BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox swept the Rays over the weekend at Fenway Park, keeping alive a now-seven-game winning streak and dropping the Rays to 10.5 games out of first place in the AL East.
But it wasn’t just between the lines that the two clubs went at it, as David Price revived a feud with David Ortiz — a beef that was believed to have been squashed but turned out to be very much alive.
In the event that you missed any of the back-and-forth, here’s a brief recap.
It started on Friday night. MLB had let the umpiring crew know ahead of time that some funny business may occur, considering the benches cleared between these two teams just last Sunday. That benches-clearing incident came when Yunel Escobar took third on a defensive indifference and then took offense to whatever chirping was coming from the Boston dugout. Escobar then acted as if he wanted to fight the entire Red Sox team, when in actuality he made great effort to grab Tampa Bay’s third base coach and hide behind him at all costs. Jonny Gomes came in from left field and offered an impolite shove or two, and then a bunch of baseball players ran at each other pretending like they were actually going to do something. They weren’t, and nothing happened.
Nevertheless, in baseball, that counts as a noteworthy event, so umpire Jeff Kellogg and his crew were warned ahead of time to be on the lookout for any carryover from that “incident.”
Sure enough, it didn’t take long for it to pop up, as Price — the man with pinpoint control who has walked just nine batters in 84.1 innings pitched this year — threw a fastball directly at Ortiz’s hip.
Home plate umpire Dan Bellino thought the pitch was obviously intentional, as he immediately charged toward the mound to offer a warning to Price as well as one to the Red Sox dugout. That prompted John Farrell to lose his top while arguing with Bellino in what became a rather heated affair. The Red Sox eventually won on a walk-off triple by A.J. Pierzynski in the bottom of the 10th.
Yet as it turned out, Price’s pitch to Ortiz wasn’t about the Escobar “incident” from Sunday. Price’s anger stretched all the way back to Oct. 5, 2013. That was Game 2 of the ALDS at Fenway Park, and that was the afternoon when Ortiz hit two homers off Price. It was the second homer — a solo shot in the eighth inning — that irked Price, as Ortiz remained in the batter’s box for several seconds to see if the ball would stay fair or go foul before running. It was ruled fair, and Ortiz began his trot, but not before enraging Price. The pitcher complained after the game that night, but he and Ortiz later talked things out. Ortiz believed it was a dead issue, but Friday night proved it was very much alive to Price.
And so, Ortiz had this to say about Price after Friday night’s incident:
“I have a lot of respect for the guy, man, but it’s over. I’ve got no more respect for him,” Ortiz said of Price. “Last year, we kicked his ass in the playoffs, he went off, talking [expletive] about everybody, Tom Verducci and everybody, players. We kind of got to talk on the phone, we kind of straightened things out. He was kind of upset, you know, and me as a veteran, I kind of let him know how things go in this game and later on, he called me and apologized, because he knew he was wrong. He apologized in public, he apologized to myself and everything, and everything was cool.
“So first at-bat of the season against him, he drills me. That means it’s a war. It’s on. Next time he hits me, he better bring the gloves on. I have no respect for him no more.”
Ortiz wasn’t done. Not nearly.
“I was surprised for a minute until I watched the video. I thought everything was cool. You can’t be acting like a little girl out there. I mean, you’re not going to win all the time. When you give it up, that’s an experience for the next time. But if you’re going to be acting like a little bitch … sometimes you give it up, bounce back like that and put your teammates in jeopardy, that’s going to cost you.
“I respect everybody in this league, and I get a certain respect from everybody. And if you’re mad because I took you deep twice, let me let you know that I’ve got almost 500 homers in this league. That’s part of the game, son.
“He knows he screwed up. He did that on his own. No manager [told him to do it], no player was comfortable with the situation. He did that on his own, which is bull [expletive]. He can get somebody else hurt. You can’t be doing that [expletive].”
That was, quite clearly, a lot for Ortiz to get off his chest.
Price, for his part, barely talked at all about Ortiz on Friday night. But on Saturday, when given the time to process all of Ortiz’s remarks, Price decided to launch a verbal counterattack on Ortiz in a pregame interview with Fox’s Ken Rosenthal.
“It’s just the way he’s been, I guess,” Price said of Ortiz. “It’s just — nobody’s bigger than the game of baseball, and sometimes the way he acts out there, he kind of looks like he’s bigger than the game of baseball. That’s not the way it is, that’s not the way it goes. I definitely had tremendous amounts of respect for Big Papi. He’s probably going to go down as the greatest DH to ever play this game, and for somebody like that I feel like you have to have respect for that person. But, you know, I guess that’s how it goes.”
Price all but admitted he hit Ortiz on purpose, because the pitcher said definitively he did not mean to hit Mike Carp with a pitch later in the game. Price also zeroed in on Ortiz’s use of the word “war” when describing his personal battle with the pitcher.
“This is a game. This is a game,” Price repeated. “We have troops, men and women, that are fighting for our freedom and making sure that we stay safe that I guess could be prepared for a real war. And that’s not acceptable; this is not a war, by no means. This is a game that we play and sometimes it definitely gets heated in that battle, but to compare it to a war, he probably just didn’t have the right choice of words right there.”
This part of the response from Price was undeniably weak. Obviously, Ortiz was not suggesting that he and Price were like soldiers fighting an actual war. Ortiz simply meant he’s willing to throw fists with the pitcher, should it come to that. Price, who went to Vanderbilt and should therefore be pretty smart, failed to understand that the definition of war does not always include trained armies, bombs and guns. It can mean “a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism,” which is no doubt present in this little baseball battle that’s currently playing out.
Speaking of that word, Price himself referred to his beef with Ortiz as a “battle.” The first definition of “battle” in Merriam-Webster says it’s “a military fight between groups of soldiers, ships, airplanes, etc.” Oh no, David Price — looks like you didn’t have the right choice of words either, I guess.
On the other hand, Ortiz’s outrage over getting hit in the hip was without a doubt over the top. He’s not the first baseball player to get hit on purpose, but he sure acted like it. Rather than going on the expletive-laden tirade (which was admittedly a very entertaining spectacle to watch), Ortiz would have been better served to take his own advice, treat it as “an experience for next time,” and try to hit a homer next time he digs in against Price. Instead, Ortiz showed once again that nobody on this planet hates getting hit with baseballs more than David Ortiz hates getting hit with baseballs.
Despite the nonviolent “war” of words, Price said he didn’t mind Ortiz’s strong language.
“It didn’t bother me, to be honest. It just didn’t bother me,” Price told Rosenthal. “I know I’m not going to have respect from everybody, and that’s OK. I learned a long time ago that not everybody’s going to respect you, not everybody’s going to like you, and that’s just part of it.”
In this installment of The Battle of The Davids, it was Ortiz who laughed last, with the Red Sox winning all three games and sending Tampa to the depths of the AL East cellar. Unfortunately, the next chapter won’t come until their next meeting, which won’t take place until July 25. If there was enough anger for this feud to carry over from October until late May, chances are we could see some more fireworks in late July.
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