Did opinions of Beckett get in the way of the facts?
By Danny Picard
BOSTON -- Golfing on an off-day is a non-issue.
Unless, of course, you've been skipped in the rotation because of an injury. Then, it's something that needs to be addressed.
As of this weekend, the pieces to the Josh Beckett 18-hole puzzle were still being put together by everybody, it seems, outside of the Red Sox clubhouse.
The fans and the media want answers. But the only answers we're getting is that Beckett's golf-outing on an off-day is a non-issue, and that it isn't related to his fourth loss of the season on Thursday night, in which the Cleveland Indians knocked him around for seven runs on seven hits and two walks in 2.1 innings at Fenway Park.
Beckett defended his extra-curricular activities afterwards, citing personal privacy and the right to do whatever he wants on his off-day.
"I spend my off-days the way I want to spend them" said Beckett after Thursday night's loss. "My off-day is my off-day.
"We get 18 off-days a year," he added. "I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves."
A day later, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine hinted that Beckett's struggles on Thursday night had more to do with him tipping his pitches.
Valentine also clarified his original comments as to why Beckett was scratched from his start last Saturday.
"I didn't think it was a physical thing," he said, implying that scratching Beckett was the manager's decision, not Beckett's. "I thought it was a precautionary thing, right from the first day that I said we were going to do it. I said it was 126 pitches, and he had some lat stiffness, and I was in the training room with him when they were digging into his lat. And he said, 'Ya, it's a little sore right in there.' And I said, 'I'm not taking a chance at this time of the season.'"
A relatively normal response by a manager who sees the big picture, and believes that his ball club is much better than the under-.500 squad he's currently running.
He also pointed out Aaron Cook's situation, and the organization's timetable that they had on him. They saw an opportunity to give Cook a start, and they pounced on it, making him happy that he wouldn't have to go to the bullpen, and adding him to the roster before he could utilize his opt-out clause from Triple-A Pawtucket.
"And remember, we had a situation with Cook, that was a coincidentally-convenient date," said Valentine on Friday, as he continued to defend the reason for scratching Beckett. "We had to make a decision whether to keep him or not to keep him, and what we were going to do with him if we kept him. It just seemed like the stars were aligned to keep him and have him pitch in that spot."
But all anybody wants to know is, why didn't Beckett start? And because he was skipped to heal an injury, why was he out golfing before Thursday's start against the Indians? And most importantly, why doesn't he seem to care?
That seems to be the biggest issue. Not that Beckett was skipped in the rotation with an injury. Not even that he was out golfing on an off-day. But that he was out golfing on an off-day after being skipped in the rotation with an injury. And he continues to act like it's a non-issue.
If you break it down even deeper, the phrase "with an injury" seems to jump out. That's why this is a big deal. That's why everyone and their mother is still talking about it. That's why it's mind-boggling to see Beckett so stubbornly defend his decision to play 18 instead of rest his body.
If you're injured, don't go golfing. Even the Red Sox manager said it himself.
"If you're injured, you can't do it," said Valentine as he continued to be grilled with Beckett questions a day after Thursday's loss. "If there's an injury involved, you can't do anything away from the park that can do anything that might continue to cause more pain."
So that begs the question, was there an injury involved?
Valentine said he didn't scratch Beckett on Saturday "because of a physical thing," even though Beckett had "lat stiffness" after throwing 126 pitches in his previous start.
But is "lat stiffness" an injury? I mean, how many pitchers have "lat stiffness" after throwing 126 pitches? Is it an uncommon feeling to have? And how long does that "stiffness" last?
Throughout all the questions, and amidst all the answers that don't seem to make any sense, perhaps previous character portrayals of Beckett have forced most to let their opinions and personal feelings get in the way of the facts.
And the biggest fact of them all is Beckett's health status. That's all that really matters here.
Even after getting lit up on Thursday, just days after his skipped start and his golf outing, Beckett said he's fine. Valentine said tipping his pitches was Beckett's only issue.
But golf is still on everyone else's mind.
"It would be very tough for a manager to start legislating what guys do when they're away from the park," said Valentine on Friday.
It's a phrase spoken as if Beckett went golfing because he wasn't injured. As if Beckett was skipped in the rotation because the manager was being overly cautious with body stiffness this early in the season. As if Beckett could have pitched on Saturday.
Valentine also admitted on Friday that Beckett was good enough to pitch a day later, on Sunday, during the 17-inning loss to Baltimore, where utility outfielder Darnell McDonald lost the game on the mound because Valentine had emptied his bullpen.
But would you really want to see Beckett coming out of the bullpen in May? Or at all, even? And does it really matter if Beckett offered to come in for a relief appearance? Would that really be what saved this team?
Most outside of the Red Sox clubhouse are looking for a reason to call Beckett a leader. They're begging for Beckett to do things the right way.
Golfing, while injured, is not the right way.
Beckett's continued defiance in the face of critics insists that he believes he's doing no wrong.
But if he was never truly injured, perhaps Beckett is right. Perhaps we let our opinions and personal feelings get in the way of the actual facts.
And if that's the case, then golfing on an off-day is, in fact, a non-issue.
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