Newly-acquired relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg was looking to be the Red Sox set-up man heading into the season. Instead, after a rocky spring, Thornburg will start the season on the disabled list. While disappointing as a Red Sox fan to have another promising arm go on the DL before making a regular season appearance (see: Smith, Carson), the bigger story here is how the Red Sox management has handled (or mis-handled) this story.
As background, Thornburg came into camp and struggled with the Red Sox shoulder program for pitchers, leading him to be shut down for most of the spring. After Thornburg had clearly admitted he wasn’t ready for the intense program, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski went on the attack at the media for the “pushing” the narrative surrounding the shoulder program. Despite Thornburg being the one that brought up the program, it is a bit troubling that after Thornburg admitted on March 11 that his “arm wasn’t used to the type of exercises and the amount of them,” Dombrowski would blame the media for pushing that agenda.
Dombrowski was not alone in his defense of the throwing program. Manager John Farrell, who previously had also mentioned on May 10 that Thornburg was going through an adjustment period with the shoulder program, completely changed his tune yesterday. Farrell also flipped the script on the reporters saying:
“There’s been a lot written targeting our shoulder program here. I would discount that completely. He came into camp, he was throwing the ball extremely well, makes two appearances. They were two lengthy innings in which inflammation flared up to the point of shutting him down. But in the early work in spring training, he was throwing the ball outstanding. So to suggest that his situation or his symptoms are now the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”
Seems almost presidential the way that Farrell pivoted in his response. Today, Thornburg again reiterated that the shoulder program was a factor in his injury. Nonetheless, I am not sure what the Red Sox are trying to hide here. They need to get their story straight and I think most people would tend to believe the player in this instance, so why try to deny something coming straight from a player’s mouth. By doing this, they have brought more attention than necessary to a story that otherwise would have been a throwaway in a notebook or, at most, a sidebar story. This is not a great look for a team heading into what looks to be a promising season, especially a team like the Red Sox that already have their concerns about management’s handling of players.
It all started with this since-deleted exchange. Out of nowhere, the Globe’s Pete Abraham calls a tweeter “Grand Wizard” aka the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, for implying that the Red Sox are better without David Price. As Abraham should know, deleting this tweet would not solve the problem because once you tweet something, it’s almost impossible to control. Since this tweet, Abraham has given a lame apology (seen below), but is still feeling the heat from the asinine tweet.
Check the mentions of any Abraham tweet and it is filled with comments destroying his accusation that someone is racist because they don’t like David Price. The story is best chronicled by Jared Carrabis at Barstool Sports, where he goes through the story of Abraham and also his past experiences with Abraham, which frankly make Abraham look very insecure.
For me, I have heard from many accounts that Abraham is not the most pleasant person behind closed doors. However, my problem with this is using his high-profile position as a beat writer to constantly give the team the benefit of the doubt. In this case, the tweeter who said the Red Sox were “better without” David Price was almost definitely looking at his 3.99 ERA, worst since his rookie year, and the fact that he is making $31 million a year. Race notwithstanding, most fans are ticked off when a high paid player underachieves and especially when they are as sensitive on Twitter as David Price is.
Abraham should not be focused on coming to the team’s defense and race-baiting, as that is not his job as a beat writer. In Carrabis’ post, he also recounts the time that Abraham claimed that Pablo Sandoval couldn’t have liked an Instagram post during a game because it is against MLB policy. When the story, which Carrabis broke, was confirmed to be true, Abraham begrudgingly gave credit to Carrabis. It seems that Abraham’s first instinct here was to work as a PR person, not a reporter covering a team and investigating. To me, that is something that the Globe should keep an eye on. Who knows if he has had stories in the past that he has kept under the pillow to please the team.
February is usually the slowest time of year for sports stories for numerous reasons. First off, the ratings machine that is the NFL is finally over and out of the news cycle. The NHL and NBA are either in or just past their All-Star breaks and don’t bring nearly as much juice or passion as the NFL. On the bright side, the MLB is starting up its season and for the Red Sox, there are a lot of high expectations coming off of a AL East title and trading for star lefty Chris Sale (leading to countless Sale/Price puns). In getting ready for the season, here are three great stories I have read from local beat writers that have stood out to me over the past week:
Andrew Benintendi takes Brian Johnson deep after calling his shot (Christopher Smith, MassLive.com): I liked this story from Smith because it was an exclusive that he got from the two players. It also combined a couple of storylines into one, Benintendi’s development into an everyday player and Johnson’s struggles with anxiety and depression. The story was light and entertaining, but also was a great scoop from a lesser-known reporter.
Blake Swihart struggles with throws (Evan Drellich, Boston Herald): A big story coming out of Spring Training so far has been Swihart’s inability to make the throw back to the pitcher. This is something to keep an eye on as only time will tell how Swihart will respond to the added pressure of this. The yips can often sidetrack an entire career and I think Drellich does a good job in acknowledging that this could be troubling for the young backstop.
In Boston, baseball still owns our hearts (Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe): Despite how much it pains me, I actually liked this Shaughnessy column. It was a great illustration of how Boston has become a football-crazed town, but doesn’t forget its roots as the cursed Red Sox who endured 86 years of misery and overcame a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS to break a title drought. Another column for another day for Shaughnessy could be which was more improbable, the 2004 ALCS or Super Bowl LI.