David Ortiz recently came out and defended Josh Beckett after back spasms caused the 32-year-old right-hander to leave the field in his latest start.
Ortiz said that fans were ludicrous in thinking Beckett faked the injury. He said that questioning Beckett's competitive drive was wrong.
Ortiz said, via WEEI Boston:
When it comes to Josh Beckett, this is a guy who likes competition. Trust me, the way he was pitching that night, he wanted no part of being out of the game. I know what I’m talking about. This is the same guy who later that night couldn’t even get out of a chair or bend over to pick something up.
But whether Beckett was faking his injury or not, fans have a right to question Beckett's desire. Not only has he disappointed with the Boston Red Sox this season, but he showed up overweight, and that's a big no-no in the world of professional sports.
This is part of the problem with the Red Sox, dating back to last September when the team collapsed down the stretch to miss the playoffs. Their supposed "leaders" don't take accountability for their actions...or inaction. And when your leaders don't take accountability, who else is left to right the ship (and don't say Bobby Valentine)?
Beckett—after compiling a 2.89 ERA and 1.03 WHIP last season—has posted a 4.54 ERA and 1.27 WHIP this season.
This marks a disturbing trend for Beckett. While with the Red Sox, he's followed every solid season with a worse campaign, dating all the way back to 2007. He's a three-time All-Star with the Red Sox, but some years he doesn't look close to one.
Ortiz also said, via WEEI Boston:
People get used to the performance we bring to the field when we are at his best, and I don’t blame them. But this game isn’t as easy as it looks. That’s why there are a lot of ups and downs.
Baseball is indeed a sport of ups and downs, streaks and slumps, by nature. But that doesn't excuse the level of drop-off that Beckett has exhibited after strong campaigns in Boston. Red Sox fans are simply asking Beckett to follow up one good year with another. That's not too much to ask from a guy who signed a four-year, $68 million contract extension in April 2010.
Does Ortiz's defense of Beckett mark a problem with the culture of the Red Sox?
But maybe it's the entire organization's fault for signing Beckett to a lucrative extension. Beckett's extension came one day after he gave up five runs in 4.2 innings against the Yankees to start off his season.
Beckett then proceeded to go on the disabled list on May 19, 2010, with, yes, back problems. He finished with a 5.78 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 21 starts that season (the worst marks of his career).
Frankly, nobody should be defending Beckett until he shows that he can be a consistent pitcher in the major leagues. And it's not out of the question to wonder whether or not he's motivated all the time until he shows some level of consistency.
The best way to be consistent is to work at your game relentlessly, no excuses attached. The Red Sox as a whole lost sight of this last September.
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