullpen. In the ALDS, he threw 6 2/3 innings with no earned runs. That’s a tremendous improvement for Price, who has long been maligned for stinking in the postseason. (Example A: his ERA in 2016 was 13.50. He made it 3 1/3 innings in his lone playoff appearance.) So it didn’t matter Price wasn’t starting, which is what his mega deal was paying him to do. He was doing enough to quiet criticism, if only for a playoff series.
So for a brief period, the Boston media market and its fans shifted their focus away from Price. They could root for the Sox without rooting against Price. They could root for their new ace, Chris Sale. They could root for their new stud, Andrew Benintendi. They could root for quiet veteran Mookie Betts.
Perhaps it was a sign of things to come.
Price is set to log his first start for the Sox in the 2018 season on Friday. The Sox opened their season on Thursday with a brutal collapse in Tampa where the Rays found a way to put up six runs in the eighth inning on the way to a win over the Sox. After that ugly season-opener, Price can get Boston their first win of the season. The left-handed starter can get things moving in a positive direction for the team, for the fanbase and for himself.
Boston will never love Price. But maybe, the city will learn not to mock his monotone interviews every afternoon on sports talk radio. Maybe he won’t be the punching bag for a roster where the jabs could probably get better distributed. And maybe that will diminish Price’s likeness to Oscar the Grouch.
Maybe — just maybe — Price and Boston can learn to get along.