Buckley: Dustin Pedroia proclaims himself the leader, but his defense of David Price rings hollow
For anyone who might be wondering if the Red Sox have a leader, Dustin Pedroia stepped forward yesterday and pronounced himself the man in charge.
“Nothing is going to divide this team,” said the veteran second baseman, his eyes laser-focused, his words clear and defiant.
“For whatever people say from the outside — ‘We don’t have a leader’ — I’m standing right here,” he said. “I’ve been here for a long time. We’re in first place. That’s it.
“Write what you guys want. Here I am. See anybody else standing here doing this? Do you? Nope. That’s a fact. There’s your source. From the mouth.”
It was great stuff. But it’s one thing to talk like a leader . . . and something else entirely to be a leader.
And once you get past the write-what-you-guys-want, here-I-am bit, Dustin Pedroia is off to a rocky start.
The only reason people are asking for a leader to emerge in the Red Sox clubhouse is because the presumption throughout New England and beyond is that the team is now being run by David Price. And as we keep learning, Price is a whiny, insecure poser whose verbal beatdown of NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley has turned even hardcore fans against the team.
“I love David Price,” Pedroia said of Price, who has been placed on the disabled list with an inflamed left elbow. “One of my favorite teammates ever.
“We’re all in this together. We’re all trying to overcome everything and win the World Series, despite what anybody thinks of our team. We’re in first place right now, and we’re going to try and keep it going.”
That’s fine. Nobody was expecting him to rip Price. The problem is that Pedroia, like every other uniformed member of the Red Sox, refuses to acknowledge that what Price did to Eckersley was colossally insensitive and inappropriate.
Pedroia loses me with this statement about Price: “His incident that he had was a month ago. We talked about that since then. In this clubhouse, we have two rules: (be) on time and be professional. After that incident, obviously we talked about it. And that’s it. I’m sure he’s going to have a conversation with Eck whenever he sees him –– he hasn’t seen him since that.
“That’s it. All the other stuff is a distraction. We’re trying to play baseball and win ballgames. It was kind of an argument between two guys –– two grown men –– and he’s passionate about what he does. He’s emotional. That’s it.”
Where to start?
No. 1 — That it happened a month ago is irrelevant given that it wasn’t until this week that the details spilled out.
No. 2 — Pedroia is suggesting Price would love to make things right with Eck except that, darn it, he just hasn’t run into him. If Price truly wanted to apologize to Eckersley, he could have asked to see him during the Sox’ 10-game trip to Toronto, Texas and Tampa. Eckersley was with the team, doing the NESN telecasts.
And anyway, Price didn’t sound particularly apologetic when, after pitching against the Rangers on July 4, he responded to a question about Eck by telling reporters, “Standing up for my teammates. Whatever crap I catch for that, I’m fine with it.”
No. 3 — If Price is the “grown man” Pedroia suggests he is, he might have considered speaking to Eckersley alone rather than pull a juvenile stunt that served no other purpose than to show his teammates what a tough guy he is.
I have tremendous respect for Dustin Pedroia. I’ve written that he’s on a Hall of Fame ascendancy and that, with all respect to another Hall of Famer, Bobby Doerr, he’s the best second baseman in Sox history. Pedroia has played hard and has played hurt. Though he’s not as loquacious with the media as he used to be, he’s never rude or disrespectful. Like Mo Vaughn, like Pedro Martinez, like David Ortiz, Pedroia knows we have a job to do.
But the Eckersley “incident” won’t go away until the clubhouse owns it. And it’s no longer about Price. This includes John Farrell, whose refusal to offer anything resembling an apology to Eckersley exposes him as a manager desperate to curry favor with his players.
Here’s something to mull, Red Sox fans: What if Eckersley decides he’s had enough of this nonsense and quits?
I put the question to Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, who told me he’d be very upset if Eckersley stepped away from NESN.
“Not only is Eck an extraordinary analyst,” said Werner, “he’s an extraordinary person as well.”
Werner also said this: “I’m sympathetic to the fact that sometimes players react negatively to what’s being said by the media. On the other hand, there’s a right way to handle something, and there’s a wrong way. And I was taught that if I have a problem with someone, I talk to them directly and I don’t embarrass them.”
Until somebody in uniform can say that — certainly David Price, but also manager John Farrell and self-identified team leader Dustin Pedroia — do you really want to be embracing this team?