Price-Eckersley Confrontation Comes To The Light

The end of June seemed like ages ago for the Boston Red Sox. They had just come off a sweep and a demolition of the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the confrontation between David Price and Dennis Eckersley that set the Red Sox on a downward spiral they have yet to break free from. Details are coming out from the Price-Eckersley confrontation, and they’re scary.

The friction arose from Eckersley commenting on one of Eduardo Rodriguez’s rehab Price-Eckersley confrontation starts. On the NESN broadcast, the stat line was flashed of Rodriguez’s putrid start in Pawtucket, to which Eckersley said “yuck.” One word. A bit out of the ordinary but not harsh considering the stats. David Price, like he often does, took offense.

In a heroic, righteous act of sticking up for his teammate, Price took matters into his own hands. As Eckersley was boarding the team plane, he saw that Price was waiting for him. What ensued was something out of a John Hughes film. Price (hardened jock in his letterman jacket and backwards cap) went right for Eckersley (nerd type who’s really into computers and is just doing what he’s told). That’s how it goes, right? Not exactly.

Instead of a nerd, Eckersley is the retired jock. In fact, he was one of the best jocks, ten times better than Price. Price goes on to mock Eckersley, sarcastically calling him “the greatest pitcher who ever lived” and saying “the game is easy for him.” When Eckersley tried to get on to his seat, Price told him to “get the f*** out of here.”

It Was Not Easy For Eckersley

I don’t even know where to start with this. Just when you thought Price couldn’t act like more of a child, he pulls this. First, I suppose I’ll start with the “easy” part. Was the game easy for Dennis Eckersley? About as easy as learning an entire Cicero oration in a day. Let’s dive in on how “easy” Eck’s career was, shall we?

Does anyone remember why he was traded to the Red Sox in the first place? It was because his wife cheated on him with one of his teammates. Anyone remember why he hardly ever does road trips? Well, he’s a recovering alcoholic who tries to avoid the temptations of the road. He has dealt with it for decades. Alcoholism is supposedly also the reason why his brother got a 40 year prison sentence for attempted murder and kidnapping. Now on his third wife, Eck has a lot of time in retirement to reflect on his “easy” career.

That’s not even the end of it. When Price made these remarks, some of his teammates began to applaud. That is the scariest part. If David Price is the clubhouse leader of this team, they are going NOWHERE. He is a child. Not a leader. He is not David Ortiz. If he is the voice of the clubhouse, the Red Sox are going in a very bad direction. Not only is Eckersley faultless here, he’s also Dennis freaking Eckersley. Furthermore, he’s not some putz like Dan Shaughnessy or Pete Abraham or even me. He played the game. As a matter of fact, he dominated it. This is the wrong guy to go after.

Red Sox Aren’t Handling The Price-Eckersley Confrontation Right

After all this, Eckersley has reportedly not received an apology from Price or the Red Sox on the matter. I’ll tell you what, this organization is painting a bad picture for itself this month. With the lackluster play on the field, no apology for Eckersley and trashing WEEI and accusing their fan base of blanket racism, it hasn’t been a charming few weeks. I am beginning to wonder just what is going on with our baseball team. This can’t stem all from David Ortiz’s retirement, right? Right?

This should be alarming for you, Red Sox fans. Price has had a good year on the mound (save Saturday’s disaster in Anaheim), but his off-the-field antics are crossing the line. If you defend this guy’s attitude, you are the poster child of the new era Boston pink hats. Not that he has said anything, but I’m also pretty sure Eduardo Rodriguez can take this criticism. So how about these guys focus less on the NESN broadcast and a little more on winning baseball games. Let’s see if that works.

Ortiz Declines Ceremony in Tampa

As the regular season dwindles down, David Ortiz experiences his final stops in Major League cities. Each final go-around brings about a new ceremony for Big Papi; creative gifts and giant checks have come home with Ortiz seemingly every road trip. This Sunday, however, Ortiz chose to focus on a more serious matter in his final stop to Tropicana Field: his late friend Jose Fernández.

