The Boston Red Sox are defending World Series champions, but so far in the 2019 season, they haven’t looked like it. The Sox needed a series sweep against the Oakland Athletics earlier in the week to reach 14-17 on the season as of Wednesday. Hitting hasn’t been there, and the bullpen looks more precarious than it did before the team went on its championship-winning run last fall.
A mild bounce-back is a time to probe what’s different about the Red Sox lately, and on Wednesday it seemed one angle might be that the team wasn’t playing Fortnite in the clubhouse anymore. Boston radio station WEEI’s Rob Bradford reported on that those in the clubhouse won’t see Epic Games’ gigantic battle royale game in the locker room anytime soon. A Red Sox pitcher, Nathan Eovaldi, was quoted as saying it’s not a good look for the team to be playing video games, especially as the club struggled out of the gate this year.
“I haven’t seen it this year,” said Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who was recruited to return to the Red Sox through the game’s messaging system during the offseason. “Usually everybody had it set up in their lockers. But I haven’t seen it.”
According to multiple players, it was decided by the team that the time used playing the game in the clubhouse had gotten to a point where it was becoming counterproductive to putting their best foot forward on the field. It wasn’t a unique position considering the Blue Jays’ ban of video games in the clubhouse and the story of Carlos Santana smashing a flat-screen TV in the Phillies clubhouse last September because of his disdain for the level of online gaming during work hours.
“I think there is a time and place for that, too,” Eovaldi noted. “Maybe if we were doing a little better maybe we would be doing it, but you can’t be losing and playing Fortnite in the clubhouse.
As many people pointed out, the piece didn’t explicitly say the team had banned the game. But it sounds a lot like they did, and soon that point was aggregated out of the story. It was presented very suggestively by WEEI as well.
Before the Red Sox took on the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Boston pitcher David Price made a statement to the media: there is no Fortnite ban in the Sox clubhouse.
The context here is important. Last year, Price publicly said he would stop playing Fortnite as much after speculation that gaming may have hampered an injury, so Price saying that there is no actual Fortnite ban is significant, as is the fact that he’s still playing the game when a lot of people have moved on to Apex Legends. Price’s earlier Fortnite kerfuffle seemed to be much adou about nothing, so it’s extremely odd that it has already cropped up this season, especially given how last year ended in a title for the Sox.
And even some in the Boston media pointed out that a lot of the team’s most prominent gamers aren’t even on the squad anymore.
Still, these narratives are easy to form and tend to happen when things go wrong to start the season. It could all turn around for Boston in the summer months and — like last year’s hubub be a funny footnote to a championship run. But right now it’s clear the Red Sox aren’t playing Fortnite. Unless they want to because they totally can.