By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — J.D. Martinez signed a big-money free-agent deal with the Boston Red Sox on Monday. He was shortly thereafter warned by a new teammate that he’s sure to get booed by Boston fans.
“Oh yeah, he’ll get booed,” David Price told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “I told J.D. he will love the guys here in this clubhouse, but also told him he’ll get booed. He’s a quiet, soft-spoken guy, but he’ll handle it. Besides, everyone gets booed. I heard Big Papi get booed many times in Fenway.”
Nightengale noted that Price laughed at the start of the comment, but the extrapolation of going forward and talking about David Ortiz getting booed “many times” at Fenway? What in the world is going on in the mind of David Price?
That’s a question that everybody in Boston has been asking basically since he signed the richest contract ever for a pitcher in MLB history prior to the 2016 season. And in the interview with Nightengale, Price attempted to tackle some of those questions head-on. But immediately concluding that J.D. Martinez will get booed in Boston? That’s a bit alarming — especially for somebody who says he likes to focus on positives and not negatives.
“It is tough here. There’s just so much more negativity. I’ve never been one for negative stuff,” Price told Nightengale. “I like surrounding myself by positive people. Even if my wife starts talking negatively, I let her know. I just can’t stand it. I can remember [Vanderbilt] coach [Tim] Corbin is always preaching that positive, positive word, positive vibe, positive environment. I feel like I’m the same way. I try to find the positive in everything. Sometimes, that’s tough.”
Those comments are in line with what Price told reporters last week in Fort Myers.
“We can talk, but you’re not going to just come over and overload me with negativity,” he said.
That’s all well and good in theory. But in practice, he opened last year’s spring training by anticipating that fans would be mad at him for his choice of coffee shop. This year, his first comments after the team signed an impact bat involved a guarantee that Martinez would get booed — just as David Ortiz was booed “many times.” (Fact check: David Ortiz was booed maybe once at Fenway. Even during his dreadful month of April 2010, Fenway was filled mostly with respectful, awkward silence when Ortiz strode to the plate. Plus, Price joined the Red Sox in 2016, Ortiz’s final season. He was not booed once that year.)
Price’s feelings toward the media — and Dennis Eckersley — have been made obvious, but the pitcher has likewise passed on opportunities to say anything positive about the fans who fill the ballpark on a nightly basis from April through October.
After performing well in a relief role in the playoffs and receiving a hearty ovation from the fans in Fenway last October, Price was asked what it meant to him to have the fans show such a high level of appreciation.
“It feels good to put up zeros in the playoffs,’’ he said. “That’s why I signed here. … I think we all understand how good of a team we have in this clubhouse and just focus on today.”
When pressed for more, specifically if he was “feeling the love from the fans,” he said, “Yeah, that was a good performance.”
This year when he got to spring training, he was once again asked about Boston fans. He once again stiff-armed the question.
“Fine. I’ve never said anything about it,” he said. “I know what to expect. I just need to go out and pitch well.’’
Even in the high moments, like a champagne-soaked clubhouse following the clinching of the AL East, Price has managed to blurt out some really cutting comments that spotlight some of his own discontent.
Say whatever you want about Price, but this is an odd course of action for a big-money star player in a passionate baseball market like Boston. His feelings toward the media — relevant or irrelevant as you may decide them to be — are well-established. But he’s also apparently harboring levels of resentment toward the fan base, to the point where he welcomes free-agent signees by telling them they’re going to get booed.
If David Price really did set out to have a more positive experience in 2018, he’s sure got a funny way of showing it.