A Defense Of Josh Beckett

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Josh Beckett is not the first person to take umbrage with the Boston media and fans upon his departure from town. The fans were mostly supportive of him during his 6 ¾ seasons as a member of the Red Sox and the team, aside from the last calendar year, was a legitimate championship contender every season. Beckett replied to the allegations that have hovered over him since the beer and chicken debacle and members of the indicted borgata known as the Red Sox organization began ratting each other out and blaming everyone but themselves for the team’s failures to get a lighter sentence in the court of public opinion. That extends from the top with John Henry, down to Larry Lucchino, through to Theo Epstein, Terry Francona, and the players.

Is Beckett as innocent as he portrays himself in this interview with Rob Bradford? Is he misunderstood? Does he have a justification for being upset at the way he was treated? Was he at fault for what happened from last September to his departure?

It’s a combination of all of the above.

Beckett is not a likable person. He puts forth the image of a bully who can’t walk away from an argument without getting the last word. Many times, when such a person gets the last word, he feels as if that’s a “victory” when it’s little more than the other party walking away because they don’t want to fight anymore.

He’s also been a fine pitcher from whom the Red Sox got, mostly, solid performances throughout his tenure. If he makes the argument in defense of the way he and the other starting pitchers behaved during their off days with the oft-repeated stories of beer, chicken and video games in the clubhouse by saying, “We were doing all of that stuff while the team was winning, so why was it an issue when they were losing?” it’s not an absurd assertion to make, but like the interview, he probably would’ve been better served to keep quiet about it or utter the politically correct, “I enjoyed my time in Boston. We had a lot of success and I made some mistakes that I’d like to do over. It ended badly, but I hope the fans and organization look back on my career there and see it positively.”

But that’s not Beckett.

Part of the negative portrayal of Beckett stems from him appearing as the prototypically arrogant and spoiled athlete who doesn’t see anything as his fault. It’s only a matter of time before he unloads on manager Bobby Valentine because he was “asked about it.” Whether he openly says it or implies it, he will somehow vindicate former manager Francona when Francona is as much at fault as to what went wrong in 2011 as anyone else. Compounding this fact is how Beckett’s behavior as the point man in the clubhouse activities, that he was out of shape, and pitched poorly was a significant factor in the Red Sox collapse and Francona’s subsequent dismissal. Francona let them do what they wanted as long as they played hard and won; the players betrayed Francona by not playing all that hard and by losing. A lack of discipline was seen as a catalyst to the fall, and they brought in someone who’s known for discipline. The holdover players didn’t want to be disciplined, refused to be disciplined and had to go. There’s no blaming Valentine for that.

The post-Red Sox unleashing from whispers inside the organization has been in place under this regime and under every regime. That it’s the Red Sox exacerbates the situation because it’s a circular entity of the media stoking the fans; the fans forcing the front office to try and maintain their success at any cost; and the players getting fat literally and figuratively. This type of thing happens in every organization, but it’s not as noticeable because it’s not the Red Sox.

Beckett’s interview is being cast as the whining of a malcontent who doesn’t understand what he did wrong. I see it as more of an innocence of someone who views things in black and white. To put it succinctly, Beckett’s statements sound as if he’s saying, “I pitched good for you, why do you hate me?” “We were always allowed to hang around the clubhouse on days we weren’t pitching and doing whatever, why is it a problem now?” “I’m in pretty much the same shape when I’m losing as I am when I’m winning.”

The underlying theme of most of the critiques against him are saying, “He just doesn’t get it.” But it’s not due to a lack of understanding or arrogance. It’s the end unto itself and it’s definitive: He just doesn’t get it. Period.

It’s neither intentional nor is it malicious. Similar to the earth rotating around the sun, it simply is.

Both sides need to walk away and move on. The Red Sox have to let it go; the media has to look toward whatever fate awaits the Red Sox; and Beckett has to utter clichés.

It’s not going to happen, but it’s what they all should do.