Boston Red Sox: Time for major changes in Beantown

I was all set to write a scathing rebuke of Josh Beckett’s latest antics when I saw that Boston.com had beaten me to the punch.  Eric Wilbur’s best line in the post is also deadly accurate: “Ben Cherington now has the unenviable task of trying to find some team willing to take this infectious load off his hands.”

Beckett is an embarrassment to himself, the game, and the club (AP Photo)

As the “infectious load” in question, Beckett is an entitled, overpaid, inconsistent clod.  While his 2011 campaign was inarguably stellar on the mound, he made plenty of negative headlines and did all kinds of damage to the organization’s image and team chemistry with his clubhouse shenanigans.  Despite what Beckett would have you believe, fried chicken, beer, and video games in the clubhouse are not acceptable.

Moving on to 2012, Beckett has taken his putrid behavior to a new level, deciding to golf while supposedly nursing a sore lat muscle through a missed start, then lashing out when the media dare to question him about his unprofessional and unscrupulous activity.

His comments?

“We get 18 off days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves…I spend my off days the way I want to spend them.”

That’s clever math.  Last time I checked, the baseball season was approximately six months long, meaning that for more or less half the year, athletes are on their own time.  There are some exceptions for off-season workouts and the like, but it’s beyond insulting to the normal working world to suggest that a major-league only gets three weeks of vacation.

In reality, Beckett pitches once every 5 or 6 days.  That is, if his golf game permits.  And if he considers the intervening hours to include “work”, then perhaps he ought to buy a dictionary.  A 40-pitch bullpen session is what most of us would call recreation.  We do it in the backyard, playing catch with our kids.  It absolutely in no way qualifies as a full work day.

The second thing to consider about the garbage coming out of Beckett’s mouth is his unrealistic attitude.  He certainly cannot spend his off days however he likes, not when doing so puts at risk his ability to do the job he was contracted for.  This spoiled clown gets (notice I didn’t say earns) $15.75 million per year.  Even if worked all day on all 365 days, he’d still be earning about $1,800 per hour.

As it is in the real world, if Beckett makes 35 starts in a season, he’s making nearly half a million per appearance.

If this ignorant turd can’t respect the kind of responsibility that accompanies that kind of income, then he hardly deserves to make the salary.

To say that the Red Sox should trade Beckett is obvious, but doing so would be tough.  He’s a cocky, selfish player who has only occasionally performed to expectations.  His antics this year leave little room for debate as to whether or not the team should keep him, but the Sox may have no choice.  if he does stay, things need to change drastically– the organization can’t allow Beckett to dictate his own terms.

Either way, whether he stays or goes, it’s necessary to look beyond Beckett at the bigger picture.

As Red Sox fans, we still have 2004 and 2007 emblazoned in our memories.  We still think this franchise is now a perennial contender.  We still think we’re at the top of the baseball food chain.  After all, was 2010 not ruined by a rash of fluky injuries?  Was 2011’s collapse not rock bottom?  Surely there’s nowhere to go but up…right?

Wrong.

Look at this roster.  Look at the state of the club.  Something, many things, are dreadfully wrong.

Theo Epstein made a lot of very good decisions during his tenure in Boston, and overall was a highly successful GM.  But there’s a reason why he fled to Chicago.  In fact, numerous reasons.  The Red Sox have been battered by awful contracts– John Lackey, J.D. Drew, Daisuke Matsuzaka.  They gave a massive extension to a guy who had the accountability and social skills of a three year old.  They’ve failed to resolve their problems at shortstop despite ten years worth of trying.  They’ve had a disturbing lack of foresight when it comes to their aging stars.

We, as fans, have tried to stay positive.  We avoided taking sides when Dustin Pedroia mouthed off about his new boss.  But the fact is, right or wrong, he (as a key player and team leader) should have found a better way to resolve any differences of opinion he and Bobby Valentine might have had.

We’ve tried to stay patient regarding the Carl Crawford signing, knowing that one bad year and handful of injuries don’t necessarily make the left-fielder a $142 million bust.  But the fact is, Crawford is edging ever closer to bust status whether we like it or not.

We put on a brave face for the Mike Aviles/ Nick Punto era at short.  A payroll of $180 million and that’s the best we can do?

We watched Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek hang on too long.  We watched Terry Francona get ridden out on a rail, dragged through the mud as though he hadn’t brought titles back to Boston.  We watched the team acquire Ryan Sweeney as it’s starting right fielder.  We watched Daniel Bard get pulled out of an already-decimated bullpen to become a starter, a role with which he has had little familiarity or success.

We’ve either overlooked these events, or written them off as standalone problems.  We’ve minimized the negative to focus on the positive.  And admittedly, the team has done some great things in recent seasons.  David Ortiz has defied expectations to bounce back as a slugger.  Landing Adrian Gonzalez was a coup.  Letting Papelbon walk was a smart move, and had the injury-prone Andrew Bailey not gotten injured (surprise!) he probably would have made a solid enough replacement.

