Josh Beckett doesn’t get it — and he doesn’t care

He's Josh Beckett and he doesn't care what anyone else thinks.
Beckett

Beckett- Kelly O'Conner, sittingstill.net

Josh Beckett just doesn’t get it.

His comments following his debacle against the Indians on Thursday night are indicative of someone who couldn’t care less about the team around him.

The presumptive Red Sox ace could have negated the most recent controversy surrounding him golfing on an off-day with some smart comments, but instead chose to continue flaunting his disregard for his team. He is Josh Beckett, with over $100 million in earnings by the time he retires and two rings. And he doesn’t care what anybody else has to say about his actions. From fried chicken and beer last September to his contemptible press conference, he’s sent a clear message: I will do what I want, and you all can go to hell.

How else to explain his comments last night?

“We get 18 off days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves,” Beckett said as part of a series of comments that have inflamed GolfGate into something much more. (ESPN Boston)

Except that Beckett gets far more than 18 off days a year. He’s a starting pitcher, expected to pitch 32 times a year. Certainly, Beckett has other responsibilities the other four days through the rotation to prepare to pitch, but to compare himself to someone like Dustin Pedroia who actually only gets those 18 days, is ludicrous and a slap in the face. Heck, Derek Lowe, who pitched Thursday, admitted that he was going to golf on Friday — and the Indians don’t have an off day. Beckett knows this. He’s not an idiot; he just doesn’t care.

Do people have the right to question why Beckett was golfing, he was asked. Does he understand the perception that leaves?

“Not on my off day.”

Let’s be clear about one thing. It’s not the actual golfing that has me steaming. Beckett is right about one thing — what he does on his off days are up to him, provided he’s not putting his health, career and team at risk. The Red Sox have been adamant that he was skipped in the rotation as a precaution for lat tightness (muscle behind the shoulder), not because he was specifically injured, and I don’t think he put his health at risk. (Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington agree, as per WEEI.) I don’t even blame Beckett for not volunteering to pitch during Sunday’s 17-inning debacle, because not many starting pitchers would risk injury and missing a start where they could better influence a game’s outcome. Not everyone can be Tim Wakefield. GolfGate was an overblown story before Beckett’s comments that should have died a quick death. But Beckett didn’t do his job, and now he’s created a major issue that will affect his legacy in Boston — all because he lacks simple common sense.

He sent a message last night: He cares more about his off day than his team.

He doesn’t seem to grasp that while his golf game might not have actually been an issue, the perception was out there that he was shirking his duties — compounded by the negativity already surrounding the team, due, in part, to his lack of leadership last season. (Remember, he was more concerned about who “snitched” about fried chicken and beer more than he was about how it affected the team’s collapse.) He should have worked to dispel the perception that he doesn’t care. He should have assured everyone that he did not risk his health, that he’s invested in the team and that he, just like everyone else, needs to step up. All he needed to show was that he cared.

Instead, he — one of the faces of the franchise –created a story where there didn’t have to be, all because he’s Josh Beckett and he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.

Categories: Boston Red Sox Josh Beckett

Born on the 37th anniversary of the the day Babe Ruth died (1985) which later became the day Jimy Williams was fired in 2001 (a monumental event at the time), Evan was too young to experience the pain 1986 brought, but a deep wound was sowed in 2003. Since then, Fire Brand has become a blog that Red Sox “club officials read,” as per Peter Gammons. Evan enjoys working out, writing, reading, quality television, science fiction and history and being newly married. He is a professional baseball journalist as well as president of a state non-profit and member of the Board of Directors for a national profit. (Twitter.)

