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Did Boston turn David Price into a jerk?

The outspoken pitcher seems to be making a lot more noise with the Red Sox.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays
Remember this guy? He seemed pretty friendly.
Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

David Price and the Boston sports media have had a tense relationship since shortly after the ex-Rays ace signed a seven year, $217 million deal with the Red Sox prior to the 2016 season.

Most recently, as the The The Boston Globe reported, he called out NESN broadcaster Dennis Eckersley, a former major league pitcher (and Hall of Famer), who can be critical of players on air. According to the Globe report, Price cursed at Eckersley during a team charter flight last month. (Interesting that that Globe provided a detailed account of this incident, which happened several weeks ago, just yesterday. Interesting, too, that the Globe is owned by John Henry, who also happens to own the Red Sox.)

This is certainly not the first time Price has been publicly at odds with the Boston sports media. Earlier this season, after an ugly loss, he verbally attacked a Boston Herald reporter. And this came after he had announced he would only speak to the media on his pitching days thanks to a season of generally bad blood.

Not only has Price been at war with the Boston media, he has also gotten into some pointless Twitter battles with fans.

Who would have guessed that Price would be in this situation after signing his seven-year, $217 million deal with the Red Sox? (Everyone, of course.)

Mix together the huge contract with high expectations; a pitcher on the wrong side of the aging curve; a Boston fan base and media contingent known for being tough on players who are seen as under-performing. Throw in a dollop of the racial tensions brought to the surface by Adam Jones earlier this year and then add to that Price’s tendency to share his views pretty much unfiltered and you get… a hot mess of accusations and recriminations.

So is the problem here that Price is a “thin-skinned” jerk? We got to wondering whether Price, who spent the majority of his career with the Rays, from his selection in the 2007 draft to his mid-2014 trade, had gotten into these sorts of battles with fans and press while he was here.

The answer is, not really.

To be sure, Price was never a quiet, retiring, “just happy to be here” sort. He was big personality, active on Twitter, sharing information about his daily activities and daily irritations. He, along with Evan Longoria, once get into a bit of controversy by calling out fans for poor attendance in 2010. There was blowback from area residents questioning where two millionaires got off telling folks in an area with a median income of $48,000 how to spend their dollars (which was followed by the Rays offering 20,000 free tickets to the next home game!).

He also lost his cool after a stinging postseason defeat in 2013, bashing the media as “nerds”. But he quickly apologized (and honestly Dirk Hayhurst deserves whatever criticism he gets).

But otherwise we can’t recall any tension between him and the fans or the media. And it’s not as though he didn’t have failures that could have generated some ill will. After all, the team wouldn’t have needed a miraculous Game 162 comeback if Price hadn’t been just awful at the game’s start. Then there was the playoff game against Texas where he allowed a runner to score from second on a simple ground ball not once but TWICE, thus ensuring the loss. So, opportunities for shouting and recrimination were there.

Folks in Detroit and Toronto seemed to like him just fine, too.

But somehow in Boston he becomes the center of an angry media maelstrom.

Now, this post is not meant to excuse Price’s behavior. He is behaving like a petulant bully. Part of being a major leaguer is learning to deal with a critical press and horrible fans. Part of being an adult is managing to behave professionally even in situations where our inner child is throwing a tantrum. Yelling “get the #%$@ out” at a broadcaster, no matter how questionable his takes, is inexcusable. A veteran like Price has to be able to manage his emotions.

But let’s also acknowledge that Boston fans and media seem to relish piling on to players who don’t live up to the highest expectations (and while Price’s two Boston seasons have not been great, they have also not been disasters). When dealing with a guy who doesn’t seem particularly good at tuning out the noise, this sort of impasse would seem to be the logical outcome.