Yo, Josh: Shut up and listen (Or: welcome to the ESPN cover curse)

August 4th, 2006 → 10:31 am @ // 14 Comments

Josh Beckett leads off this week’s, ESPN: The Magazine. The cover, which features a fierce looking Beckett sitting in the Red Sox dugout, is headlined, “Tough Town, Tough Race: Josh Beckett Couldn’t Be Happier.”

There aren’t many people who actually think Beckett couldn’t be happier. After last night’s fiasco — Beckett gave up six runs on two homers in the sixth inning, including Shin-Soo Choo‘s first career grand slam — his ERA is back at 5.00 and he’s given up more home runs (31) than Manny Ramirez has hit (30). To put it another way, Beckett is having a worse season, than Matt Clement did in 2005, with a higher ERA (5.00 to 4.67), a higher slugging percentage (.467 versus .398), and a higher OPS (.779 versus .731).

Sox fans — and the team’s front office — have more faith that Beckett will become a dominant starter than they do that Clement will ever pitch effectively again. Clement, who has another year left on his three-year deal, has pretty much become an afterthought, while Beckett was given a three-year, $30 million contract extension last month. Part of the reason for this is Beckett looks (and plays) the part of the tough talking, hard-throwing ace, while Clement looks like a dweeb always on the verge of tears. “It’s awesome,” Beckett told ESPN when asked about playing in Boston. Last year, even after being selected for the All-Star team, Clement often seemed more intimidated than exhilerated; about halfway through the season, he told me how he used to be able to bike to Wrigley Field during his tenure with the Cubs; in Boston, he said, he practically had to wear a disguise when getting into his car.

Beckett’s attitude does more than help stave off the boo-birds. Clement appears psychologically incapable of pitching in an environment like Boston, at least when he’s not doing well; Beckett should (and hopefully will) thrive off the attention. This is a man, after all, whose ego Curt Schilling admiringly compares to his own. (“He’s cocky,” Schilling told ESPN. “So am I. You have to be cocky to be good.”) But right now, Beckett’s ego seems to be getting him in more trouble than anything else. As I’ve said before, the days of him being able to rear back and blow hitters away with his disturbingly straight fastball are over; this ain’t the NL East. (Beckett’s thrown over 70 percent fastballs this year, and hitters’ batting average is more than twice as high when Beckett’s throwing heat as when he’s throwing curves.) And at some point, you have to hope Beckett will cut the “I call my own games” crap and realize he has something to learn from the team’s catchers. There’s a reason Schilling — one of the best prepared pitchers in the game — trusts Jason Varitek enough to call all his starts. There’s no good reason Beckett should be calling off Varitek (or any other catcher — and that includes Doug Mirabelli).

Beckett may be leaning away from his knee-buckling, shoulders-to-shins curve because snapping the ball is one reason for his history with blisters. He may just consider it a blow to his manliness to rely less heavily on the pitch that made him famous. If it’s the former, you have to hope that modern medicine — which can improve people’s vision with lasers and take tendons from one part of the body and strap them on somewhere else — will come up with a cure for delicate fingers. If it’s the latter, you have to hope that Beckett will learn as much from Schilling’s humility as he will from his arrogance. Schilling didn’t become a dominant pitcher until he got a good talking to from Roger Clemens. Beckett certainly does have the skill to be the staff’s next ace; this is, after all, the player with whom John Henry was so enamored he tried to find a way to hold on to Beckett as part of any deal to sell the Marlins. But as this season has shown, he still has a long way to go.


Post Categories: Josh Beckett

14 Comments → “Yo, Josh: Shut up and listen (Or: welcome to the ESPN cover curse)”


  1. 2004_champs

    11 years ago

    I would rather have Pedro than Josh Beckett. Anybody who says otherwise is simply making excuses for Theo.

    Dude, we get it: you’re way into Pedro. If all you want to contribute to the discussion is how totally awesome Pedro is and what a jerk Theo is, save it. I’m looking for thoughtful comments, not the same rallying cry repeated endlessly.

