Sep 14, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

David Price, The New York Yankees, and the Politics of Baseball

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It had to put Rays fans everywhere on edge the other day when David Price told Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports that he loves the Rays but at the same time, he wants to be appreciated and if that doesn’t happen in Tampa Bay, then so be it. If there was anything positive for Rays fans to glean from Price’s comments, it was that he wouldn’t sign a long-term deal with the Rays’ division-rival New York Yankees, mentioning the Yankees’ policy against facial hair.

“I wouldn’t stay there very long then,” he responded. “I wouldn’t sign a long-term deal there. Those rules, that’s old-school baseball. I was born in ’85. That’s not for me. That’s not something I want to be a part of.”

It’s sad that David Price may be one step out the door in a Rays uniform, but it was a classic sports move to still bash his team’s rival and was further evidence of the easy-going Price Rays fans have come to know (at least on baseball diamond and on Twitter) and love. But then a day later, Price retracted what he said, telling Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he didn’t mean to say anything bad about the Yankees.

“I said it. It probably wasn’t the best thing to say, but I didn’t mean anything by it,” he said. “I wasn’t looking to offend the Yankees. It’s probably the best organization in all of sports. Not just baseball, but all of sports. I didn’t mean anything (against) the New York Yankees. I’ve had friends on that team for multiple years.”

David Price is going to be a free agent, and he may very well sign with the New York Yankees. It’s sad, but it’s something Rays fans have to wrap their heads around. Maybe Price really doesn’t like the Yankees’ policies and will indeed sign elsewhere when he hits free agency. But he has to keep his options open and disparaging the Yankees in any way is a stupid move for his future.

It’s counterintuitive from a team sense. The Rays could have used Price’s comments as a rallying point or at least an avenue to have some fun. They could have praised themselves as the quintessential innovative, trendy ballclub while ripping the Yankees, at least jokingly, as old-school and outdated. It could have led to a nice speech by Price or Joe Maddon or Evan Longoria at some point later this season, telling the team that “their time has passed and this is our opportunity.” But Price went back on his comments and all of that went away. We’re not in an age when star players stay on the same team virtually their entire careers. There’s a rule against “fraternizing with the enemy” in the baseball rulebook, but it’s never enforced these days. With that in mind, baseball isn’t just a game anymore and it isn’t even a profession. There’s an entirely new political and marketing aspect out there now with even the best players knowing that while they want to beat the opposing teams, they never want to leave a mark on them knowing that they may be looking to sign with them through free agency in just a few years. Politicians, even the ones we like, constantly cater their comments to their audiences and are constantly changing and going back on things they said in the past. It’s sad that baseball is becoming the same way.

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