An Open Letter to Josh Beckett

Attempting to process some of the emotional baggage from one of my favorite and least favorite Red Sox players of the last decade.

Dear Josh Beckett,

Beckett by Kelly O’Connor (sittingstill.net)

You were one of my favorite Red Sox players.

You were one of my least favorite Red Sox players.

It all started out so well. My first memory of you was when you helped reduce the awful sting of 2003 ALCS by a small percentage when by kicking the Yankees’ butts in Game 6 of the World Series. Yes, it was another year that we didn’t win, but it was also a year that they didn’t win. A complete game shutout on the biggest stage by a 23 year old? 9 strike outs, 5 walks, 2 hits, and all of that in a World Series clinching game in Yankee Stadium? To say that I was enamored would be an understatement. Any kid that could pull that off had to be admired, especially by Red Sox fans.

Then two years later, just after Thanksgiving of 2005, the news broke that you were coming to Boston. That same kid that punked the Yankees on their own mound was going to be our ace. Sure we were all extremely disappointed that the much anticipated Hanley Ramirez accession to the SS throne would never take place in Boston, but with you and Curt Schilling we had as good of a 1-2 punch as anyone in baseball. Plus, maybe Hanley wouldn’t end up being quite that phenomenal, and who really wants to spend every 5th night cheering for a man named Anibal?

Your first season wasn’t all that I had hoped it would be. You gave up 36 home runs in 33 starts (by comparison you had only given up 39 in the previous 3 seasons). Your 16-11 record wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t what we had expected to get from you in exchange for only getting to see 2 at bats from Hanley in a Boston uniform.

Then, 2007 came. The magical year of 2007, the cherry on the sundae year. I had spent my whole life telling everyone that I only needed one Red Sox World Series Championship and then I would never ask again, but that changed in 2007. I wanted another one, and man did you lead the way in making that happen. 20-7, 3.27 ERA, and a career high 6.2 WAR. No matter how good Hanley Ramirez ended up being the trade would always be justified in my mind, because it brought another ring to the Sox. I never would have guessed it at the time, but this would end up being unquestionably the peek of your time with the Red Sox, and our relationship.

Over the course of the next few years you would manage to devolve from a player who I named my dog after, to a guy that I couldn’t even stand to look at. Yes, that’s right, my first Chocolate Lab’s name was Beckett Jacoby. He was born on October 18, 2007 — the night you threw the season saving gem (8 IP, 1 ER, 11K, 5H, 1BB) with the Sox down 3 games to 1 in the ALCS against CC Sabathia (the guy that edged you out for that year’s AL Cy Young Award) and the Indians. It was a good name for a dog, Beckett. It’s a strong name, and when I took him out and local Upstate New York Yankee fans asked his name I could see them cringe knowing that the dog was named after a guy that shut them down in the 2003 World Series and then led their biggest rivals to a second World Series Title in three years. His name signified to everyone just how proud I was to be a Red Sox fan, and a fan of yours.

It wasn’t shocking that a dog named after you just couldn’t manage to stay healthy, and lymphoma took him only six days after his second birthday. It was truly a shame because he was a great, caring dog. Hey, speaking of caring Josh, did you really not care about your performance for some of your years in Boston, or did you just do a great job of acting like you didn’t care?

Beckett Jacoby by Rachel Shipman (rachelannphotography.com)

Just look at your Wins Above Replacement from year to year, the numbers read like a dreadful roller-coaster with incredible peaks and awful valleys.

2006: 2.5
2007: 6.2
2008: 3.1
2009: 4.7
2010: -1.1
2011: 5.5
2012: -0.1

How is that even possible? How can you go from a 4.7 to a -1.1 to a 5.5? And let’s not even get started about the fact that you signed the contract extension after your solid 2009 season only to have the wheels fall off in an abysmal 21-start 2010 season. I don’t want to speculate on exactly what happened, but let’s just say that you and treadmills didn’t exactly spend a lot of time together that offseason.

The final straw for me was your defiant “We only get 18 days off a year” statement. That’s incorrect, Josh. If you actually stayed in shape and made it through an entire season healthy, you would have only worked 32 or 33 days a year. In addition to the 4 out of every 5 days that you get off from April-September, your pitching helped ensure that for multiple seasons you wouldn’t have to do any of that pesky pitching business into October.

