BOSTON (CBS) — “The ideal scenario would be something like you’ve seen Andrew Miller do.”
– Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, to the Washington Post, talking about the Red Sox’ plans for David Price in the postseason.
For a moment, if only that, set aside the tumult that David Price has lived during his seasons with the Red Sox and ask yourself this:
What if it works?
A mere 10 days remain in this 2017 season for the Red Sox, and the one thing we know for certain at the moment is that the Red Sox will, at least, play a 163rd game, having qualified for the playoffs on Wednesday night in Baltimore. But we’re expecting so much more than that. We’re expecting a division title, which the Red Sox should secure in the coming days. And we are expecting at least a run toward a championship, which is what this entire season has been about, especially since the acquisition of Chris Sale.
And the Red Sox are telling us that Price could be a central figure in all of this, a suggestion that is, at once, indisputably intriguing and unquestionably terrifying.
And so we ask again: what if it works?
Of course, as we all know, the Red Sox are exceptional when it comes to talking out of both sides of their mouths. On Tuesday, Sox manager John Farrell went on MLB Radio and was asked about the possibility of Price becoming his secret weapon in the bullpen, like Miller was a year ago for the Cleveland Indians, and he said the Red Sox were “not ruling it out.” A few hours later, Farrell was asked the same question by a longtime member of the Boston media corps and cut off the question, citing all talk as “premature.”
Then Dombrowski sounded off in the Washington Post, further acknowledging that that the Red Sox at least want to employ Price the same way Cleveland manager Terry Francona did in 2016, when Miller was such a force in the postseason that everyone in baseball now wants to clone him.
Lest anyone have forgotten, let’s remind you: in 10 postseason appearances last year, Miller pitched 19.1 innings, allowing a mere 12 hits, three runs and five walks. He struck out 30, a preposterous 17.9 per nine innings pitched. Miller was the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series, a previously unimaginable achievement for a middle reliever or set-up man. In his first eight appearances of the postseason – during which Cleveland went 8-0 – he did not allow a run.
That is the standard by which he may not be measured.
Can Price replicate those numbers? Probably not, especially considering that his elbow has felt like a time bomb since spring training, when he was labeled a candidate for Tommy John surgery. But we are now where we are. The Red Sox seem to be placing an awful lot on the shoulders of a man who has never won a postseason start and has done little to endear himself to the Boston fan base, whether it be the belittling of popular television analyst Dennis Eckersley or toting around a persecution complex the size of the left field wall.
Price regards himself as a victim, you see, which is a tough thing to sell while possessing the richest pitching contract ($217 million, $31 million per year) in baseball history.
All of that aside, let’s agree on one thing: given what we now know about the Red Sox’ plans, there is no member of the team who has more to gain from this postseason that their erstwhile ace left-hander. Not even Farrell. If Price can go out and give the Red Sox something even remotely comparable to what Miller gave the Indians last year, he will be celebrated and cheered as one of the best stories in baseball this year. And that will be especially true if Boston wins the World Series, which is not as ridiculous as it seems given the talent on the Boston roster.
In their last 110 games, after all, the Red Sox have a winning percentage of .609, a pace that would produce 99 victories over a 162-game schedule. They have been one of the best teams in the game. And while the Red Sox unquestionably have their flaws, they also have the talent to play at a very high level, assuming they are not foolishly running into outs on the bases or flailing at breaking balls off the plate.
All of this brings us back to Price who, in many ways, is the perfect poster boy for these Red Sox: if he can get out of his own way, his talent alone makes him capable of great things. And now the Red Sox are telling us that they have big things in mind for him, that they regard him as a potential secret weapon come October, and the stakes for Price are greater than for any other member of the Red Sox.
If he fails, he will dig himself deeper.
If he succeeds, his past with the Red Sox will be erased.
Either way, his legacy in Boston will be on the line.