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Bad contracts, sure, but not bad people

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  August 25, 2012 02:48 PM

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The trade of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto has been portrayed in some circles as ridding the clubhouse of malcontents.

That is not true. It was ridding the team of three bad contracts, not necessarily bad people.

That is particularly true of Crawford. There was not one player on the roster — not one — who worked harder at getting better than Crawford. He came with only the best intentions, he was a good teammate and he did everything asked of him without complaint.

He played two games in 2011 before Terry Francona dropped him down from second to seventh in the batting order. That disrespect was something he never could understand. They Red Sox, in essence, gave him $142 million then showed their lack of faith in him after seven at-bats.

Crawford didn't ask to get hurt. He didn't ask for surgery on his wrist and his elbow. He didn't ask to be the kind of player who had no natural fit in the Red Sox lineup. He didn't ask for "fans" to yell racist remarks at him. He just wanted to play baseball.

Here's hoping he's the National League MVP next season.

Gonzalez is a terrific player in every aspect of the game except for running. He's a Gold Glover at first, a guy who can hit for average and power and he plays hard every day.

He was a victim of outsized expectations. We all thought the move from Petco Park to Fenway would result in 40 home runs a year. It didn't. We all thought he would be an MVP candidate. He wasn't. We all thought he would become the face of the franchise. He didn't care to be.

Gonzalez was merely an outstanding player and not the best one. For that crime, he got ripped.

He didn't help himself, however. Gonzalez's comments at the end of last season's collapse were discouraging. He blamed the schedule and then voiced his belief that God's plan didn't include the Red Sox making the playoffs.

Being around the Yankees and now the Red Sox left one big impression when it came to star players: You have to identify the ones who will embrace the challenges of a big market and avoid the ones who can't. Brian Cashman often says that's the biggest challenge of his job. The trade shows that the Red Sox understand that now.

Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are pros at handling Boston, just like Johnny Damon, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez were. Cody Ross gets it. So does Will Middlebrooks. I think Clay Buchholz understands how to handle things and present himself correctly.

Gonzalez never figured it out, or didn't want to. You don't tell people who spent $500 to bring their kids to the park for a game that God had a different plan about who was making the wild card.

Then there's Beckett, who isn't a bad person at his core but seemed intent on having everybody think that he was.

Josh cultivated the imagine of being a guy who didn't care. He got caught drinking in the clubhouse during games and blamed the people who caught him instead of apologizing for it. This year, after pitching poorly, he blew off reporters several times after games and left it to his teammates to explain his failure. He has ignored every pitching coach since John Farrell left and showed little respect for Bobby Valentine.

Beckett was one of the best starters in the AL last season. He'll probably be one of the best starters in the NL, too. He'll figure out how to pitch effectively with a diminished fastball and Don Mattingly won't cut him the slack the Red Sox did.

The Red Sox let Beckett get out of control and once they did, there was no reeling him back. In the end, he was so undesirable that they essentially gave him away as a throw-in.

Was he a bad guy? That's up to you to decide.

But don't paint Crawford and Gonzalez with that brush. The Red Sox made an error in judgement by obtaining them and it just didn't work out. That doesn't make them bad people.

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