FORT MYERS, Fla. - We’re not here to rate the mea culpas of Red Sox pitchers Jon Lester and Josh Beckett yesterday at JetBlue Park. They are different people with different emotions and trigger points about themselves and others around them.
Beckett always has been portrayed as the leader of the Sox staff, the veteran who has pitched big postseason games, and always has been considered a fierce competitor. Things got away from him in the clubhouse last season, as he was part of the beer drinking and chicken eating, and his weight ballooned.
Yet with all that, Beckett made 30 starts, went 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA, and had a career-low WHIP of 1.026.
Beckett is very emotional. He’s as good as he is because he pitches with a chip on his shoulder.
His level of accountability for the Sox’ September collapse at least was greater yesterday than in his recent MLB Network interview with former teammate Kevin Millar, in which Beckett seemed to dwell more on who leaked the details of the clubhouse shenanigans than on his own misdeeds.
Lester has shown the most accountability of any player for the transgressions of the starting rotation last season. He was outstanding again yesterday in addressing how wrong he was and how much he now wants to set a good example.
He was the first pitcher to arrive to camp and he’s said and done all the right things since.
But in his own way, Beckett at least took some steps yesterday.
“The bottom line is my last two starts, they just weren’t that good,’’ he said. “I’m not saying we didn’t make mistakes because we made mistakes in the clubhouse, but the biggest mistakes I made was not pitching well vs. Baltimore. I was prepared to pitch every time I went out there. I just didn’t execute pitches when I needed to.’’
Concerning the fans’ ire toward him, Beckett said, “I can’t control that. That manifests itself somehow.’’
He did say he understood it, however.
“Absolutely, I’ve been a fan of things, too,’’ he said. “We were the best team in baseball for about five months. We’re just as let down as they are. That doesn’t make it right. We were very let down as well.
“I think that we had lapses in judgment. I had lapses in judgment. I can’t speak for everybody else. I want to keep it at that. I can’t speak for Jon, or John [Lackey], or Clay [Buchholz] or Wakey [Tim Wakefield], or anybody. It’s pretty much I want this to stay about me. That’s how I feel about it.’’
Asked why he couldn’t stop the lapses, he said, “I had some things going on. I was distracted. I think that was the biggest thing. I would definitely change those.’’
Beckett said he never missed a workout, and added, “I was ready to pitch every time, but I didn’t execute my pitches the last two starts.’’
Beckett was pressed about what mistakes were made in the clubhouse, and he repeated, “We made mistakes in the clubhouse and that’s about as far as I’ll go talking about the clubhouse.’’
Concerning his being portrayed as out of shape, Beckett said, “I put on a little bit of weight. I don’t have a reason for it. I’m looking forward to going forward from here.’’
Asked if he were more upset about his actions than who leaked the story to the media, he said, “I’m upset with myself for lapses of judgment but there’s also some ill feelings toward some people.’’ He wouldn’t say who those people were.
Beckett said he and the team needed to win the fans back.
“Yeah, absolutely, we need to earn that trust back,’’ he said. “I think they are the best fans in baseball. There’s some good and bad, but they’re the best fans. We definitely have to win their trust back and the only way to do that is to go about our business as we did in previous years and win ballgames. I think that’s the best thing.’’
If Beckett has lost some fire, he’s got to get it back, and he must find something to rally around or against.
The Red Sox will pay him $15.75 million this season, and for that a team should get No. 1-starter-caliber performance and leadership.
Beckett will have some adjustments to make, as Jason Varitek won’t be his main catcher anymore. Last season Varitek caught him in 28 starts and Beckett thrived with a 2.62 ERA. In two starts with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Beckett’s ERA was 7.36. But Beckett said Saltalamacchia has caught him twice already.
“I don’t think you’re gonna find anyone who has played with him who isn’t gonna miss him,’’ Beckett said of Varitek. “Salty has caught me a couple of times. He’s relayed some things to me what he sees.’’
What Beckett needs to do is continue to be motivated by his actions of last season. He needs to stop playing the investigator about who leaked the clubhouse information.
While it’s important for players to believe that what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse, if professional behavior is exhibited nobody has anything to worry about.