25 Responses to “Josh Beckett doesn’t get it — and he doesn’t care” Subscribe

  1. brian May 11, 2012 at 11:35 AM #

    I typically agree with a vast majority of the articles on the website. You guys tend to be very level headed and its been very refreshing for a red sox fan to read something that isnt screaming about how the world is falling apart. But what this article should have been about is the media, not beckett. The man golfed on an off day. Its not like he was a no show to a red sox game b/c he was golfing, he was off and tried to unwind.. the media has been slamming him for the last 8 months for being a poor leader. Have bad morals and makinf poor decisions. Yes, he should have responded.more ellogantly but dont mask what this story is really all about. The red sox arent winning games like people expect, theres a growing hysteria im red sox nation and peopld need a scapegoat. Thats what beckett has become. This guy led us.to a world series win. He pitched with a strained lat in trying to carry us again in 2008. He singlehandedly stopped the bleeding of last april with a dominate win against the yanks in fenway. And now he is the scapegoat b/c he drank in a clubhose and.played golf on an off day? Two very typical baseball things. You can.call him a poor leader if u want, and pretend like you know how he really is in the clubhouse, but really if he didnt get rocked in his last start and instead pitched a perfect game, you never would have written the article. This whole story is just the medias way of sturring thr cauldren.

    • ChipBuck May 11, 2012 at 1:02 PM #

      Brian –

      I will be posting my rebuttal to Evan's well written piece either later this weekend or Monday. I respect Evan's opinion a great deal, but I see things a little differently.

    • Mike May 12, 2012 at 11:18 AM #

      Josh Beckett, as mentioned above, has a history of latissimus strains. That predisposes him to further injuries to the muscle. If this muscle was indeed tight the day before his last slated start, then the treatment therefor should have been ice and rest. The latissimus muscle is responsible for adduction, extension, and internal rotation of the shoulder joint. All of these actions are to some degree required for both golfing and pitching. By golfing, he could do nothing but exacerbate the supposed tightness in the muscle. This is why the media has questioned the wisdom of his off-day activities; it has nothing to do with prying into what the man does to unwind.

      That said, I agree that Beckett has become a scapegoat, but his actions and words have done nothing but feed the fires of criticism. For a leader on a World Series team, his leadership is deplorable. Baseball is more than what you do on the field; just ask Darryl Strawberry.

  2. Chase May 11, 2012 at 11:48 AM #

    Agreed. This is all only a problem now because the red Sox are losing. He led us to two titles. Winning cures everything.

    • John Quinn May 11, 2012 at 12:08 PM #

      Actually, one title. He wasn't on the 2004 team.

  3. evanbrunell May 11, 2012 at 11:50 AM #

    I disagree, obviously.

    Ben, I made clear that I didn't think the issue was his golfing. It was his comments.

    Chase, Beckett is a good pitcher regardless of his comments. Winning won't cure Beckett of being Beckett, though.

    • Brian May 11, 2012 at 4:47 PM #

      Firstly, Evan i meant to disrespect for disagreeing. And i am not saying that Josh Beckett does not invite this kind of press. He did himself no favors in that press conference. My personal feeling is, Josh Beckett has become the beacon for all red sox negativity. People have been looking for someone to blame and now they have Beckett. I hope it lits a fire under him and in a month people are talking about his last dominate preformance and not about his next golf outing.

  4. LarryAtIIATMS May 11, 2012 at 12:15 PM #

    Evan, I'll start by saying that I love this site, and I love your writing.

    This business about Red Sox players "not caring", lacking "interest", lacking "effort", lacking "pride", being "apathetic" (and I'm not quoting you, I'm paraphrasing Dennis and Callahan) raises my inborn skepticism. No one, NO ONE gets to a Josh Beckett level of athletic achievement if they don't care.

    What is yet to be demonstrated is whether "caring" or "not caring" is relevant to whatever point we might want to make about the performance of a ballplayer or a ball club. Last year, the Red Sox were awful in April and September, terrific in May through August. What changed? Did they only "care" when the weather was warmest?

    A good corrective in these matters is, what could Beckett have done differently that would have made things better? If he had broken down in tears, would that have convinced us that Beckett had given us his best effort? Has it come to this, that we judge players by their ability to express remorse after a bad performance? What we want is drama?

    What we should want is for a player to have the mental makeup that contributes to his best performance. As far as I can tell, the right mental makeup for an athlete is an individual thing. Some guys perform best when they're wound the tightest. Some guys need to blow off a bad performance. Some guys need to obsess, some need to keep loose, and some like Beckett may perform the best if they care less about what we think about them and tell us all where to go.

    Is this a PR issue? Evidently! Is this a performance issue? No one has answered this question affirmatively, at least not to my satisfaction.

