By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Dennis Eckersley is ready for the sideshow to end.
After unwittingly being embroiled in an off-field controversy with Red Sox pitcher David Price, Eckersley has largely kept quiet about the matter. But on Thursday night, in his return to the NESN booth as color commentator, he briefly addressed the controversy that has surrounded him and the team in recent weeks.
“I don’t want to bebop around it. It’s been brutal really, because it’s a very unfortunate set of circumstances,” Eckersley said. “But I think everybody wants to move on. I’m the guy that wants to move on. And the fans, I want to say the fans have been great. The support that they’ve given me is incredible. But let’s move on — the Red Sox are trying to win.”
Eckersley was addressing the story by Dan Shaughnessy which revealed exactly how Price confronted Eckersley on a team flight in late June.
As Shaughnessy wrote, upon Eckersley’s arrival on the plane, Price announced, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’
And as Eckersley tried to respond, Price added, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’
Later on the flight, while Eckersley was making his way down the aisle, Price again shouted, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’
Price spoke on Saturday and did not apologize for any of his comments, instead suggesting that Eckersley had become a more positive broadcaster since the confrontation. Price also criticized Eckersley for never being in the Red Sox clubhouse and said that visiting players text players on the Red Sox roster, commenting in disbelief at how critical Eckersley is of Red Sox players.
A few days later, after Eckersley returned from Cooperstown for the annual Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the Red Sox happened to be honoring him in the Legends Suite. He spoke to Shaughnessy that night and said he decided to reject the team’s efforts to set up a meeting between him and Price.
Price, 31, is in the second year of a seven-year, $217 million contract with the Red Sox — the richest contract ever for a pitcher. He stated that his confrontation with Eckersley was a case of him standing up for his teammtes, but Felger & Massarotti have shared some audio which involved Eckersley being critical of Price’s slow pace on the mound. Among starting pitchers, Price is tied with Yu Darvish for taking the most time between pitches from 2015-17 at 26 seconds per pitch.
In 46 starts with the Red Sox, he owns a 3.95 ERA. He’s currently on the disabled list.
While all parties appear ready to move on, the extended midsummer saga is unlikely to be forgotten.