    – Seth

    Reply

  2. mikecolombo

    11 years ago

    I would rather have Greg Kite than Josh Beckett. I mean let’s face it, if you take away Beckett’s ever-discussed 2003 World Series performance, what are you left with? In this his 5th full season, show me one that has been anything like dominant? And as you mentioned, that was in the NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST. And as far as the World Series goes, a dominant 2 outings against a team that has never seen him before is what Josh Beckett is all about isn’t he? I mean he was pretty dominant for several starts at the beginning of this season too wasn’t he? He throws 98 mph doesn’t he? He’s got “great stuff” (or more appropriately “a great thing”) and all that. Unfortunately, when it comes to consistently performing in a tough American League division, he is worse than Tim Wakefield. That puts him at a number 3 starter on this team, doesn’t it? Right where he started the season. So we paid $10 mil a yr. for a decent #3, that’s about right isn’t it? Lement is making something like 9 I think. The contract is actually perfect in my mind, but the part I think was missing was the trade. You know there are still tons of teams out there suckered by a 98 mph fastball and a couple good outings agains the Yankees (no, not the recent ones). Add to that he is under contract to make less than what a dominant #1 is worth, and I think there has to be some teams that would have sold the farm to get him. I just hear all these people make grandiose predictions about a guy with a 5.00 era who has about as hard a time keeping the ball in the ballpark as Shaq does making free throws. I mean HOMERS!! Not that he gives up too man hits, he gives up TONS of HOMERS!! He does the worst thing pitchers can do more often than anyone in the game. 6 starts with more than 3 homers! Come on! We should have dealt him before the cat gets out of the bag that he is an overrated youngster with 1 pitch.

    Reply

  3. kml1258

    11 years ago

    I somewhat agree with both Mike and Seth. There has to be a someway for Schilling to get through to Beckett. He’s got the look, attitude off the mound, and the stuff on the mound. Maybe, Schilling will do for him what he did for Papelbon and teach him the splitter(another way to change speeds without having to worry about blisters). Huckaby should read the scouting reports and know the Choo is a first ball, fastball hitter. I think in both games he played in he swang at it almost every at-bat. I’m not sure of the answer, he does seem to “get it.” Maybe we should try to find a way to coerce Drayton McLane to waiver Clemens and he could get a chance to show Beckett how a major league pitcher, well, pitches. This is all just in my humble opinion. By the way, Seth, I Loved The Monster.
    First time posting, Sox fan now living in Kansas City(by choice).

    Kevin — pay Bryant’s a visit for me. My paternal roots are in KC. At least the Royals won’t tempt you to switch allegiances.

    – Seth

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  4. stevenj05

    11 years ago

    Josh Beckett needs to have someone (Schilling) teach him to throw a splitter. Look what it did for Papelbon. Any hard-throwing righty needs some sort of forkball. Work on the change-up too be it this year or for next. He’s got the guts to compete and now he just needs 1 more pitch in his arsenal.

    Reply

  5. SnapCracklePAPS

    11 years ago

    The article is dead on.

    This is a perfect example of how much weaker and, to be honest, pathetic the National League is. All the good pitchers in the AL use offspeed pitches as out pitches; or are at least capable of using them as out pitches. Look at Santana with his deadly changeup, Halladay with his curve, Papelbon with his splitter, Schilling with his splitter, Mussina with his knuckle curve, even guys like John Lackey and Nate Robertson are posting great seasons because of good offspeed stuff. A healthy and stronger Keith Foulke is also a great example.

    Beckett could survive the National League because 1) the ballparks are considerably larger and 2) the hitters are much more “pitcher friendly” to say the least.

    His fastball is a good one, but the only thing keeping it at 95 to 96 mph is throwing offspeed stuff. Otherwise, 95 doesn’t seem fast. Plus, it is the only pitch he uses with 2 strikes and hitters know that, which could very well explain why the majority of the home runs he gives up are with two strikes.

    Bottom line: he has to mix up his pitches, with two strikes especially. His changeup and curveballs are both strong enough to be out pitches, and should be used as such.

    Reply

  6. madjackblack

    11 years ago

    I thing sometimes we forget that Josh is still only 25, the same age as Pap. He has a nasty curve and fastball, for him to be a dominate pitcher he needs a better change or start throwing the split. For an example, once players started to sit on Rogers fastball, he came up with the split. IMO the split is the key for a hard throwing pitcher. Thats what makes Schill and Pap(when the pitch is working for them)so good. Throwing straight fastballs is not going to work, it did on ’03 because he was throwing 100mph(I remember the radar gun listings during the series).

    Seth, book was great, are you working on a follow up.

    Reply

  7. mikecolombo

    11 years ago

    Beckett’s changeup is useless, he throws it 89-90 mph. So it is basically just a bad fastball. Similar thing Foulke was experiencing last year (not enough separation because his fastball had slowed down) and look where it got him. His curveball is filthy mcnasty, but only when he can throw a strike with it – which is rare. Similar to Delcarmen when he has that curve working along with his 95-96 mph cheese, he looks unhitable. When the curve isn’t getting strikes, he looks like Josh “The Tater” Beckett. Add to that the scare of blisters and GINORMOUS ego and I’m not sure the 1 pitch wonder will ever really reach his potential. Maybe Seth is right, maybe he’ll let someone teach him how to pitch and become fantastic. I mean when it gets to the point that hitters are coming out in the press (Jackie MacMullen article yesterday) saying they are just sitting there waiting for fastballs, he must realize that he needs to do something else, right? I mean he has to. Let’s hope so because this season anyway depends on it.

