With Josh Beckett scheduled to skip his next scheduled start, it is time to examine Beckett’s professional portfolio. He has been called a No. 1, an ace, a bulldog and even a workhorse. However, in reality, Beckett is a fraud.
Beckett burst out of the gate when he joined the Florida Marlins in 2001, going 2-2 while striking out 24 batters in 24 innings to go along with a 1.50 ERA Though it wasn’t until his third season with the Marlins that we saw Beckett’s real potential.
In the 2003 World Series, Beckett launched onto the national scene and helped the Marlins win their second World Series title by dominating the New York Yankees. He showed that he had the mental toughness at 23 years old when he went out in Yankee Stadium and pitched a complete game shutout in Game 7 to clinch the title for the Marlins.
In Beckett’s second season in Boston, he helped lead the Red Sox to their second World Series title in four years and seemingly cemented his legacy as a great postseason pitcher. His 2007 campaign was great. He went 20-7 during the regular season and followed it up by going 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in the postseason.
However, if you look closer, Beckett’s portfolio shows that while he may be a good pitcher and he has dazzled in two postseasons, he is not an ace.
In the seasons since his great 2007 campaign, Beckett has gone 50-32 with a pedestrian-like 4.01 ERA. More importantly, he has gone 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in four postseason starts since 2007. Neither statistic is that of an ace.
He never seems to come to spring training in shape, leaving one to wonder if baseball is the top priority in his life. I am not going to tell people how to live their lives, but there are certain expectations when you are highest-paid pitcher on a perennial contender, and so far, Beckett has been too inconsistent to be called an ace.
The Texas flamethrower is not the second coming of Roger Clemens or Nolan Ryan. In fact, Beckett isn’t even a flamethrower any more. Unlike Clemens and Ryan, he does not have the exceptional lower-body strength needed to mow down hitters year after year.
Additionally, Beckett’s ego seems to get in his way more than it should. Rather than developing relationships with catchers, he seems to latch onto a safety net, which, for years, was Jason Varitek. This wouldn’t be a problem for most, but in doing so, it engrained the notion that when he failed it was someone else’s fault, either the catcher calling a bad game, the lack of defensive support or the lack of offense.
Clemens, Ryan and recent Red Sox great Pedro Martinez all had their own issues, but the second they put their foot on the rubber, they dominated no matter what. Beckett seems to lack that inner drive that all true aces have inside them, and unless he suddenly realizes he needs to change, he will never live up to his potential.
While he has time to write the final chapter of his career, Beckett has a tough hill to climb to silence many of his critics. He constantly complains about injuries, and rather than battling through them, he seems to pull a page out of the J.D. Drew book of baseball and takes the day off. He had the talent like Drew did, but rather than pushing himself in the offseason and being a dominating pitcher every fifth day, Beckett settled for mediocrity.
To make matters worse, Beckett isn’t even the best pitcher in Boston anymore. In a blink of an eye, he was passed by a younger, more resilient Jon Lester. The only thing Beckett can do other than increasing his compete level is stay out of Lester’s way. The last thing the Red Sox need right now is for Beckett’s acceptance with mediocrity to rub off on Lester.
In the end, there will always be fans that will remember him for two magical Octobers, but the reality is, Josh Beckett is no longer an ace. Josh Beckett is a fraud.