David Price, over his seven seasons in a Rays uniform, was the best pitcher in Tampa Bay franchise history on a per-game or per-season basis.
King David accumulated 22.5 WAR and 82 wins in 170 starts for Tampa Bay, with a franchise record 3.19 ERA, 3.33 FIP, and 1.15 WHIP (not to mention his best overall 16.2% K-BB). He is second only to James Shields in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts, as well as cumulative WAR. If wins and losses are your bread and butter, the sole Cy Young Award winner in team history is also the only 20-win pitcher the Rays have ever had.
For a guy who was relatively mild-mannered in his approach to the game and his leadership among the players, in my mind, his career with the Rays will always be book-ended by adrenaline.
Prior to his rookie season as a starter, the Rays promoted the 2007 first overall pick to the bullpen in late September of the 2008 playoff campaign, carrying him along for the seven games against the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.
After pitching one out in the game one loss, David Price was credited with his first major league victory in game 2 of the ALCS, an eleven inning affair and a 9-8 Rays win. David Price would not be called upon again until game 7 with two outs in the eighth inning against the reigning World Series champions. After seven masterful innings of one-run ball by Matt Garza, skipper Joe Maddon had burned through three reliable relievers for just two outs. This was David Price's moment:
Bases loaded for J.D. Drew, it's the eighth inning with two outs at Tropicana Field, and Price the rookie would strike him out swinging on four pitches, with the calmest look in his eyes you've ever seen. Joe Maddon let the fireballing southpaw return for the ninth, and David Price earned the most important save in team history.
The Rays had won the pennant.
Physically, I'd never seen a pitcher throw harder. Every baseball Price muscled into the strike zone, his arm seemed to pitch way ahead of his body, but with such intimidating command, and no signs pressure showing in his body language. My heart pounds remembering it, the sweet triumph that dog-piled at the mound.
Then there was the historic 'Game 163,' the play-in game for the postseason's newly devised wild card format in 2013. Facing the Texas Rangers -- the Rays' playoff foe -- and defending the Rays from a not-so-trustworthy bullpen, David Price went the distance.
Scattering eight base runners, Price worked comfortably through 118 pitches, allowing two runs but never relinquishing the lead. The final frame culminated in a fly to left field from Adrian Beltre, then two groundouts up the middle and another raucous celebration at the mound.
David Price was simply masterful for the Tampa Bay Rays, a deserving first overall draft pick, and a player with an infectious personality and love of the game. I wish him all the success in the world, and like James Shields before him, I wish he could have found it here.
Brett: I was on vacation in Philadelphia the night of Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS.
I was in high school and still lived with my parents then, and was still more or less new to the whole "baseball fandom" thing. I'd been a quasi-fan since 2005 but I doubt I'd have been able to name more 10 players on the team before the Run of '08. I know I'm dating myself here, but before we left I'd been more excited to go to Hershey Park than anything else, yet the night we got there I couldn't stop looking at my crappy scratched powder blue Nokia phone that I'd dropped on the ground more times than I can remember.
I don't need to tell you all about what it was like to be up 3-1 in the series against the Sox, just to see the bullpen blow it in Game 5, lose in Game 6, and be down early on in Game 7. But what I have that other, longer-tenured fans might not have had was the best, most miraculous first impression of David Price you could possibly imagine.
I didn't know anything about draft picks and farm teams. I had no idea who this guy was, who looked like he came out of nowhere and didn't look much older than some college students I've met. Who is he? Why is he coming in right now? Holy crap, how fast was that last pitch?
David Price was Moses. David Price struck out J.D. Drew with a runner on second and parted the Red Sea. In the ninth inning he walked a lead-off batter just so it would hurt even more when he slammed the sea wall down even harder. I remember throwing my arms up when watching the game on TV exactly when Price did, exactly when Iwamura took the ball to second and leapt into the World Series, and wondering if that meant something.
