Red Sox: Josh Beckett glad to have played in tough Boston market

BOSTON, MA - JULY 31: Josh Beckett #19 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the game on July 31, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 31: Josh Beckett #19 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the game on July 31, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /

Former Red Sox ace Josh Beckett admits that the tough media market wore on him but he’s glad to have experienced playing in Boston.

Boston is a notoriously tough market for athletes to play in. The backlash from fans and the media can be unrelenting when one of their teams is struggling. On the other hand, we are also a knowledgeable and passionate fan base that idolizes our sports heroes. Josh Beckett experienced both sides during his roller coaster tenure with the Boston Red Sox.

Appearing on “The Bradfo Sho” podcast with WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Beckett explained that it wasn’t easy playing in this demanding market but he now appreciates that he was given the opportunity to take on that challenge.

"“I’ve always loved it,” Beckett told Bradford. “I think of part of the down times in Boston is part of playing in Boston. I don’t think it has to go so far. But I do look back at all the good times and the bad, and I don’t think that playing in Boston, if we would’ve just had no drama at all, like I wouldn’t have felt like I got to play in Boston. At the end, it wore on me but I look back at it now and think, ‘Man, I’m glad I got to play there. I’m glad I got to see both sides of it.”"

Beckett arrived in 2006 from a trade with the Marlins that also brought Mike Lowell to Boston in exchange for a package of prospects highlighted by Hanley Ramirez.

The right-hander had pitched well in his last few years in Florida and emerged as a star on the postseason stage when he led the Marlins to an upset victory over the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. Expectations were high when he landed in Boston to assume the mantle of the staff ace.

He certainly didn’t look the part of an ace in his first season with the Red Sox. Beckett won 16 games but posted a disappointing 5.01 ERA and a career-low 6.9 K/9. First impressions matter in Boston and the underachieving Beckett became an easy scapegoat for the Red Sox missing the playoffs.

Beckett redeemed himself with a brilliant 2007 season, winning 20 games with a 3.27 ERA to finish as the runner-up for the AL Cy Young award. He capped his career year with a dominant postseason that included an ALCS MVP award and a World Series ring.

A strange phenomenon developed during Beckett’s time in Boston where he alternated good years with horrible seasons. One year after shining as a postseason hero, his record dropped to 12-10 with a mediocre 4.03 ERA. He bounced back with another All-Star campaign in 2009, then followed with the worst season of his career.

One season he was the darling of the Boston media, the next he was being ripped to shreds on every talk radio show in town. It’s a “What have you done for me lately?” mentality in this city and Beckett found out the hard way that you have to keep performing to retain the adoration of the fans and media.

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Beckett’s time in Boston didn’t end well. His 2011 season went well statistically but off the field was another story. Beckett was labeled the ringleader of the infamous “chicken and beer” fiasco in which the starting pitchers who weren’t on the mound that day would stuff their faces with fried food and chug beers in the clubhouse when they should have been in the dugout pulling for their teammates. The perceived lack of focus was blamed as one of the primary reasons for the epic September collapse that derailed the Red Sox.

The 2012 season is one all Red Sox fans wish to forget. Boston’s clubhouse mutinied against new manager Bobby Valentine and Beckett was one of several disgruntled players creating a toxic environment. The former ace made himself a lightning rod for criticism with his defiant “my off day is my off day” response to questions about playing golf the day after missing a scheduled start due to tightness in his lat muscle.

Boston cleaned house in August of that year with a blockbuster trade that sent Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers. None of the prospects they received in return panned out but that was hardly the point. The Red Sox cleared about a quarter of a billion dollars in future payroll and rid themselves of players who clearly didn’t want to be here.

Beckett was probably relieved to get traded away from Boston but looking back in retrospect, pitching for the Red Sox was a great experience. Sure, there were some dark times that culminated in a tragic ending but they don’t overshadow the bright spots.

"“It’s all good with me,” said Beckett. “I run into Boston fans all the time and they’ve got nothing but love.”"

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Time heals all wounds. Many fans were scorned by Beckett’s attitude in the late stages of his tenure in Boston but that’s not how we’ll be remembered. Years from now, we’ll recall his three All-Star seasons and his pivotal role in bringing another championship to this city while the bitter memories of Beckett at his worst will begin to fade.