May 15 – Happy Birthday Josh Beckett

beckettJosh Beckett was such a good pitcher in high school that plenty of scouts and agents thought he might skip his senior year (in high school mind you, not college) and declare himself eligible for the MLB draft as a junior! He did end up staying and playing his senior year and then in 1999, this right-handed native of Spring, Texas was selected as the second overall pick in the draft by the Florida Marlins.

Beckett then breezed through the minors in two seasons with a 17-4 record and made his debut with the Marlins in September of 2001, splitting his first four decisions, while striking out 24 batters in 24 innings and fashioning a very impressive ERA of 1.50. There was then nothing special about his first two complete regular seasons, during which he battled chronic finger blisters. It was his performance during the 2003 postseason that first caught the attention of the national sports media. He pitched very effectively in his six starts that fall and when he threw a masterful shutout against the mighty Yankees in the sixth and final game of the ’03 Fall Classic on just three day’s rest, he won both a ring and the World Series MVP award.

Two seasons later, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein let the Marlins know he was interested in obtaining Beckett. Florida proved to be tough negotiators, or at least it seemed so at the time. In addition to getting some of the jewels on Boston’s prospect list, namely Hanley Ramirez and Annibel Sanchez, Florida also forced Epstein to take third baseman Mike Lowell, who was coming off a bad year at the plate and still had two years left on his sizable contract.

Though Beckett went 16-11 during his first year in Boston, his ERA was a sky high 5.01 and the Red Sox failed to make the postseason while Ramirez was winning the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year honors for Florida. It looked as if the Marlins had gotten the best of the big trade. That perception didn’t last long however.

In 2007, Beckett had a breakout 20-7 season as did Lowell, who averaged .324 and drove in 120 runs as the two former National League teammates led their new team to the postseason. They then continued their great play in the playoffs and World Series. Beckett went 4-0 in fall ball and Lowell hit .400 against the Rockies to win the World Series MVP.

Boston and Beckett then spent the next four seasons trying to get back to baseball’s Big Dance without success. The pitcher had spurts of excellence during that time but he also had some physical problems and was never again as dominant as he had been during Boston’s ’07 World Championship year.

Boston’s late season collapse in 2011 proved to be Beckett’s undoing in Beantown. When the Red Sox ownership fired manager Terry Francona, the press reported that departing skipper had lost control of the team. Specifically they reported that Beckett and the rest of Boston’s starting rotation would leave the dugout together during games they weren’t pitching and retreat to the clubhouse to play cards and eat chicken.

It was that lack of discipline and focus that caused John Henry and company to hire Bobby Valentine. The new skipper appeared to bring out the worst in Beckett, who was 5-11 when the Red Sox front office made the famous $400 million house-cleaning deal with the Dodgers in late August of 2012, that sent Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford,and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney, Ivan DeJesus and three other prospects.

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