Price was (is, dammit!) the exuberance at achieving the impossible. He was the show-stopper, the thing that came out of nowhere and turned into something you never thought was there but really always was there.
The next day we left through Philly's airport. I was wearing a Rays cap and for the first time in my life, I got heckled. At the terminal for the flight back home, half the people there were wearing dark blue Rays gear. It was the most blue I'd seen outside Tropicana at one time in my life. My God I loved it.
Erik: My favorite memory is going to be the same as a lot of folks. The 2008 season was the most fun I've ever had as a sports fan, climaxing in game 7 of the ALCS. Even more fun than the Bucs' Super Bowl or Lightning's Stanley Cup.
I watched it with Tommy Rancel on a TV hanging in the concourse of the Party Deck. Yes, we were live at the game and were watching it on a tiny TV while pitches were being thrown a few hundred feet to our right. For as analytical and logical as we are, we're still sports fans and that carries with it a sizeable amount of superstition.
We were talking on that part of the concourse when the Rays scored their first run, so obviously we couldn't leave. We watched nearly every inning from there, only taking peeks at the field late in the game to see if David Price was warming up.
I'm a single man with no children, so seeing Iwamura step on second base remains the happiest moment of my young life. And it was all thanks to the flame throwing rookie from Tennessee.
Allie: I didn't expect to be as upset as I was.
When there was even the slightest bit of chatter or thought that Carlos Pena and BJ Upton were going to be traded or not have contracts renewed, I was crushed. Heartbroken, even. The memory of BJ crying into the towel in the dugout is forever etched into my memory; I don't care what all the haters say, that was really rough for me and one of those moments where I realized just how much I care about this silly little baseball team.
With David Price, I didn't feel as much attachment, and the talks of his unavoidable trade began so long ago that I kind of shook off all the rumors building up to the deadline. The Rays had been winning in true Rays fashion the past month, seeming to attempt a comeback of historical entities, and Friedman and Co. would certainly show their faith, as they had in years past, and do whatever they could to keep DP on the roster for this run...right? Right. Heck, read my Tank from the morning of July 31st - no part of me thought he wouldn't be anywhere but in the dugout flicking seeds come Friday.
So, when the Thursday afternoon wave of rumors started, then confirmations of the trade occurred, I went from pure disbelief to genuine sadness/confusion and ended up wallowing in a puddle of crushed spirits.
That all being said, the 2008 playoffs will forever be such a magical memory that I will hold near and dear to my sports loving heart for the rest of my life, and DP played a huge role in that. Almost six years later, nothing has been like that night at the Trop for me. The buzz, the roar, the energy. It was unlike anything else I've ever experienced.
I can still conjure images of that final out of the 2008 ALCS on cue, but just for everyone's else's sake, here ya go:
Just from the first 30 seconds of the opening reel I get goosebumps. The best.
Jump to the 2:40 mark for the part that solidifies David Price in my Rays memories. Despite the outcome of that World Series, the final out of that ALCS captured all the hope we'd carried for years and the belief that began that Spring Training, that something unlike anything else was bound to occur. That was the first night as a fan that I realized how in love I was with the game. The final out still overwhelms me, and to DP, I'll be forever grateful. Thank you for allowing me to realize how much I could care about baseball.
Hatfield: I first met David Price at his annual charity dinner in 2012. I consider myself to be a fairly even-keeled and composed individual. I've spent time with and around minor celebrities and athletes before. I deal with immensely wealthy and influential people all the time. I'm not star-struck often. But when I met DP, all of that failed me. I was a teenage girl at a Bieber concert.
See, Price isn't just another athlete to me. Price is an enigma. That lanky frame and mound composure bordering on arrogance. Those perfectly executed pitches. I remember following him closely as he rose through the Rays system. I watched him come up and be everything we hoped and dreamed he would be and more.
I didn't fully realize how much of a David Price fan I was until I went to shake his hand that night. There was sweat. There was shaking. I dropped my program and my pen. It was not my best moment. But he laughed, then we laughed. I recovered. He chatted with my wife and I and was gracious enough to take pictures with us.
