Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Beckett’s deal leaves Boston holding ace(s)

Posted by Bill Koch on April 6, 2010

Josh Beckett

We couldn’t let Josh Beckett’s contract extension pass without a word about it here at Ramble On.

Beckett happens to be one of our favorite athletes for his take-no-prisoners approach and his ability to deliver in the clutch. His 4-0 record and 1.20 ERA in the 2007 postseason were as cold-blooded as it gets, and his postgame outburst in Cleveland during the ALCS that season after the Indians flew in one of his ex-girlfriends, the ravishing Danielle Peck, to sing the National Anthem was classic stuff.

Beckett’s four-year, $68-million deal will keep him in Boston through 2014 and allow him to maintain his rightful place atop the Red Sox pitching rotation. He’s the only man who’s worthy of assuming that responsibility right now. Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka just don’t bring everything to the table that Beckett does. Buchholz is too young and unproven. Wakefield is too old and inconsistent. Matsuzaka is too injury-prone. Lackey is new to Boston and too fragile – he used to blame his hatred of Fenway Park on his struggles against the Red Sox while he was pitching with Anaheim, and a true ace wouldn’t care if he had to start the deciding game of a series in the pits of hell. Beckett did that once – he won Game 6 of the 2003 World Series with the Florida Marlins at Yankee Stadium, firing a five-hit shutout on three days’ rest.

Lester is in his own category. He could end up being Boston’s best pitcher by the time Beckett’s contract expires, but he’s just not ready right now. Some people thought that the Red Sox had signed Lackey to replace Beckett in Boston’s rotation, clearing the way for Lester to take over the top spot. The young lefthander has electric stuff and is tough as they come – show me a cancer survivor who isn’t – but he proved yet again on Tuesday night against New York that he’s better off as a No. 2 starter for right now.

The problem with Lester is that he nibbles. He starts refusing to throw strikes and doesn’t challenge hitters. It’s almost like he forgets that his fastball is quick enough to blow by any hitter and that his cutter is absolute filth. Lester showed his full arsenal when he buzzed through New York in the first inning, making Derek Jeter looks foolish while swinging at a cutter inside and blowing away Mark Teixeira with a 97-mile-per-hour fastball away.

That all changed in the second inning. Lester walked Jorge Posada, one of the slowest players in the history of baseball, to put runners at first and second with one out. He refused to challenge Posada and give him a chance to hit into a double play, something that Posada is a perfect candidate to do every time he comes to the plate with men on base. Lester eventually gave up Boston’s 1-0 lead when Nick Swisher stroked an RBI double into right field.

The same thing happened in the fourth right after Victor Martinez cracked a two-run homer to put Boston back on top. Lester pulled off the near impossible by issuing a leadoff walk to Robinson Cano, a guy who swings at almost anything, and hit Swisher with a curveball after Posada dutifully grounded into a double play. Lester escaped unscathed but had to work unnecessarily hard to do so, and it caught up with him in the fifth when Curtis Granderson and Jeter ripped back-to-back singles to open the inning and Nick Johnson was hit by a pitch to load the bases with nobody out. The Yankees ended up taking a 4-3 lead and Lester was done after five innings, saved from the loss only when Martinez doubled off The Wall in the bottom of the inning.

Beckett’s performance Sunday night was an aberration. Aces usually protect leads and almost never blow them twice – certainly not in the same outing. Lester might get there someday, but he’s not there yet. Beckett is still The Man in Boston, and his new contract ensures that he will be for a while.

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One Response to “Beckett’s deal leaves Boston holding ace(s)”

  1. Steve said

    A fair market deal for Beckett opens them up to trade buchholz or another young starter for
    a heavy hitter like
    Adrian Gonzalez.

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