I guess the Red Sox should have traded Josh Beckett. Maybe they just couldn’t get anything for him and John Henry didn’t want to swallow another barrel of money.
In any event, it was a pretty ugly scene at Fenway Tuesday night when the stubborn Texas righty was booed as he walked off the field with a back spasm with two outs in the third inning of Boston’s rain-shortened, 4-1 victory.
Beckett had just surrendered a single and three consecutive walks after retiring the first eight batters in the Tiger lineup. When he threw ball four to Miguel Cabrera, forcing home Omar Infante, he extended his glove toward the Red Sox dugout and motioned for the Sox training staff to come get him. Everybody gathered at the mound, “Peanuts” style, and after a short consult, manager Bobby Valentine called for Clayton Mortensen from the bullpen.
Beckett was showered with hate as he came off the field. Boos rained down on his big head.
“It is what it is,’’ he said in Belichickian fashion.
Any reaction from you?
“None whatsoever,’’ he said.
Did you notice?
“Yeah,’’ said Beckett. “You always notice.’’
This is Beckett’s seventh season with the Red Sox. He has been a World Series hero for Boston. He was an American League All-Star as recently as last season when he had a stellar ERA of 2.89.
Now he is a local sports pariah, loathed more than LeBron James, Albert Haynesworth, and the Sedin twins. He is the poster boy for chicken and beer, the man who got Tito fired, and the guy who plays 18 holes when he’s too hurt to take his turn in the rotation. He’s the stubborn Texan who’ll never give us the satisfaction of an explanation. He is a guy who gets booed when he comes out of a game with an injury.
It was almost as if the fans were skeptical about Beckett being hurt. That is how far he has fallen. Fans hate the guy, but it looks certain that he’ll be with the Sox for the rest of the year. And he’s under contract for another two seasons at $15.75 million per year.
Both Beckett and Justin Verlander (four walks in five innings) had trouble on a wet, sloppy mound. Beckett said his back “locked up on me. Obviously, I couldn’t throw strikes with it. The last four or five pitches out of the stretch it kept getting worse and I couldn’t throw strikes.’’
Beckett said he became aware of his name in trade rumors over the last two or three days, adding, “I’ve never been through it before. A lot of guys in here had their names attached to it.
He said he had “three hours to calm my mind,’’ after the deadline came and went at 4 p.m.
It was disappointing that there were no big deals involving the Sox. General manager Ben Cherington apparently likes his team the way it is presently constituted.
Tuesday’s rain-shortened, five-inning, 4-1 win gives the Sox a four-game winning streak. They have not lost a game since Terry Francona visited the clubhouse in New York Saturday afternoon. They have not lost a game since Curtis Granderson fell in center field on Pedro Ciriaco’s game-winning triple. They have won four straight, two against the first-place Yankees, and two against the contending Tigers. They have won games started by CC Sabathia and Verlander. They are a whopping two games over .500 and ESPN Tuesday said they are “surging.’’
“I like this team and I think we’re moving forward in the right direction,’’ Valentine said in his pre-game presser. “I think we’re pretty good.’’
He also wants you to know that he is not trying to get fired. Valentine has been more goofy than usual lately. Over the weekend in New York I suggested that he “sounds like a manager who doesn’t care if he gets fired.’’
Late Tuesday afternoon, as I stood near the dugout with a Comcast microphone in my hand, Bobby came up from behind me, looked over my left shoulder into the camera and exclaimed, “It’s not true! I’m not trying to get fired, folks. It’s not true, it’s not true! It was all made up by him! It’s not true.’’
It was TV gold. John McNamara hated me more than Vicente Padilla hates Mark Teixeira and he never did anything like that.
Bobby is flexing his muscles. This is good. He got thrown out of the finale in New York. Tuesday night he took Ryan Sweeney to task for punching a door and fracturing a knuckle.
“It comes under knowing the difference between right and wrong,’’ Valentine said.
Good. Stick up for Beckett. Brag about the contribution of Mortensen, who came up from the minors for a day to rescue Beckett. But defend yourself against the media and call out your players when they deserve it. Fans will embrace this version of Bobby Valentine. And if the Sox can string together a few more wins, fans will be happy to hop aboard the Magic Ciriaco Bus.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.