Josh Beckett Likes His Off Days … And It Shouldn’t Really Matter
Over the last week, Josh Beckett has dealt with an enormous amount of backlash from the media. About ninety-five percent of that has absolutely nothing to do with his pitching performance. Last Thursday Beckett went out on a golfing adventure during one of Boston’s off days … but missed his scheduled start two days later with lat muscle stiffness.
It didn’t sit well with fans, and it certainly didn’t sit well with the media, who picked up on the story and really, really ran with it. How could Beckett have some physical discomfort, play golf anyway, and then fail to take the ball a couple days later when he’s supposed to be the ace of a playoff team?
Of course, adding to the fuel was last year’s fried chicken and beer incident. Beckett and some other Red Sox pitchers would eat, drink and be merry in the clubhouse when it wasn’t their turn to pitch during the stretch run. It garnered so much attention because Boston had such an epic collapse last season, blowing a 9-game lead in matter of weeks.
So how did Beckett respond to his latest scandal (golfgate)?:
“I spend my off days the way I want to spend them. My off day is my off day. We get 18 off days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves.”
He’s got a point (though its 18 days a season plus 3.5 months off during winter). But at the same time, it comes across a little weird (how did he know there were exactly 18 offdays so promptly?) and also gives the impression that he’s disinterested in giving it his all. The man makes $15.75M per year (and will through 2014) … shouldn’t he shut up and prove his worth on the mound?
At least that’s what some people think. But Beckett did nothing to shove it to his critics when he finally did make a start last night: 2.1 IP, 7ER, 2K and 2BB in Boston’s loss to Cleveland.
Personally, I think Beckett will rebound. It’s just what he’s always done. The Texas-born flamethrower might have been the American League’s best pitcher in 2007, but fell a tier or two over the next couple years. He was injured throughout 2010 and probably started a lot more games that he should have, producing some ugly lines. But he came back strong in 2011 and wasn’t too shabby through his first five starts this year (which doesn’t include last night’s disaster).
So Beckett’s had a damn good career. Which kind of makes the outrage directed towards him seem unwarranted. Check out what Jeff Passan had to say:
“The rot in the Boston Red Sox organization runs too deep for cosmetic upgrades, and nobody better personifies it than Josh Beckett, the clueless, defiant egomaniac who’s poisoning another Red Sox season … This is about common sense, decency and responsibility.”
Essentially, he thinks Beckett is a piece of shit. I really don’t get it. Did Babe Ruth exhibit common sense and decency when he played golf during the baseball season (and ate friend chicken, surely)? Were Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz a responsible team-first trio when they played golf *all* the time in between starts?
Why does it matter so much? If Boston had won just one more game last season, the fried chicken saga would have been a complete non-issue. The same principle applies to golfgate.
Maybe I’d care more about Josh Beckett’s non-pitching habits if I wasn’t a Josh Beckett fan (somewhat). I like him partly because he was one of the most highly-touted pitching prospects to come out of high school over the last fifty years. And I like him more because after he got to the show … he kicked ass. In the biggest spots, time and time again.
But maybe I should be angry. Maybe I shouldn’t like him anymore. Because if I had his talent, I would use it better, right? I would appreciate it more. It would never go to waste. I would never play golf on my off days or eat fried chicken or drink beer in the clubhouse like a clown. I would entertain reporters after the toughest moments, making sure they knew exactly how much I loved every second of my job … right?
Yeah, not at all. I like Joe Posnanski’s perspective on this matter:
I don’t think it’s the Josh Becketts who are unusual. I think it’s the ones who go out every day, every single day, with intensity and spirit and fire who are unusual. I certainly don’t blame fans for booing the heck out of Beckett or people writing that he should be run out of town. But I do wonder how many of them might call in sick on a Friday and not cancel their tee-time Saturday morning.
And if the Red Sox had more Josh Becketts on their roster, they’d probably be much better off in the win column. It’s going to take a lot more than 18 holes of golf to get a player like him out the door.