BOSTON (CBS) — Josh Beckett has crossed the line from questionable to downright unlikable.
The Red Sox’ “ace,” if you want to use that term for a pitcher with a 2-4 record and 5.97 ERA, had a chance Thursday night to win back some of the respect that he had left on the golf course last week, when he was supposed to be resting an injury that was at the time preventing him from doing his job, for which he is paid $15.75 million per year.
He had a chance to simply address reporters, say “I screwed up,” and try to move on and become a better pitcher for a baseball team that’s falling apart.
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He had a chance to set an example, to be a leader and to at least try to turn around the opinion of some people who truly would prefer rooting for him over rooting against him.
Nope. That just wouldn’t have been Beckett’s style.
Beckett had to be cool.
“None. None. No,” the defiant righty told reporters when asked what effect, if any, his golf outing last Thursday had on his poor performance on Thursday. “I spend my off days the way I want to spend ’em. My off day is my off day.”
That poor “performance” consisted of 2 1/3 innings of work in which he allowed seven earned runs on seven hits (two homers) and two walks. The “ace,” who makes about $525,000 every time he toes the rubber, couldn’t get out of the third inning against the Cleveland Indians, who may be in first place in the AL Central but still rank 18th in MLB in batting average and 19th in the league in homers.
As a result, a man who not long ago looked to be headed for baseball immortal status in Boston was booed relentlessly on his walk back to the dugout.
Did Beckett care? Of course not — he’s too cool for that.
“I pitched like [crap],” Beckett said of the boos. “That’s what happens. Smart fans.”
So funny. So cool. So predictable.
It’s not the first time Beckett’s refused to accept blame for things gone wrong, but it sure seems like it’s the final straw in Boston. He’s shown up to camp with a massive gut, but that’s OK because he just won the World Series. He was only healthy enough to make 21 starts in 2010, but still, he had gutted it out through the previous two seasons, so there’s no reason to question his effort and dedication. Surely, he’ll be back. He’s earned that trust.
Things with Beckett really weren’t too bad at all until last September. There was the chicken and beer, and there was the added weight, but there was also the terrible pitching. He went 1-2 with a 5.48 ERA in the final month, averaging fewer than six innings per start.
Eventually, we all found out what went on behind the scenes, and when the Sox showed up to spring training, it was time for him to simply say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, let’s move on.” Some players did that. Josh Beckett didn’t.
“We made mistakes in the clubhouse. That’s about as far as I’ll go talking about the clubhouse,” Beckett said, only admitting to “lapses in judgment” but never showing any remorse for his actions in September.
So maybe Beckett entered the 2012 season on some thin ice to begin with, but his words, actions, “performances” and, above all, his defiance have surely sent him plunging through.
With all of that working against him, Beckett went out of his way to let out a warning that throwing 126 pitches may lead to an injury.
“It can be cumulative sometimes,” Beckett said after throwing 126 pitches in Chicago nearly two weeks ago.
Apparently, “cumulative” only meant a couple of days, because by Wednesday, we knew that Beckett would not make his next start. He had a tight lat, and a sore shoulder, so some rest was best. “Here we go again,” said some folks looking for reasons to crucify Beckett, but the majority didn’t see it as too much of a big deal.
That was, until we learned Beckett rested and rehabbed those injuries by hitting the links with Clay Buchholz and enjoying a round of golf last Thursday. Obviously, golfing is not an overly taxing endeavor. You drive around in a cart, hop out, swing a stick, get back in your cart, and repeat. He wasn’t participating in a World’s Strongest Man competition, but when you’re a pitcher who already struggles to stay healthy enough to make 30-plus starts a year, it is downright idiotic to go golfing when you’re nursing an injury that’s significant enough for the team that’s paying you $15.75 million to decide to skip your start. The only thing more idiotic was to think otherwise.
Yet, at Fenway Park on Thursday night, that’s what Beckett and the Red Sox wanted us all to believe.
“I’ve never seen a pitcher get hurt playing golf,” manager Bobby Valentine said before the game, conveniently leaving out any stories he may have had about a pitcher who was already hurt playing golf.
After the game, which the Red Sox lost 8-3 thanks largely to Beckett’s pitiful outing, Beckett’s story was much the same.
Beckett didn’t want to hear any of the golf questions. As far as he’s concerned, the entire world is crazy for getting mad at him because he wanted to play a little golf.
“We get 18 off days a year,” Beckett told the media. “I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves.”
(Feel free to send your sympathy cards to Joshua Patrick Beckett, c/o Boston Red Sox, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA 02215.)
“Deserve.” Beckett feels he “deserves” the right to do whatever he wants. He’d be right, too … if he were healthy. But he wasn’t healthy. If he were healthy, his employer would have asked him to go to work. Because he wasn’t healthy, his employer asked him to rest, so that he would be able to work for the rest of the season. Instead, Beckett went golfing. He “deserved” it.
And in Beckett’s mind, he’s the only one who “deserves” privileges. Forget about the fans, who pay the highest prices in the entire country to watch their team play baseball. They don’t “deserve” for their players to actually keep themselves healthy enough to stay on the field. The poor guy only has 18 off days a year! (Well, unless you count the four months of the offseason. And, gee, a starting pitcher also only plays once out of every five games, doesn’t he? So that’s like six off days a week, isn’t it?)
Nope, the fans don’t deserve that. Only Josh deserves his right to golf.
And Beckett’s teammates, some of whom are battling their butts off to try to make this team even respectable? Do they deserve their top-of-the-rotation guy to try to, you know, do his job? Maybe make it out of the third inning? You’d think they would deserve at least that effort, but Josh doesn’t. Josh is the one who deserves a little time to himself.
This may all sound like hyperbole, but it came right from Beckett’s mouth.
Veteran Red Sox reporter Gordon Edes asked Beckett whether he believed “people have the right to question why you were playing golf,” but he was quickly interrupted by Beckett.
“Not on my off day,” he snapped back.
Nope. You don’t even have the right to question him. Beckett thinks you’re smart fans, but not smart enough to question him.
While Beckett’s postgame demeanor wasn’t surprising, it was at least confirmation that he’s never going to change. No matter what he does, he’ll never admit he’s wrong.
And make no mistake about this one — he’s in the wrong. When Jim Rice is on the team-owned broadcast network’s postgame show explaining to the audience that you, the highest-paid and longest-tenured pitcher on the team, are wrong, then you’re wrong. There’s not even a speck of gray area.
Beckett’s gotten away with too much in the past, but he’s not getting away with this one. When a simple apology would have smoothed things over plenty, Beckett offered a petulant, defiant response, one that let everyone know that he did whatever it was that he wanted to do. And next time, he will once again do whatever it is that he wants to do.
And the fans and the city seem to have had just about enough. In Beckett’s own words, these fans are too smart, and they’ll be sure, every time he takes the field, to give him what he deserves.