    Reply

  8. johnw

    11 years ago

    I haven’t looked up the numbers, but there seems to be a strong resemblance between the career arcs of Beckett and Schilling — who, until he got into his late 20s, failed to tap his huge potential. It can take pitchers years to master their craft… and indeed, considering the burnout rate of pitchers who are successful at young ages, you might be better off in the long run with a pitcher who takes some time to learn the job.

    The acquisitions of Beckett, Crisp and Pena are part of a coherent strategy: build up the farm system, acquire pre-prime talent with star potential, and fill in the gaps with (relatively) low-cost veterans. The strategy, like any other, is not without risk. Beckett may turn out to be Schilling II; he may recall the 2003 World Series as the high point of his career. Crisp could become the next Johnny Damon or the next Mickey Rivers. Pena may be the next Manny Ramirez or the next Rob Deer. All three are good bets to attain or approach the top end of the scale. The signing of Clement was the same kind of move on a slightly lower level: a good gamble that, so far, has turned out poorly.

    Any particular move may turn out badly, but the overall strategy is sound. We’ll know in two or three years.

    Reply

  9. Carson

    11 years ago

    Seth – I believe Al Nipper, the Red Sox pitching coach, bears some blame for the problems of Josh Beckett. The kid can throw hard, but he can’t pitch. Nipper should be teaching him some new pitches, how to set up hitters, etc.

    The fans might be falling for the tough guy act now, (after all, Varitek’s been living off shoving his glove in A-Rod’s face for a season and half), but it won’t be long before a 5.00+ ERA leads to heavy booing. And I don’t see Beckett holding up to well under heavy home crowd abuse.

    Reply

  10. gmschmidty

    11 years ago

    Hey, 2004_champs: I forget how Petey did last time he faced an AL team. Can you remind me? Petey was my favorite Red Sox player ever but it is patently foolish to say you would rather have an aging pitcher in the twilight of his career (boasting 90-mph heater) than a young guy who by most accounts has the “stuff to be an ace.” That being said, it would also be silly not to ask what the problem is with Beckett, because even given all of his stuff, he has failed to live up to the hype thus far in his career. I agree with the sentiments expressed here by others. Schill has got to continue to take him under his wing, and Beckett has got to have the humility to accept that as a favor, and not a shot to his manhood. More importantly, he has got to stop being so stubborn with his fastball. If he doesn’t learn to rely more on some breaking balls, his fastball does not have enough of a tail to be considered his “out pitch.” Just ask Jermaine Dye.

    Geoffrey

    Reply

  11. trane

    11 years ago

    I don’t buy the idea that Beckett gets a pass for his look and attitude, while the similarly statted Clement gets hassled for his. Dealing in the first half of ’05, Clement looked great out there, just as every effective pitcher looks great. If he’d kept that up we would have given him a smart sounding nickname like “the scientist,” or “the brain.” Even slouching through the second half, Clement got a pass from fans; right up until his deplorable appearance in game one of the ’05 ALCS. He failed that night, and he’s done nothing but fail since. That’s why he has a bad rep here – dweebiness has nothing to do with it.

    So far Beckett’s won more than he’s lost. His stats might be scary, but 13 wins are 13 wins. We’ll see how well his tough guy act goes over if he ever fails as spectacularly as Clement has failed since the ’05 All Star break. Until that time, I feel pretty good about him.

    Reply

  12. Sox Blog

    11 years ago

    Down and out…

    Reply
  13. […] The lack of respect for Wake has been a bit of a bete noire for me as of late, and when I get something stuck in my craw, I’m likely to keep on gnawing on it until I can force it down. I’m thrilled that Beckett seems to have given up the bullheaded ways of his (recent) past. I’m also excited that Schilling appears to be closer to the ‘04 model than the ‘05 model; the Sox need both of these guys to play deep into October. But it would be nice if, instead of another SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight segment on one of these two, or instead of another full-length feature about Dice-K, someone, somewhere (besides here, I mean) decided to highlight a 40-year old pitcher who’s demonstrated the beauty of a skill that looks to be in its twilight years. After all, if you were a kid, wouldn’t you want to get noticed (and paid) for bringing the high heat (even if it resulted in a mediocre record) instead of getting looked over (and underpaid) for quietly making the best hitters in the world look like fools? […]

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  14. […] Does he need to grow up? […]

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