Monday, July 24, 2017

Red Sox losing big time in Game of Sorry

The “I’m So, So Sorry” Tour of Pablo Sandoval moves to Sacramento on Tuesday after a series of apologies in San Jose and San Francisco over the weekend when he expressed regret for turning on Giants’ fans, players, management, and the manufacturers of silly-looking Panda hats.
He has not, however, apologized to the Boston Red Sox for essentially stealing the final $50 million remaining on the five-year, $105 million free agent contract, and that’s a good thing. The Red Sox are not good with handling situations that demand an apology.
Witness the team’s reaction to the behind-the-scenes David Price/Dennis Eckersley spat a few weeks ago which over the weekend became more public. It cast Price and Red Sox players and their manager, John Farrell, in a bad light, worse than any loss to the Yankees could.
According to a spot-on column by Dan Shaughnessy in the Boston Globe, Price, angry with Eck’s mild criticism of him and his teammates in his role as a Red Sox TV commentator, confronted Eck as he boarded a team charter to Toronto on June 29.  Apparently a four-lettered word – “Yuck” – Eck used to describe pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez’s stats in a minor league rehab pushed Price to act like Trump.
When Eck made his way down the aisle to his seat on the plane, Price blocked him like he was a travel ban and greeted him with a mock declaration “Here he is – the greatest pitcher who ever lived. This game is easy for him.” Price was clearly puffing out his chest and grandstanding in front of his teammates. Puzzled, Eck tried his best to awkwardly defuse the situation, but Price launched his own four-letter response to Eck, “Get the F--- out of here!”
Some of his teammates clapped their approval. Dustin Pedroia, the team captain, did nothing for a team that appears to have a void in leadership and common decency. Although Price and his teammates are technically “professionals” by trade they acted like a clique of high schoolers, a bunch of rich spoiled brats, ganging up on the school nerd. Really? Is this Price vs. Eck or Biff Tannen vs. Marty McFly?
Stunned, Eck, during the flight, was encouraged to relay the incident to the team general manager Dave Drombrowski, who was sitting at the front of the plane. But, as Eck made his way up the aisle past the card—playing Red Sox, Price once again snapped “Get the F--- out of here!”
If ever there was a time for a passenger to truly be pulled out of his seat and dragged off a plane this was it.
A friend close to Eck told me he said it was the “most humiliated” the Hall of Famer pitcher had ever been in the game. And contrary to Price’s lack of historical knowledge despite a Vanderbilt education, the game has NOT been easy for Eck. Price and the Red Sox should know better.
Eck won 20 games in his first season pitching for the Red Sox when his annual salary was just over $152,000, roughly what the team is now paying Price per game whether he pitches in it or not. Eck has failed at marriage and is a recovering alcoholic. He was traded for Bill Buckner, which in some circles is considered a curse in itself. In 1987 the A’s didn’t think Eck could start for them so he was converted into a reliever as a last resort. Five years later, he won the Cy Young Award and the league’s MVP. He pitched until 1998 before ending a 24-year career with the Red Sox. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year on the ballot.
And yet Price – with his $215 million contact and millimeter thick skin -- and his equally entitled teammates treated him like a whipping dog???!!!  Sickening. Appalling. Disgraceful. What a bunch of assholes in an organization that historically has expressed sympathy and empathy and rallied Red Sox Nation.
Since that incident no one in the Red Sox – from the clubhouse to the manager’s office to the front office (with exception of team owner John Henry) – has approached Eck and publicly apologized to him. Farrell has acknowledged they have had “multiple interactions” since the confrontation, but I’m guessing those “interactions” have been death stares or the silent treatment and not a single “I’m sorry this ever happened.” Granted, the manager has to stick up for his players and side with them, but if this an example of the millionaires vs. the media culture that exists in the Red Sox clubhouse – where no one is apparently man enough to lead by example and be above this pettiness – then I am ashamed to be a Red Sox fan.
This is not about one man’s criticism. It is about a man’s one character and respecting that.
I’ve known Eck a little bit, beginning after he was traded to the Cubs when I was a sports columnist in Rockford, IL. My vivid memories of him, however, came in my years covering the A’s.  I witnessed his greatest success and also one of his worst moments. I stood right in front of his locker in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium and listened for almost an hour to him answer every and all questions pitched at him following the agonizing game-losing pitch he served up to Kirk Gibson.  He stood up and took the criticism leveled at him from all directions.
I also remember watching him and his A’s teammates stand up and greet A’s owner Walter Haas before one game when Mr. Haas made his way through the clubhouse. I saw the respect they had for the team owner and the way Eck reached out to shake hands with Mr. Haas, not because it was the hand that paid him, but for the admiration he had for the man.
That’s the Eck I know. He takes criticism when warranted and gives due respect when earned.
I interviewed Eck over breakfast in Marin County one day when he was on the verge of joining New England Sports Network. It was an excellent and convenient way for him to stay in the game and offer his blunt, creative, and unique perspective of it. Remember he was the guy who coined the phrase “Walk-off” homer.
Now, his days as a Red Sox commentator may be numbered, and are certainly uncomfortable with an organization unwilling to apologize to him, much less confront him. The Red Sox mantra about the Eck Wreck is to repeatedly say it’s been handled internally and it’s time to move on which to say they want to sweep it under the rug.
The Red Sox are stuck with Price – come hell or high post-season ERA – so they can’t dump him like they did Sandoval and pay him to get the F--- out of here. Eck loves living in Boston, but there seems to be no other current resolution for him to leave. His daughter lives in the Bay Area and is ready to start a family so Eck is on the verge of having a little Eck or Eckette to be around.  Maybe the Yucking A’s could embrace him and offer him a job for six months out of the year.
I wish there was a better way to resolve this whole f’in mess. At least I’m sorry.