When do the World Series tickets go on sale?
Sadly, the Red Sox did nothing of substance at the trade deadline - unless you're Lars Anderson and you now have a chance of actually playing in the majors before 2016. They did win their fourth-straight game after the trade deadline, which will provides plenty of justification - at least in some quarters - for not having done much of anything.
The Party Line - so eloquently delivered by My-Dream-Job-Has-Become-A-Nightmare GM Ben Cherington - was that this team is good enough to make a run with just a few tweaks. Matt Albers' gut was the problem, not Josh Beckett's. Don't you see? "We prefer to not do things rather than make decisions that end up hurting us in the long run," Cherington said. "We're happy with that we did and most importantly we're happy with the guys we have here and it's really a more a reflection on them. We believe in the group. We feel we feel we have as good a chance as any of the team in this cluster of teams in the wild card."
Ah, the (second) wild card. Red Sox fans, "welcome to the Grand Illusion." Forget Neil Diamond, let's hear Styx after the eighth-inning stretch. Our hearts say "Believe" but our heads say "Be Real." Bud Selig probably wishes he had come up with this sham 10 years ago. The Red Sox have taken underachievement to catastrophic levels going back to last September. And yet, their noble GM is able to keep a straight face and tell the Nation that "we're happy with the guys we have here." Score another one for "The Monster."
Good news, tickets for tonight's @JennyDellNESN Tweetup are still available. The fun begins at 5:40 p.m. Certainly, the Baconator has been a rare highlight this season. But only the Red Sox would announce a Tweetup a week in advance on television and then make it part of a ticket-purchase-based event. Defeats the purpose of a Tweetup all the way around. The virtual presence of @realOBF will have to suffice. More importantly, this Tweetup demonstrates that the Red Sox can't sell out the bleachers on August 1st against a legit playoff contender without another marketing gimmick.
That brings us to Beckett, who managed to make it all the way to the third inning Tuesday night before leaving the game with a back spasm. That's the first cousin of a sore lat. "It just locked up on me," Beckett said after Boston's rain-shortened, five-inning 4-1 victory over Detroit.
Now there's a world of difference when an athlete - and that term is used very loosely here in the case of the 2012 Beckett - is "hurt" vs. "injured." Pain is simply weakness leaving the body, but an injury actually prohibits you from being able to perform. Beckett retired the first eight batters he faced before walking in a run. He said this affliction came out of nowhere, "coming four or five pitches out of the stretch." Maybe it hit because the bases were loaded and it was starting to rain. He was already at 49 pitches with two out in the third.
Let's go way, way, way out on a limb here, but perhaps, just maybe, there is a tiny slight bit of possibility that the Texas Fluff Guy's latest ailment could be a result of a some lack of physical preparation, conditioning or training. The inventor of the treadmill died last week at age 96. Doubtful Beckett noticed. Hey, I'm no Olympian - although I could probably give Michael Phelps a run for his money at Subway - but I wasn't born with the ability to throw a fastball 97 MPH across the outside corner of the plate, either. I've overcome some major health issues in the past few years - more on that another day - and my rehab efforts at the local crossfit gym would make one helluva "Middle-Aged Chubby Guy Nearly Dies of a Heart Attack Doing Pushups" video on You Tube. But so many of us would have given nearly anything to possess the physical gifts and abilities that Beckett has. And done whatever it takes to keep them for as long as possible.
Watching Beckett grab that giant chunk of flesh on his lower-left backside Tuesday night was just another reminder of what has been wasted on his end during this past year with the Red Sox.
We'll see how seriously he's hurt soon enough. Let's hope it doesn't affect his short game. Unlike David Ortiz, whose absence has impacted Boston's lineup, there's an easy case to be made that the Red Sox are better off without this version of Beckett in their rotation. This would be "addition by subtraction" at its best. Tuesday night was the latest example of Beckett failing to carry over the momentum of a Red Sox win this season. This time, he gets an "Incomplete." Thanks to an infield single, a key error and a monsoon, the Red Sox were able to beat Justin Verlander for the second time this season. Surprisingly, Beckett was not knee deep into his second bucket of balls at the driving range by the time the game was called. No one believes Beckett wanted to get hurt, but somehow he probably doesn't think it's the end of the world, either.
Dustin Pedroia's ESPN "f-bomb" Sunday night was reassurance that not everyone on the Red Sox is mentally mailing it in. Four straight wins haven't hurt, either. Even "Fan Cave" Gonzalez got animated when Bobby V. got tossed. Of course, there were five double plays in Sunday's game and only one audible "f-bomb." which is part of the problem. (Now this is sharp contrast to Ryan Sweeney getting mad and punching himself out of the season. That was just a simple case of not being able to contain your emotions. Happens to us all, but only a select few are strong enough to break a knuckle while doing it. In Sweeney's case, as he noted, he let down his teammates and seemed genuinely despondent about it.)
The Red Sox are stuck with Beckett, injured or not, Sure, there were plenty of reports about shopping Beckett to the Braves, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rangers and California Golden Seals. But it was in the interest of the Red Sox to put out the narrative that Beckett was on the market to appease the disgruntled masses. Beckett can still be disposed of and would easily clear waivers. But no one of substance the Red Sox would get in return would be able do the same - even with Boston's submerged place in the standings. The Red Sox paid handsomely to get Kevin Youkilis out of town. If Beckett - who is a 10-5 guy and has to approve any trade - really wanted out of Boston - he could have helped the Red Sox make that happen a long time ago.
The Beckett Contagion has spread throughout the clubhouse, with Jon Lester being the most notable victim. Beckett's opinion of the press and the fan base is irrelevant and likely a non-factor in his daily life (as difficult as that might be for fans and reporters to accept.) From all reports, his teammates like him - and emulate him - and he likes them. When he's is not dealing with strained lats, back spasms or playing golf , Beckett is with his family, as he's pointed out countless times. His life off the field is fairly private. For all we know, he's switched from Bud Light to Coors and from Popeye's to Chick Fil A to dine with Tim Thomas. It's doubtful Beckett spends a whole lot of time fretting over what's written about him in blogs, said about him on talk radio or worrying about the boos and "f-bombs" hurled his way at Fenway.
If my math is anywhere near correct, Beckett's in-season semi-monthly paycheck of $1,312,500 (before taxes of course) hit his checking account via direct deposit at 12:01 a.m. today. Everyone gets a medal in these games, especially on payday. Winning is nice, but don't you dare mess with those off-days. The bottom line, thanks to that bottom line, is that's doubtful any team is willing to pay Beckett that much every two weeks for the rest of this season, 2013 and 2014 - unless the Red Sox are willing to pick up a huge chunk of the tab.
And Beckett lets them.
Don't hold your breath.
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