The baseball world was shaken Sunday morning with news of the death of one of its budding Ortiz declines ceremonyyoung stars, José Fernández of the Miami Marlins. Fernández was one of the best young pitchers in the game, winning the Rookie of the Year in 2013. His meteoric rise often drew comparisons to Pedro Martinez, Sandy Koufax, and Clayton Kershaw. The 24-year old Cuban defector had plenty of character outside of baseball, too. He was once imprisoned for trying to leave Cuba and, once he was able to leave, he saved his own mother from drowning on the voyage to America.

Fernández was killed in a boating accident around 3 AM along with two other friends. The news spread around the sports world, effecting not only the Marlins but Miami, as well as all of baseball. In the Red Sox clubhouse, no one was more likely effected than the retiring designated hitter.

Ortiz and Fernández were good friends; the young star idolized Big Papi growing up. Ortiz and Fernández’s friendship was on full display in this summer’s All-Star Game in San Diego. Fernández reportedly told him he’d “groove him” a pitch that he could hit, but instead walked him. The two exchanged laughs and Ortiz even tried to convince him to come to Boston in free agency.

Ortiz Defers The Day To Fernández

Of course Ortiz was stricken with grief as he prepared for his final game in Tampa Bay. Instead of an elaborate on-field ceremony, as has become customary, Ortiz said he’d rather accept his gifts privately, leaving the day to celebrate Fernández. To honor him, he put the initials “JF 16” on his hat. Every team held a moment of silence in memory and Ortiz got emotional in the Red Sox dugout.

As far as his gifts, Ortiz got an oil painting of his 500th home run which he hit in Tampa last September, and 34 handmade cigars. They were presented to him in the bowels of the Trop by Evan Longoria and Chris Archer of the Rays. So, say what you want about these retirement tours and David Ortiz, but he definitely let his class take over this time. For Big Papi, and so many around the MLB, Sunday was a shocking reminder of the fragility of life and he handled it in the classiest way he could have.

Kudos to you, Papi.

Can David Ortiz Win the Triple Crown?

More than a third of the baseball season is now complete, and David Ortiz is enjoying a sensational start. At the age of 40, Big Papi is arguably hitting better than at any point of his distinguished career, leading many to question his decision to retire in the forthcoming fall. Right now, Ortiz seems pretty adamant about hanging up his spikes, and while that will disappoint Red Sox fans, their beloved slugger is on track to post another historic campaign in 2016.

David Ortiz

Across baseball, we’re witnessing a shift in demographic, as one generation walks off into the twilight and another rises to Major League domination. This game is now defined by young stars like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, with an underclass featuring exciting players such as Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Correa and Mookie Betts, among others. In short, baseball is becoming a young man’s game, which makes the continued dominance of David Ortiz all the more satisfying. On the whole, even getting league average production from such an old player would be considered advantageous. That David Ortiz is still one of the most valuable stars in baseball almost defies belief.

David Ortiz: Triple Crown Contender

It may seem unlikely, but Big Papi has to be considered a contender for the Triple Crown this season. At the moment, he is hitting .338 on the season, good for third in the American League. Victor Martinez is second at .341, while Xander Bogaerts, Papi’s own teammate, leads the circuit at .346. David Ortiz is a lifetime .285 hitter, and he has always been much more than a free-swinging Goliath at the dish. Still, he may encounter difficulty sustaining such a lofty average as the long season unfurls and the league gradually adjusts.

Ortiz has benefited from a .340 batting average on balls in play this season, way up on his career mark, which attributes some of his success to luck. Similarly, David is pulling the ball more than at any point since 2005, according to Fangraphs, and that may play into the defensive shift as time moves on. Yet, in a positive sense, Ortiz is hitting the ball hard 47.2% of the time, the best mark of his career, and his fly-ball percentage has also never been higher. Naturally, that makes for a lot of extra-base hits, negating the shift altogether.

In terms of home runs, David Ortiz currently has 16, which again ranks third in the American League. Todd Frazier has 19, with Mark Trumbo leading the way on 20. While those are formidable rivals, Ortiz is likely to compete with them throughout the summer. In his career, Papi has a .557 slugging percentage in the second half of seasons, up from .546 in first half. Age may take its toll as the exhausting season progresses, but Ortiz is typically a better power hitter after the All-Star break. That gives him a tremendous chance of leading the league in homers.

