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The problem with Beckett isn't Beckett

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  May 11, 2012 09:50 AM

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It's easy to be outraged about Josh Beckett and crack lame jokes about fried chicken, beer, and golf. Knock yourself out.

But the problem isn't Beckett. The problem is that nobody with the Red Sox from ownership down to his assorted pitching coaches has required him to be accountable or demanded that he change.

Beckett is a money pitcher. He is 7-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 14 postseason games over his career and has two World Series rings. The belief is that once you get to the postseason, he'll deliver.

He also has been pretty good in the regular season. Not great, but pretty good. He's 42 games over .500 in his career with an ERA under 4.00. Not too many active starters can make that claim. You may not like to hear this, but he's one of the best starters in the game and he's getting paid at the going rate.

Since 2001, when he broke into the majors, Beckett is one of 10 pitchers with at least 280 starts and an ERA under 4.00. One of 10.

In return for this durability and production, the Red Sox have stayed out of his way. Beckett gets to pick his catcher. Beckett gets to prepare for games the way he wants. Beckett gets to drink beer in the clubhouse during games. Beckett gets to throw too many cutters. Beckett gets to do what he wants, basically.

Terry Francona used to say that the best way to deal with Josh was to leave him alone. Bobby Valentine seems to feel the same way.

Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington, John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, John Farrell, Curt Young, Bob McClure, etc. There are probably a dozen men who could have gone up to Beckett at any point and told him to fall in line. Nobody ever did.

Heck, the Red Sox gave him a new $68 million contract in 2010. All that did was validate the idea that what he was doing was right.

Now there's all this righteous indignation that he went and played golf last week when he was hurt. Or that he didn't take any responsibility for the chicken and beer scandal. Oh, heavens, Josh Beckett is a spoiled, privileged athlete.

No kidding. Every person in his professional life has given him a free pass because he was so good. Did you expect him not to use it? It would be nice if he were a Boy Scout, but he's not. In his mind, that's your problem. It sure isn't his.

Muster up all the anger you want. He has 10/5 rights and trading him will be difficult. Beckett can decide where he wants to go and what it will take to get him there. Trust me, he's not taking his family somewhere he doesn't want to be.

And all the booing, indignant columns, and radio outrage won't change that.

If Valentine wants to, he can make life difficult for Beckett and demand change. But given the way the Red Sox have treated Beckett since he arrived in 2006, there is nothing to suggest that will happen.

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