FORT MYERS, Fla. – [T]hanks to an hour-long interview with WEEI.com, [Josh] Beckett serves up answers. Why he changed, why he isn’t changing and what exactly happened during a stretch that the pitcher looks at through a drastically different prism than any of his critics …[O]on Sept. 28, the day that would decide if the Red Sox would survive a 7-19 September to that point and make the postseason…Word came down that Beckett’s wife had gone into labor. It was just an hour before first pitch for the final regular-season game was to be thrown. The righty wasn’t starting, but he was being considered to start a one-game playoff against the Rays… “I wasn’t thinking about that game,” admitted Beckett… “I went from the lowest of the lows to my having my daughter in 12 hours,” he said… Beckett would be insulated from the chaos that ensued after season’s end, tending to his new daughter first in Boston and then on the family’s Internet-less Texas ranch. It wasn’t until November that he started catching wind of the fallout, with Red Sox team president Larry Lucchino calling him with a message of encouragement and support…”I was married to baseball for a long time. I had a lot of moments where I started feeling guilty about that. For so long every day was around baseball and then all of a sudden now you have a wife and she’s pregnant….You just have to remember that it’s OK for something else to be more important than baseball.”
Beckett didn’t realize his late-season waistline had become such a talking point throughout October. He realized there had been some weight gain, not because of the hypothesis made by many (beer), but, according to Beckett, rather due to an altered workout routine made necessary because of an injured ankle (no running), along with the altered lifestyle that comes with being an expectant father.
I want to go easy on Josh Beckett and avoid saying anything I’m going to regret later. First of all, because as a general rule anyone in any sport who’s brought you a championship has earned a certain amount of leeway. A diplomatic immunity from prosecution. A certain amount of loyalty, even in the face evidence to the contrary, should be the price we all pay to these guys once they’ve delivered the goods the way Beckett has. And I’ve felt all winter that at some point he’d give his side of the September Trainwreck story, we’d accept it or not, but regardless we’d move on. Spring Training this year to me is a like a family reunion where you’ve got some unsettled business with one of your relations, but they’re family so you can’t stay mad forever. It’s counter-productive.
That said, I’m having a hard time swallowing this. I have zero problem with his saying his family is his biggest priority and it puts baseball in perspective and blah, blah, blah. But this business of “I wasn’t out of shape I was distracted by my wife’s due date” is a flimsy excuse at best. I’ve been through the expectant father wringer twice myself and unless you’re gestating the fetus yourself or you’re expected to deliver the thing, it’s not that big a disruption in your working life. Your social life, sure. Your golf game goes all to Hell and you can’t go out and get drunk for a few weeks. But it has no effect on your ability to do your job. And besides, does Beckett think he’s the only Major Leaguer who ever had a wife on the nest? I’d like to know how many guys in the playoffs had wives about to drop a kid. You’ve still got a job to do. Hell, Gisele had a baby and Brady was at the stadium the next day during a blizzard that left some guys stuck in traffic. It’s no excuse. It’s like they tell Mel Gibson in “The Patriot,” “Wars are not fought only by childless men.”
Second, does anyone swallow this business of him having no idea people in Boston were mad because he doesn’t have internet on his ranch? Like none? Sorry, that dog won’t hunt. He doesn’t have a computer? Phone? iPad? XBox Live? What about cable? Because the Red Sox collapse and PopeyesGate was THE single biggest sports story in the country for about three weeks. Hell, reporters were asking Cardinals and Rangers players about it during the World Series. Terrorists could’ve nuked a city and Beckett might not have heard about it, but claiming he didn’t know about it until Lucchino called is a flat out lie. I’m not going to hold the grudge any more. It’s time to flip the page on that. I’ll still cheer for Beckett so long as he works hard and wins. But nothing he’s saying now should change anyone’s opinion that, as a team, the 2011 Red Sox had a bad attitude, didn’t care about winning. And Beckett bears a lot of the responsibility, whether he admits it or not. @JerryThornton1