David Price's name rings bells in any hood when discussions about MLB's finest golden arms get poppin' in local barbershops and ciphers of mind elevation.
After being drafted by the LA Dodgers out of high school, Price opted to attend Vanderbilt University on an academic scholarship. After a stellar career in Tennessee, the lethal lefty signed his first professional contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on August 15, 2007. The six-year contract was worth $11.25 million ($8.5 million guaranteed), including a $5.6 million signing bonus.
The total value of Price’s bonus was the largest in draft history. According to perfectgame.org, the signing bonus was third-largest in draft history, behind only the $6.1 million Justin Upton received from the Arizona Diamondbacks as the top overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft and the $6 million bonus the Orioles gave catcher and fifth overall pick Matt Wieters in 2007.
Price sliced through the minors and made an immediate impact upon entering "The Show." The tall, lanky, rocket-launcher pitched out of the bullpen during the Tampa Rays World Series playoff run in 2008, earning a notable save in Game 7 of the ALCS.
He became a full-time starter in 2009 and by 2012 he was a Cy Young Award winner.
The "Black Ace" has been turning fast-tracking pro hitters into Caitlyn Jenners for nearly a decade now and as he enters his prime, he does so as a member of the AL East-leading Toronto Blue Jays -- the third club of his illustrious career and the sickest compilation of talent he's ever balled with.
Price was added to a team that was already averaging 5.27 runs per game -- nearly half a run more than any other team in baseball.
The 30-year-old mound marauder has taken full advantage. He's 14-5 overall this season and 5-1 with a 2.15 ERA since joining the Jays squad. He's not only impacting the standings and leading the pitching charge for what fans hope is an historical Blue Jays season, but he is accumulating personal accolades along the way as a reminder of why he's in the conversation with guys like Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Felix Hernandez -- all of the studs who have the most strikeouts in MLB (and a ton of wins) over the past five seasons.
Price allowed one run in seven innings for his 100th career victory as the Blue Jays ripped Manny Machado and the Orioles 5-1 on Saturday.The victory was Price's first win over the Orioles since Sept. 20, 2013.
“I don’t look at any opponent to be any different,” said Price. “I’m probably a little bit more familiar with their lineup facing those guys as many times as I have in my career. Their team, for the most part, has kind of stayed the same so it’s a club that always swings the bat well against me.
“It’s been a while since I’ve beaten them so that was good.”
It's been a while since Toronto made the playoffs. The Blue Jays are looking to end the longest active postseason drought in the majors. Since winning the 1993 World Series with a blend of pitching and veteran leadership, Toronto has been on a 21-year playoff drought. The Mariners are second at 13 years.
When Toronto traded for Price, whose elite skills were wasting away on a spiraling Tigers franchise, the trade deadline maneuver changed the game in the division. Price has proved to be a transformer for real. Optimus Prime couldn't have made a larger impact than Price has.
When Price was dealt to the Jays on July 30th, Toronto had seven games to make up in the division and was two back in the Wild Card mix. It was considered a bold move at the time because Toronto relinquished some blue chip prospects for a pitcher many consider to be a temporary rental.
Price will most likely be asking for the world plus his own personal island come free agency and it's doubtful he even wants to remain in Canada.
He was, however, the perfect fit for a team that was a few pieces short of being able to end that playoff drought now.
Like clockwork, the seeds of Price's presence have blossomed into a first-place seat in the division for Toronto (78-58), which now rests 1.5 games ahead of the NY Yankees. Talk about flipping the script. MLB Network says the Blue Jays are a league-leading 25-7 since August 1.
Before Price arrived Toronto's starters ranked 23rd in ERA at 4.34 and in the bottom 10 in opponent's batting average. Now they are 11th best in ERA (3.75) and also in the Top 12 in opponent's batting average.
Price has been to the postseason five times but he hasn't made it past the American League Division Series since '08. He's 0-5 in his ALDS starts since that time, so Price isn't just pitching to get Toronto back in the playoff swing, he's pitching for his postseason legacy which has been less-than-spectacular to date (a la Kershaw).
My bet is that playoff failure is just another obstacle that he will conquer as he enters his prime years as one of the game's deadliest hurlers.