    • evanbrunell May 13, 2012 at 12:51 PM #

      Larry, in general I agree with most of what you have written. I have said several times to different people and on different mediums (Twitter, in person, on this site, etc.) that I don't think Beckett's attitude has naything to do with performance. He is very competitive, but he has also been treated with kid gloves by management and is prickly. He is allowed to set his own workout schedule and there is very compelling evidence he let himself go over the course of last season when he gained weight sa the year went on and looked awful in September. In addition, right now, the Sox struggle from a PR issue. Sure, they're under .500 too, but I think that everyone expects them to be well over .500 by year's end. No, the issue right now is calming the fan base, getting the clubhouse in order and moving forward and on. The biggest problem Boston has is perception right now, not performance ,and that perception is incredibly important to morale, the brand and fan engagement. Beckett's actions have only worsened that perception. Now, whether that should be part of his "job duties" as it were can be debated, but I for one believe he should have beem smarter about this.

      • LarryAtIIATMS May 13, 2012 at 11:56 PM #

        Evan, if you don't think Beckett's attitude has anything to do with performance, then why do you care that management has treated him with kid gloves? But your mention of Beckett's conditioning suggests that maybe you DO think his attitude affects his performance (bad attitude -> bad conditioning -> bad performance). From my perspective, I don't think I can judge Beckett's conditioning, and I note that there are plenty of good pitchers around MLB who probably should not appear at a pool in a Speedo.

        Right you are, the Sox are suffering from a PR issue, though the current 3-game winning streak will do more to solve this problem than anything Beckett might have done during his day off. Not only does winning cure everything, but losing created PR problems that do not have solutions.

        Should Beckett have been smarter? Maybe. But on some level, I don't want a starting pitcher who's afraid to leave the house for fear of what people might think.

        • ChipBuck May 14, 2012 at 10:41 AM #

          "I note that there are plenty of good pitchers around MLB who probably should not appear at a pool in a Speedo."

          I would just like to say that no one should EVER appear in a Speedo–for any reason.

          • LarryAtIIATMS May 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM #

            It works for Michael Phelps.

        • evanbrunell May 14, 2012 at 3:52 PM #

          I care if management treats anyone with kid gloves — it's not just Beckett. I didn't like them bending over backwards for Manny or other players. Talent can only get you so far, right? It's easy to overlook that kind of stuff if you're a perennial MVP candidate or Cy Young winner. But to me, a player is a package, and to me, personality and attitude all are part of that package, irrespective of their impact on performance. it could affect team morale, or any wide number of things.

          FWIW, I don't think attitude necessarily has anything to do with conditioning.

  5. Jeff May 11, 2012 at 12:22 PM #

    The Red Sox need a press secretary with one specific job: before a player goes before the media after a game they need to go through him first. If he thinks they're just going to light more fires out there it's his job to convince them to stay in the clubhouse and not talk to the press until they've calmed down.

    I have no doubt Beckett was angry at himself (and probably the crowd and the media) after his bad pitching last night. And he took it out by being an ass with a microphone in front of his face.

    On the show The West Wing they had a rule: Never go into the press briefing room angry. Boston media and Sox fans are just as rabid as White House reporters so maybe the Sox should follow that philosophy.

  6. Tom May 13, 2012 at 8:41 AM #

    The issue with Beckett is not an easy one. But here is my take. He doesn't care at this point. To be an elite it take sacrifice, ray Allen takes a thousand shots a day and he's one of the best shooters ever, does he really need to shoot that many to be that good. I think so, if he shot less maybe he wouldnt be the same player. He still would be good just not the elite shooter that he still is. As for Beckett, he is in a decline and something is causing that, by the way no one has said that Beckett is doing everything to be good again. So is it directly the chicken or beer or the way he handles the press, no. But it is his desire to be dominant or lack of it. If I wanted to be elite it would be smart to put yourself in a position to succeed. That's my take. Love this site been ready it weekly for many years since it was MVP or something, can't remember. Love the articles thanks

    • Maxwell Horse May 14, 2012 at 2:20 AM #

      That sounds like "sports radio logic." (In fact, the comparison to Celtics players is literally the storyline that sports radio chose to take after Beckett's last start.)

