Josh Beckett Is Untradeable

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It’s fine to speculate on the Red Sox making a dramatic move. They can send a message that the behavior that has made Josh Beckett a symbol of the team’s bad start will not be tolerated. But no one has addressed the question of who’s going to want him right now.

The answer is simple.

No one.

No one is taking that contract that (including this year) owes him $47.25 million through 2015.

If he was pitching well and with durability, someone would take him; but if that were the case, the Red Sox wouldn’t be 14-19 and in last place in the tough AL East.

They’re trapped on a treadmill and attached to one another.

The same personality traits that have made Beckett such a great post-season performer and good regular season starter have contributed to the problems he’s having now. He won’t back down. Ever. Nor will he fully admit contrition about anything.

Was he technically “right” when he refused to accept full blame for last season’s collapse due to he and his cohorts being out of shape and the beer and chicken consumption in the clubhouse during games?

Yes. He was “right” to imply that they’ve always done the same things and if it wasn’t a problem when the team was winning, it shouldn’t have been a problem when they were losing.

Was he, in theory, “right” to say that his golf outing was on an off day and it wasn’t anyone’s business even after he missed a scheduled start with a tight muscle in his back?

Yes. His day off is his business.

But Beckett misses the point on perception and placating the masses. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I’m sorry” whether it’s sincere or not. Beckett can’t bring himself to do that and, as a result, is under siege because of his arrogance and adherence to the misplaced concept that admitting wrongdoing is a sign of weakness.

It’s not.

It’s a sign of strength and his life would be far easier if he took the tack of accepting responsibility.

He won’t.

Trade speculation is a dead end. He’s staying in Boston not because of beer, chicken, golf or public ridicule. He’s staying in Boston because he’s making a lot of money and has been, at best, inconsistent. He’s pitched well in four of his six starts this season (his golf results are unknown), but teams don’t want that contract and they don’t need the aggravation. The Red Sox aren’t going to get much for him and trading him would put forth the image of giving up on the season—something they will not do until August, if at all.

This cycle will go on and on and the only thing that can help Beckett and the Red Sox is if he starts pitching well. If that happens, options will open. Until then, they’re stuck with one another.



The Red Sox Vault Is Closed

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After they spent big last winter to try and win in 2011, the Red Sox were seen to have filled all of their holes; built a run-scoring machine of a lineup; shored up their bullpen; and placed themselves in a position blow away the competition in both the regular season and the playoffs.

They didn’t.

The reasons for the downfall and collapse will be debated forever.

The likelihood is that one specific incident wasn’t the catalyst for the failure, but minute cracks that manifested themselves over time; cracks that were irreparable, exploitable and resulted in an embarrassing stumble and post-season bloodletting of departures, allocating of blame and alibis.

If the partings with Terry Francona and Theo Epstein weren’t enough, the Red Sox went in the opposite direction of what they’d done in the past by hiring Bobby Valentine as manager.

Valentine is decidedly not a middle-managing functionary in the Moneyball fashion who’s hired to implement front office edicts and do as he’s told for short money.

He’s going to let his feelings be known and do as he sees fit without relying on consensus and organizational planning to dictate which reliever he uses when, in writing the lineups or other on-field decisions.

In a similar vein, the Red Sox rampant spending is over.

They didn’t post a bid for Yu Darvish; they haven’t been mentioned as anything other than a historically wary “oh, them” option for the name free agents; and they’re making under-the-radar and cheap acquisitions to fill their holes.

They allowed Jonathan Papelbon to leave without a fight and have steered clear of the “name” closers.

They may be willing to sign a proven closer like Ryan Madson, but it’s not going to be for the $44 million he and his agent Scott Boras were requesting. He’ll be lucky to match Heath Bell’s $27 million over three-years from the Red Sox or anyone else.

The Red Sox have chosen a different route from the headline-grabbing Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez acquisitions of a year ago.

Mark Melancon is the newest addition to the bullpen via trade from the Astros for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland.

They shunned a large expenditure on a DH as David Ortiz accepted their offer of salary arbitration.

They signed a competent partner catcher for Jarrod Saltalamacchia with Kelly Shoppach and a veteran utilityman Nick Punto to replace Lowrie.

Jason Varitek‘s and Tim Wakefield’s playing careers are done in Boston.

The vault is closed.

Rather than toss more money at their problems, the Red Sox are using a different strategy in hoping that Crawford rebounds; Clay Buchholz returns from injury; the bullpen survives without the intimidating closer (Madson or no Madson); and that Valentine is able to rein in a fractured and out-of-control clubhouse.

In years past, Epstein sought to build a team that would have a consistent pipeline of talent and operate under a need-based free agency/trade-style; as they grew more successful, the fan base, media and front office were unsatisfied with the peaks and valleys inherent with accepting down years as necessary to reasonably priced consistency and they became a carbon copy of their arch-enemies, the Yankees. As was the case with Mark Teixeira, it became a case of which team was going to pay more to get the quarry and anything short of a World Series win wasn’t good enough.

The Red Sox won the hot stove battle a year ago, but that didn’t equate into the expected regular season dominance and post-season glory.

Now they’ve stopped tossing money around and are going with cheaper alternatives and the hopes for a rebound of what’s already there.

Under new GM and Epstein protégé Ben Cherington, they’re refusing to spend wildly—which is what Epstein loathed doing in his early years running the team; this might be on orders from ownership and is preferable to the GM.

But they have spent and hired a different type of manager from their original template—that too is likely to have been done on orders from ownership; Cherington wouldn’t have hired Valentine if the choice were his and his alone.

It’s a mixture of old and new; it’s understandable; and it won’t work unless the highly paid players they already had do their jobs and Valentine is able to maintain a sense of discipline that disappeared under Francona.

Don’t expect splashy headlines this winter from the Red Sox because this is pretty much it.