I've got so many great memories of David Price from my seats at the Trop or down in Port Charlotte, from the view from my couch or a bar stool... but the one I remember most fondly was the most personal and most embarrassing.
David Price can count himself among a small handful of people who caused me to completely lose my cool... just by being himself. Man, I'm gonna miss this dude.
Ian: David Price won the Cy Young award in 2012 on the back of 211 excellent innings of 2.56 ERA baseball, backed up by a 3.05 FIP and a groundball rate over 50%. It's easy to remember the season as a string of continuous dominance where Price, the machine, blew away opposing lineups with his blazing fastball and three secondary pitches, working deep into games and giving the Rays a great chance to win every five days. That describes most of the season, but my favorite David Price memory is from his fourth start -- before he mastered the dominance Rays fans would come to expect -- when Price showed the world that he was human.
His first three starts were rough. In the first game of the season, he walked four Yankees. For his second start, he got shelled in Fenway, and only made it through three innings. He next pitched five and two thirds decent innings in Toronto, but the strikeouts weren't there. With the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim coming to The Trop, Rays fans were beginning to doubt.
April 24 is an important date for David Price. One of his closest friends, Tyler Morrissey was killed in a car crash on that day in 2008. He has the date, along with another when his friend Nathan Stephens collapsed and died on a basketball court, stitched into his glove. And you could see that it mattered in Price's demeanor on the mound. He was focused to the point of ignoring the field around him. He fired strike after strike into Jose Molina's glove, mixing his pitches and always keeping the Angels off balance, but it almost seemed the Angels weren't there.
When Price walked off the mound nine innings, 119 pitches, one walk, five hits, six strikeouts, and no runs later, he looked shell-shocked and exhausted, but Rays fans everywhere knew that it was okay to believe. Price was just like us, only much better at pitching. A human with emotional weaknesses and emotional strengths, for whom a game in April could matter so much more than the notch in the win column. Of course that's a big part of what we're looking for as sports fans, but we don't actually get to see it that often. It's this game, more than any of his more masterful performances, that will always keep me a David Price fan.
Stephanie: I'd be lying if I said that I'm okay with the Rays trading away David Price to the Tigers. He was one of my favorite players and I am still saddened by his departure to Detroit.
David was always so friendly to me during all of our interactions over the years. From the time that I randomly tweeted him one morning asking if he could leave me tickets to the Rays/Yankees game that evening at Yankee Stadium (and he did), to Rays FanFest this year where he autographed my picture of him (personalized it AND put 2012 Cy Young Winner) and then took a picture with me afterwards, which little to my knowledge was also photographed by a Tampa Tribune photographer.
I checked Twitter a little bit later to see the following tweet on Price's timeline:
However, my favorite memory of David Price is of him helping me campaign for the MLB FanCave.
At Joe Maddon's Thanksmas event, Price and James Shields filmed a little video with me telling the MLB FanCave to select me as a Rays representative. Price then took to Twitter to continue his campaigning for me by retweeting links to the videos I was making, tweeting out his own pleas to the MLB FanCave to select me, and then telling everyone to vote for me when I had made the top 50 last year.
I couldn't thank him enough for everything that he did to help me out with that adventure. Even though I didn't advance further than the top 50, I was overjoyed with the support that I was given by Price and the other Rays players who helped endorse me and my efforts to represent Tampa Bay Rays fans in New York City.
Seeing David Price introduced in a Tigers uniform this weekend was not easy. It was very weird and something I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing. Perhaps I was delusional in thinking that Price would stay in a TB uniform for his entire career, but I definitely didn't think it would be this soon that we would see him in a different one.
David, thank you for everything that you did for me, and other fans, while you were with the Rays, and I wish you nothing but the best on your new journey with Detroit. I'll see you at Joker Marchant Stadium in the Spring! I'll be the one in Rays gear.