      In my opinion it isn't fair to Beckett, nor is it logical. If you want to compare Beckett to another athlete, choose another baseball pitcher. We can talk all day about how older basketball players just "willed their way to a win," and how that proves that Beckett is lacking character, because if he were a true warrior, he'd do the same thing. But of course, baseball pitchers use a completely different skillset than a basketball player. A basketball player (or a positional baseball player) CAN go out there and perform when certain muscles are hurting, etc. But if a pitcher goes out there with injuries, he's either going to suck or put himself on the 60-day disabled list.

      • Maxwell Horse May 14, 2012 at 2:21 AM #

        A more fair comparison would be comparing Beckett to another pitcher. I am by no means a baseball expert, but how many pitchers who, let's face it, are past their prime years and most likely mediocre as a result of that and that alone–how many of them can just use their "desire to be dominant" to suddenly be awesome? I would guess there aren't many. (And some of the ones who we were told remained dominant because of their iron will, turned out to be using a little "help" ala Roger Clemens.) If all it took was a desire to be good, then everyone would be an ace.

        The fact is, the fans like to go with "storylines." The current one is that Beckett is a villain. If Buchholz does terribly (and he is), then it's Beckett's fault. He's influencing young, innocent Buccholz like some character in a Greek play. The Sox collapse in September–it's Beckett's fault for eating chicken.

        • Maxwell Horse May 14, 2012 at 2:21 AM #

          (And when it's pointed out to people the ridiculousness of that argument, rather than relinquish that storyline, they fall back on something like, "Well, it's the overall character-flaws that the chicken-eating represents. And that chicken-eating-attitude made everyone else fail too.")

          Beckett's worst crime here is going out of his way not to be contrite to the fans or the press. (I'm sure this is largely a matter of pride. Hell, if I were a baseball player, I might take a similar tack. Why should I beg the approval of people that "love" or boo you at the whim of whether you have a good start or not. And should you be consistently mediocre in your remaining time in Boston? Then you will forever be known as a useless waste, despite anything great you did previous to that.)

          Is that stupid on Beckett's part? Probably. It's horrible PR for himself and for the team, for no good reason other than perhaps stubborn pride. But it is not the villainy it's being portrayed as, nor is it the cause for the team losing game after game.

    • Maxwell Horse May 14, 2012 at 2:25 AM #

      By the way, when I went off into my spin-off about how some people blame "chicken" and like to go with storylines, I didn't mean to lump you into that group, Tom. You specifically said that you didn't think that chicken or Beckett's poor press skills aren't the reason. I just used your "desire to succeed" comment to tangent off into those topics.

  7. Walt in Maryland May 14, 2012 at 9:25 AM #

    If Beckett was pitching better, would any of this be an issue? I agree that Beckett DOES care how he pitches, and he's NEVER cared what people think about what he does off the field. His comments the other night are a continuation of his reaction to the "chicken and beer" story. He truly doesn't seem to believe there was anything wrong last season, or that he was in any way to blame.

    To me, none of that matters AS LONG AS HE IS PITCHING WELL. And he's not. And while I'm sure he DOES care, he doesn't seem to care as much as he did before he was signed to a long-term contract extension. And before he got married, had a kid and stopped working out as hard as he once did between starts.

  8. Mr Punch May 14, 2012 at 12:16 PM #

    I've been following the Sox for more than 50 years, and in that time Beckett is the most overrated player they've had, by far. (He was imported from the most overrated group of players in baseball history, the Marlins pitching staff.) It's not that he's never very good; '07 was an excellent year, and he's had some other good first halves. It's not even that he's overpaid; yeah, some, but he doesn't get Halliday money. And it's not that he's a jerk; a lot of very productive ballplayers, maybe especially starters and closers, are jerks. I think a big part of the problem is that he's been regarded and treated as someone much better than he actually is, who has been cut far too much slack in his behavior and in terms of learning to pitch as his fastball has faded to (one of?) the slowest on the staff.

  9. Walt in Maryland May 16, 2012 at 8:28 AM #

    How foolish do some of these comments sound after Beckett's performance yesterday?

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