Friday, August 20, 2010
He’s just not that good. Not anymore.
As I write this Rex Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, arguably the staff ace entering the 2010 season, has started fourteen games and accrued an earned run average of 6.67.
Those startling numbers sent me on a search. And here is what I discovered: In the one hundred and ten year history of this franchise, of all the hundreds and hundreds of Red Sox pitchers that have taken the mound in a given season, guess how many have started as many as fourteen games and ended the season with an ERA higher than Josh Beckett’s 6.67?
Uh…. One – and just barely (more on him later).
Josh Beckett has not just been bad in 2010, he has been historically bad. Unbelievably bad. Mind-bogglingly bad. Hall of Shame bad. Horribly, awfully, painfully, even proctologically bad. I don’t think any pitcher in the history of baseball has ever pitched so much, so poorly, at such a high salary as Josh Beckett has in 2010. For all the wrong reasons it’s a season for the ages.
On the day he was drafted, a reporter for a Florida newspaper asked Beckett about fellow pitchers and Texas natives Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Kerry Wood. Responded Beckett “Yeah, I’m gonna be better than those guys.” At times that seemed possible, even likely.
But that was then. Forget 2003, and the way he beat the Yankees in the World’s Series while pitching for the Marlins, and 2007 when he won twenty and pitched the Red Sox to a championship.
We’re talking NOW, or more accurately, ever since the Red Sox broke their own rule about negotiating a contract during the season. In April Theo Epstein signed Beckett to a contract extension covering 2011 thru 2014 worth $68-million, a deal made before his previous contract, which ran thru this season, had even expired. Think they would like to re-visit that?
Since that time he has been so bad there are, really, no words in the dictionary to describe it. But there are in the Baseball Encyclopedia and on BaseballReference.com.
How bad has Josh Beckett been? Using ERA and a minimum of fourteen starts as a measure, every other pitcher in Red Sox history - with one notable exception - has been NABAB - Not As Bad As Beckett. Matt Young in 1991? Sixteen Starts and a 5.18 ERA, but Not As Bad As Beckett. Danny Darwin in 1994? Thirteen starts and 6.30 - NABAB. Frank Castillo in 2002? NABAB. Ramon Martinez in 2000, Jerry Casale in 1960, Gordon Rhodes in 1935, Frank Heimach in 1926? You can look ‘em up, NABABs all. Even the immortal Joe Harris, who went 2-21 for the 1906 Red Sox, was NABAB – his ERA was a sparkling 3.52, a number Josh Beckett and Theo Epstein would both kill for. And the list goes on and on and on and on.
Somehow this historic achievement has gone unnoticed. In a season best defined by the disabled list it has been easy to overlook Beckett’s expressionless appearances on the mound. Then again, they’ve often been so brief he’s been easy to miss. The fact is even with all the injuries, if Josh Beckett was pitching like an average starting pitcher, rather than a historically bad one, the Red Sox would be making plans for October.
That’s not even the worst part. Because the Sox signed Beckett to an extension before his current contract had expired after putting up one of the worst seasons in Red Sox history, Josh Beckett will rewarded over the next four seasons by becoming the the highest paid pitcher in team history. Which genius thought that was a good idea? The Red Sox can only hope is that Beckett is hurt and his contract is somehow insured, because the only thing worse than a pitcher performing the way Beckett has thus far is a contract that guarantees he’ll be around for another four years no matter how poorly he pitches.
Yet there is still a faint glimmer of hope. Remember, there has been one Red Sox pitcher even worse than Josh Beckett. Like Beckett, he too enjoyed some early success that had everyone whispering “Hall of Fame.” Then one year he went 2-9 in fifteen starts with an ERA of 6.75.
The Sox sent him back to the minor leagues. And two years later he was pitching the way everyone thought Josh Beckett would be pitching this year.
You might remember him, because that guy who was the worst starting pitcher in Red Sox history, 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA in 2008, is now 14-5 with an ERA of 2.36.
His name is Clay Bucholz.
This column appears in the September edition of Boston baseball. Glenn Stout’s Fenway 1912, will appear in 2011. Baseball Heroes, the first title in his juvenile series “Good Sports,” will be available this fall.