When news of “The Trade” started to circulate on Twitter last August, my emotions could not have been less mixed. I was flat out ecstatic. I can’t properly summarize how relieved I was to never have to cheer for your again. But why did you have to look so happy on the picture you tweeted from the plane? That was like your ex-girlfriend sending you a picture showing how happy she is with her new man. That was hurtful, Josh. Go to Los Angeles, but please be as intolerably miserable as you were when you were with us.

I was kind of embarrassed at how emphatically I cheered when Tyler Colvin took you deep at Coors Field as you faced your first batter in your new Dodger uniform. I didn’t want you to go to Los Angeles and suddenly find your groove again so that you, and the media, could easily blame all of your failures on the “toxic culture” of the Boston clubhouse. I wanted to see you fail again, for someone else, and you did. Los Angeles didn’t catch the Giants, or even the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot. You sat at home for the playoffs, just like the rest of your former team did back in Boston.

Will I be cheering for you or against you this year? I’m honestly not sure. We’ll have to see what emotions come out the first time I see you standing on the mound again wearing Dodger blue. Maybe I’ll be able to focus on the good times, on 2003 and most of all on 2007. Or maybe I’ll just sit there watching you pitch wondering why you aren’t still our ace, and why the Chocolate Lab laying at my feet is named Mulligan, and not Beckett.

I miss you.

I don’t miss you at all.

Jack

Categories: 2007 ALCS 2007 World Series Boston Red Sox C.C. Sabathia Curt Schilling Daisuke Matsuzaka Florida Marlins Hanley Ramirez Josh Beckett Los Angeles Dodgers New York Yankees Trades

I'm a native Mainer and life-long Red Sox fan living among way too many Yankees fans in New York. I spent most of my childhood convinced that Spike Owen was going to be awesome, sooner or later. The last time I punched a wall was October 16, 2003. My bucket list included personally thanking a Red Sox player for 2004, something I was finally able to check off when I met Trot Nixon. Follow @JK7_

7 Responses to “An Open Letter to Josh Beckett” Subscribe

  1. Zach S. January 17, 2013 at 1:48 PM #

    18 days off per year? That comment is ridiculous it's not like you're doing your dream job or anything like playing a professional sport and getting paid millions of dollars… Oh wait.

    What a bum!

    Great article Jack.

    • Jack Keller January 17, 2013 at 6:23 PM #

      Thanks Zach! Yeah I really struggle with the athletes (or even sports writers) who forget that even on the days they work they are all doing what we wish we were doing. Thanks for reading!

  2. Jeff C January 17, 2013 at 3:52 PM #

    I'll always love Beckett not for his play but for coining "My off day is my off day." Perfect.

    For me this ranks right up there with "We're talking about practice," "Playoffs?" and "We are who were thought they were." Thanks Josh!
    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/josh-beckett-s-golf-

  3. Jack Keller January 17, 2013 at 6:28 PM #

    Yeah, Jeff "My off day is my off day" is a solid line…try that one around the house and see how it goes over!

    And those are some great ones. I also loved Herm Edwards "You play to win the game…hello?", Joe Theismann's "Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein", and everything that Mike Tyson said.

  4. Linda Venuti Mendel January 17, 2013 at 10:04 PM #

    Nicely written…and my condolences on the better of the two Becketts…Give Mulligan an extra biscuit for me,wiil ya?I also held my breath when he first pitched after the trade…glad we could exhale with a smile…thanks…

  5. Carol February 4, 2013 at 1:58 PM #

    I, too, am a Red Sox fan, but the reason he isn't the Sox ace anymore is because the fans decided to turn on Beckett and no matter what he said or did – it wasn't good enough. Sure, when a guy is down, kick him in the face. Beckett's "we get 18 days off" remark? Valentine gave him the day off because he had a pitcher he wanted to bring up from Pawtucket before a deadline. That's why Beckett had the day off and he never blamed Valentine or anyone else. How about we let the guy live his life and get on with ours. Beckett wasn't alone in the toxic clubhouse and he never ratted on anyone .We loved him until we turned on him. And, my dog Pudge – named after Carlton Fisk – also died of lymphona

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    [...] An Open Letter to Josh Beckett He was born on October 18, 2007 — the night you threw the season saving gem (8 IP, 1 ER, 11K, 5H, 1BB) with the Sox down 3 games to 1 in the ALCS against CC Sabathia (the guy that edged you out for that year's AL Cy Young Award) & the Indians. Read more on Fire Brand of the American League [...]