By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
What a waste of a weekend.
As disheartening it was to lose a game due to the ego of an umpire on Friday night, Saturday’s loss with their presumed ace on the mound – getting pounded by a lineup that ranks 27th in runs scored in Major League Baseball – is the type of loss that can suck the soul from a team.
By all accounts, no matter how early it is in the season; David Price has not been right since he has come to Boston.
The scouts will tell you that he is down in velocity by two or three miles an hour, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The aura that comes with a leader of a starting staff who knows he can carry a team, stop losing streaks and extend winning streaks is gone; and his teammates know it.
Forget what is said by the players after a game, it is what takes between the lines that means the most. And right now, what is taking place when Price takes the mound is frightening.
He has been just plain bad.
Up until now, many have been willing to give Price a pass because of his pedigree and the lousy weather the team has played in, for the most part, when he has pitched. However, when you get beat up by a team that you should bury two times in a row through the rotation, questions need to be asked.
Will he get his velocity back? If he doesn’t, will he be able to adapt enough to maintain his previous status as one of the best pitchers in baseball?
And lastly – and perhaps most importantly – can he handle pitching on a big stage like he has been put on in Boston?
Some may snicker at that last question, but it is a valid one. Given the fact that the team has finished in last place three out of the last four years, Boston is becoming more like what it was prior to 2004, rather than the idyllic place that had unicorns behind every rainbow, and everyone sang “Sweet Caroline” in unison with the pink hats regardless of the score every night at Fenway Park in the mid to late ‘oughts.
Price was brought to Boston not only to win, but to change the culture of a pitching staff that was desperately in need of a leader. And while he might be the best teammate anyone could ask for, if he doesn’t deliver on the mound, anything he says or does off it is sure to fall upon deaf ears.
The Sox staff leader looked like a beaten man as he walked off the mound in the fifth inning of Saturday’s drubbing by the Yankees at the house that Ruth has never seen. He exposed a bullpen that just two days ago had been asked to go six innings in relief, instead of saving it like an ace is supposed to do.
Imagine how Sox owner John Henry must feel after he allowed team president Dave Dombrowski to break his personal commandment of not paying big money to starting pitchers at or over the age of 30. Instead of closing his wallet to such deals as he had in the past, he broke out his checkbook to the tune of $217 million guaranteed over seven years, to a guy, he is watching meltdown before his eyes in the first year of his deal.
Despite the pluck and tenaciousness that the Sox line up has shown, nothing can rip the heart out of a team quicker than to know that there is not one starter in the rotation they can rely on to shut opponents down in at least one out of the five days on the schedule.
David Price is lost right now, just as the velocity on his bread and butter fastball has been since the start of the season. The hopes that just a couple of days ago were so high for this young Red Sox team will go the way their 30 million-dollar man goes, and his teammates know it.
Price’s next start on Thursday against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park could be a litmus test for the way the Sox summer will play out. If he can right the ship and show his teammates that he is the guy he is being paid to be, then all may be well again in Boston.
However, if he can’t, he might want to phone his old buddy from Tampa Bay, Carl Crawford, and ask him which pizza delivery place in the area won’t throw the pie at you when you answer your door.