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When it all comes down to it, Josh Beckett is a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. He’s not supposed to collect attention off the field, he’s not supposed to create headline quotes, and he’s certainly not supposed to be golfing. He was acquired in the winter of 2005 to become the Red Sox ace for years to come. He was brought in to be built around as a dominant pitcher with experience beating the rival New York Yankees in the postseason.
He has accomplished plenty in his time as in Boston. Beckett was a key component to the 2007 World Series championship, and is 86-51 as a Red Sox pitcher. He has made eight postseason starts and holds a strong 5-1 record, including four wins in the 2007 run. So what exactly happened that caused the Boston media and fans to turn on the pitcher?
Beckett was a very good pitcher for the Red Sox from his arrival up through the 2009 season. He logged nearly 800 innings, striking out 723 batters and winning 65 games. A high ERA in his first year (5.01) was slightly alarming, but his adjustments to the new league made up for it as he became an established and reliable ace.
In 2010 things changed, as Beckett suffered a lower back injury, which cut his time on the field. He finished the season with a 6-6 record and a 5.78 ERA. He rebounded last season in a surprisingly great season that put him amongst the best of the American League pitchers, even considered for the Cy Young award in a year dominated by Justin Verlander. Beckett was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.026 WHIP.
Then, the legendary late season collapse took place, which centered around Beckett amongst others in the starting rotation failing to put together quality starts down the stretch. He had a 5.48 ERA in the month of September, earning just one win in four starts. He was one of the three starters incriminated with being a part of the fried chicken and beer fiasco down the stretch on their days off.
The respect of fans was incredibly damaged by the controversy, as a the achievement strong season was quickly deflated by it and the massive overturn in the organization. Beckett entered this season as the number two pitcher behind Jon Lester, though the expectation was that each would perform at the level of an ace.
On a Wednesday at the beginning of this May, Beckett was scratched from his Saturday start later in the week due to stiffness in a lat muscle, according to manager Bobby Valentine. But then Beckett reportedly went golfing the following day, stirring the pot of controversy as his dedication to the team became questioned. Things didn’t get any better when he made his next start.
Beckett was hit hard by the Cleveland Indians, surrendering 7 earned runs in just 2.1 innings of work. He allowed two monster home runs, and was booed viciously by the home crowd at Fenway Park. After the game, things didn’t get much better at Beckett’s press conference. Regarding the golfing incident he dodged questions from the media, iterating, “My day off is my day off”. His attitude became more of a problem than the performance.
However it’s not the time to demand a dramatic change in Beckett’s personality. He’s been in the league for over ten years and certainly knows how to handle himself. All of the problems and controversy stem from Beckett’s inability to be an effective pitcher for the Red Sox. This season he has a 2-4 record with a 5.97 ERA. On Tuesday night, he needs to begin to change those.
Beckett will make his first start since the disastrous outing against Cleveland, this time matched up against Seattle. The Mariners have one of the worst lineups in baseball, and the Sox have been playing very well recently. The only missing piece of the puzzle is Beckett, and a strong start and win against Seattle will all but silence the critics – for now.
That start can only be the beginning. He needs to put all of the distractions behind him and go back to pitching like a winner. If he can manage that over the course of the 2012 season, soon before long Boston will climb its way out of the basement of the American League East and compete for a spot in the postseason, where they have the talent to turn this into an extraordinary and memorable season.