But taking a step back to look at the collective results, it’s clear that the situation is, well, not good.

No team can carry bad contracts and continue to thrive.  No team can expect to succeed while having players who undermine its chemistry with bad attitudes and sloppy behavior.  Remember the end of Manny Being Manny?  Sometimes you have to make the tough calls.  Short-term losses for long-term gains.  Addition by subtraction.

Call it whatever you want, that time has come.

As mentioned in a previous piece, Boston ought to consider trading Kevin Youkilis.  This notion met with some resistance when originally posted, but has since been supported by major media outlets.  Beckett, too, must be jettisoned.  Or if that proves impossible given his status as a 10/5 veteran, Bobby V. and the Boston ownership have to come down on him hard.  With some real discipline and enforced accountability.  What he’s done is akin to one of us working class peons spitting in our boss’ face.  For the good of the club and because it’s the right thing to do, the Sox should move or learn to control their erstwhile “ace”.

And perhaps it’s time to expand the wheelings and dealings into what might be called a mini-rebuild.  The farm system is still stocked, but mostly at the lower levels.  Boston needs to bridge the gap between this year and the not-too-distant future when some of these prospects might actually be MLB-ready.  Doing so might mean taking a public stance that more or less acknowledges that the team can’t vie for a World Series every year.  And though that may seem unpalatable, remember that the Sox really haven’t been all that great recently relative to the amount of talent they have and the amount of money they spend.

Let’s stop slapping band-aids on gaping wounds.  Let’s instead clean them out and let them heal, even if it hurts a little more this season.

 

  • Hankj20

    Matt Strobl is an A**…. of that I am certain. You lay blame on Beckett because he doesn’t play nice with the media…. You are a moron….. Beckett did not withdraw himself from starting, the club needed to call up Cook so he couldn’t opt out. Beckett would have started if the Sox hadn’t been forced to call up Cook. As for trading Youk, are you always this stupid????? Until Middlebrooks learns to take a walk and stop swinging all the time we need to keep him here. Middlebrooks maybe the 3rd baseman of the future but the future is not today. He needs to return to AAA  to get more seasoning same as our  future shotstop.
    So enough of your biased comments why don’t you try writing about the current State governments and how they are impacting the working class and leave sports reporting to true sports writers

  • Canvasbill

    I do not think there is anything he can do,,,don,t play him . Just have him sit on the bench and watch players that are trying to win.. Do not have to play him,,,give him some days off so he can reach the magic number 18….The most amazing thing is how players get these contracts that do not cover accountability

  • Canvasbill

     Totally agree….now a writer that tells it like it is….no BS

  • Spendthrift

    The Red Sox should put Beckett in the bull pen, let him sweep up after every game, and keep him out of baseball as long as possible.  Beckett and his buddies got rid of Francona, who was replaced with an incompentent big-mouth loser, and people are asking what is wrong with the Red Sox?  Beckett and Valentine are what is wrong with the Red Sox, and as long as they stay in beantown, active in the team, the longer things will remain wrong with the Red Sox.

  • http://isportsweb.com Rob White

    Poor Josh, he just doesn’t get enough time to himself. 

  • Jeff D

    How would you suggest the Sox come down hard on a player with a no-trade clause and a guaranteed contract through 2014?

    • Matt

      Beckett had a limited no-trade clause, up to 3 teams for no-trade.  As of his 5/10 status he can’t be traded without his consent, but that doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t be traded.  Obviously it would be difficult.

      If they don’t move him they can certainly discipline him.  Are you suggesting that guaranteed contracts leave teams powerless?  Beckett’s action were JUST selfish and irresponsible, they may well have directly impacted his performance.  Which he gets paid for.  Not having seen a standard MLB contract I can’t speak to the contractual language surrounding things like conduct and/or a player’s responsibility to avoid doing anything that might threaten his performance or lead to injury, but I assure you that such language exist.

      Guys get fined, suspended without pay, etc.  

      At the very least, Henry and Cherington could sit down and have a cut-the-crap conversation with him.  When the inmates run the asylum, you’re well and truly screwed.

      • Jeff D

        As a 5/10 veteran Beckett has all the leverage. His limited no-trade clause is meaningless starting this year. The only way a cut-the-crap conversation  that will be of any use is if it is along the lines of “cut the crap and show some value so we can find a trade scenario that is acceptable to both parties”.

        I haven’t seen a standard MLB contract either but I’m fairly certain golf is not on the list of prohibited activities.
        Who in MLB has been suspended without pay for any extended period of time lately? I can only think of Carlos Zambrano off the top of my head and that didn’t end particularly well for the Cubs.

        In an era of giant guaranteed contracts with little recourse for non-performance it is possible to have a situation where the inmates do run the asylum. When your personnel decisions are based solely on sabermetrics with no consideration given to personalities this is the type of team you eventually end up with.