The final Triple Crown category, RBI, is David’s strength. He’s driven in 55 runs so far in 2016, seven more than second-place Robinson Cano, who has also played six more games than Ortiz. With a potent Red Sox lineup leading all of baseball in on-base percentage, Ortiz should have plenty of opportunities to extend his RBI lead, which makes this his safest category by far.

Can Big Papi Do It?

Expecting anybody to win the Triple Crown is ludicrous. The American League has only ever had ten winners of the prestigious award, with Miguel Cabrera the last to attain it in 2012. David Ortiz definitely has a shot, but he will likely be thwarted by some combination of fatigue and adjustments by opposing pitchers and defenders.

However, the mere fact that we’re even discussing the possibility of a 40-year old slugger contending for a Triple Crown in his final season is remarkable in itself. We should just savor the remaining months of David Ortiz, and worry about the accolades later.

Will Ortiz Actually Retire?

There’s no doubt that David Ortiz is having one of the best seasons of his career. With 9 home runs, 29 RBIs, and a batting average over .320 in the wake of a three game series against the Oakland Athletics, many in the Red Sox nation are asking: Will Ortiz actually retire at the end of the season?

“No, I’m retiring,” Ortiz told ESPN in a tone suggesting that he’s dead set on making his season his last. While he’s onWill Ortiz Actually Retire track to post great numbers this season, probably with an all-star appearance thrown in for good measure, Ortiz wouldn’t be the first Red Sox player to finish his career on a good note. In 1960, at the age of 41, Ted Williams finished the final season of his career in Boston with a .316 batting average and 29 home runs, including a home run in his last at-bat. Even Babe Ruth left Boston with high numbers in 1919 by leading the American League in runs, home runs, and RBIs before going to the New York Yankees. Yes, leaving Boston on a high note seems to be a tradition for seasoned Sox players.

Many who believe that Ortiz is retiring after this season point to the idea that he most likely wants to finish his career on a high note. After all, many players in the Baseball Hall of Fame played a few years too long and their career batting averages took a hit as a result.  On top of wanting to leave on a high note, there’s also the idea that there’s really nothing left for David Ortiz to accomplish. Of course, he could stay on and break Ted William’s team home run record of 521, but that would be a drop in the bucket compared to the accolades he’s already accumulated in his career. Ortiz has three World Series rings, he’s in the 500 Home Run Club, he’ll be a shoe-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021, and his status as a Red Sox legend is already etched in stone.

So when people ask me, “Will Ortiz actually retire?” I’ll say yes, because the man has done his job for Boston and it’s time for him to move on to other things in his life.

Ortiz Celebrations Overdone? Not So Much

The worst argument of all-time: “They’re doing anything for a buck.” I’ll defeat that argument right now: We all are. You’re no Sherlock Holmes if you determine that a for-profit business wants to make money. This discussion has come up a lot lately on Yawkey Ortiz celebrationsWay. The Red Sox in the home-opener against Baltimore Monday, April 11, began what will be seven months of David Ortiz celebrations. The Red Sox are honoring, pretty much serenading, the slugger who’s playing in the last of his 20 Major League Baseball seasons.

They’ll have themes for upcoming games, all kinds of apparel and are sure to do dozens of events and marketing campaigns around the slugger’s swan song season.

My take: So what?

You hear the cries from the fellowship of the misery in and around Yawkey Way: “This is too much.” “They’re all about the money.” “Even Yaz didn’t have this.” The naysayers think they’ve cracked the code on the Red Sox and ownership: They just care about making a buck and filling the seats.

Farewell Tour: Are the Ortiz Celebrations Too Much?

Guess what? You’re right. This is a business. They do marketing. They practice commerce transactions. The sell tickets. They want revenue. They care about other things outside the baseball diamond. If that means leveraging the face of their brand as often as possible this season, I say go for it. Call it overdone, over the top.

The fact is, most Red Sox fans will eat up each and every Ortiz celebration. They’ll buy the T-Shirts and bobbleheads. They’ll post pictures in hashtag campaigns.This is called customer engagement.The Red Sox are smart. They have a great marketing and events team (I recently interviewed one of their events executives).

I say let them do their jobs. And let the Ortiz good times roll, flyovers, bobbleheads and all.