The best and worst of Beckett


The best and worst of Beckett

It took Josh Beckett 37 pitches to get the first three outs of last night's game. And over that stretch, we saw Beckett at his absolute worst.

Was he not entirely warmed up? Had the early 3-0 lead affected his focus? Was he just plain unlucky? The real answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but regardless of the reason, the results were brutal.

To start the game, he gave up a single to Denard Span, who was replaced Jamey Carroll after a fielder's choice. Then, Beckett walked Joe Mauer (after going ahead 1-2) to put runners on first and second, walked Josh Willngham (after going ahead 0-2) to load the bases, and then walked Justin Morneau (after going ahead 0-2) to force home a run. To make it all the more excruciating, Beckett was working so characteristically slow that you had time to finish all five Game of Thrones books during the wait between pitches.

Over the course of his straight three walks, Beckett was also squeezed by umpire Adrian Johnson. Pretty flagrantly at that. So by the time the Twins' run crossed the plate, the Texas Tough Guy was in full effect. You could see, almost hear Beckett swearing at Johnson from the mound. And you know what? He had every right to be angry, but the whole time I think we were all thinking the same thing:

"Is this guy serious? With everything that's going on with this team. With all the criticism and bad publicity he's personally received over the last seven months. Is he really going to get himself thrown out in the first inning?"

It sure looked that way. Especially after Beckett worked himself out of the jam and stormed off the mound glaring and screaming in Johnson's direction.

But you have to give Johnson credit. Sure, his incompetence had created that monster in the first place, but he was still well within his right to toss Beckett. There are a lot of umpires in baseball who would have thrown him out immediately, and filed the scene away in their Spank Bank. But Johnson resisted the temptation, and allotted Beckett who at this point was thinking about nothing but himself and his own warped sense of pride a little temper tantrum.

And thank God he did.

Beckett came back out in the second inning and retired the side on nine pitches. In the third, now with a 5-1 lead, he ran into a little trouble but escaped after only 16 pitches. In the fourth, now with a 7-1 lead, he retired the side on eight pitches. In the fifth, now with a 10-1 lead, he gave up one run but was generally sharp. And in the sixth he was sharper than a Hanzo sword, striking out the side on 18 pitches.

And that was his night.

A solid sixth inning outing; one that's probably better off broken down into two separate frames.

Frame No. 1: One inning, 37 pitches, three walks, one strikeout, one run and one long, extended, selfish temper tantrum. The embodiment of the kind performance and attitude that helped ruin last season and could very well threaten this one.

Frame No. 2: Five innings, 63 pitches, zero walks and four strikeouts. Calm, composure and consistent dominance. The guy Red Sox need every five days and whose existence may ultimately make or break their fortunes.

The best and worst of Josh Beckett.

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Red Sox exec Amiel Sawdaye follows Hazen to Arizona


Red Sox exec Amiel Sawdaye follows Hazen to Arizona

The Red Sox lost another key member of their front office Monday, when vice-president of amateur and international scouting Amiel Sawdaye followed former general manager Mike Hazen to Arizona.

Sawdaye will be the Diamondbacks' assistant GM. As stated by Rotoworld, he had been instrumental in building up the Red Sox' young big league talent and farm system.

The Boston Globe reported today that the Red Sox may not fill the GM vacancy created when Hazen left, instead using "other staffers to take on Hazen’s administrative duties". President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski handles many of the duties traditionally associated with the general manager's position, leaving the actual GM's job in Boston as "essentially an assistant [position] with a lofty title but little power".

The Red Sox have also lost two other front-office members this offseason: Senior baseball analyst Tom Tippett, who had been with the organization for eight years, and director of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek, who had been with the Sox for five years.

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

McAdam: World Series win could clear path to Cooperstown for Epstein or Francona

Sometime over the next 10 or so days, either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians will win the 2016 World Series.

Naturally, that will mean one of baseball's two longest-suffering franchises will end their championship drought. Either the Cubs will win their first title since 1908, or the Indians will win for the first time since 1948.

That alone should make for an epic World Series.

But there's another bit of history at stake, too - one of legacies.

In addition to the great discomfort felt by Red Sox ownership -- which fired the manager of one participating team and was seemingly happy to hold the door open for the exit of an executive now running the other - it will also almost certainly result, eventually, in either Terry Francona or Theo Epstein being enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

Epstein would go down as the architect who helped two star-crossed franchises win titles - the Red Sox in 2004, and the Cubs this fall.

The Red Sox went 86 years between championships; the Cubs would be ending a run of futility that stretched across 108 seasons.

That would provide Epstein with an unmatched resume when it comes to degree of difficulty. It's one thing to win it all; it's another altogether to do so with the Sox and Cubs, two clubs, until Epstein's arrival, linked in ignominy.

Epstein could become only the fourth GM in modern history win a World Series in both leagues. Frank Cashen (Orioles and Mets); John Schuerholz (Royals and Braves) and Pat Gillick (Blue Jays and Phillies).

He would also join a short list of executives who have won three rings, a list that includes contemporaries Brian Cashman and Brian Sabean.

Of course, Epstein can't claim to have constructed the entire Cubs roster, no more than he could have done when the Red Sox won in '04.

In Boston, Epstein inherited key players such as Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. Similarly, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras pre-date Epstein's arrival on the North Side.

But Epstein is responsible for nearly the remainder of the roster, and hiring manager Joe Maddon, the coaching staff and most of the Baseball Operations staff, including GM Jed Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod.

Francona's influence on the Indians is just as obvious.

Hired in late 2012 after spending a year in the ESPN broadcast booth, he inherited a team which had suffered through four straight losing seasons. In the five previous years before Francona's hiring, the Indians averaged just over 72 wins per season.

Since his arrival, the Indians have posted four straight winning seasons, with two playoff appearances, while averaging 88 wins per season.

It hasn't seemed to matter to the Indians that they've been without two of their three best starters (Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco) this postseason or arguably, their best offensive player for all but 11 games this season (Michael Brantley).

The Indians don't make excuses for injuries, or bemoan their modest payroll. Under Francona, they just win.

This postseason, he's made up for the absences in the rotation by masterfully utilizing reliever Andrew Miller anywhere from the fifth to the ninth inning.

A third World Series would put Francona in similarly rare company. Only 10 managers have won three or more World Series and just six have done so since World War 2 - Walter Alston, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Bruce Bochy Sparky Anderson and Casey Stengel.

The individual accomplishments of Epstein and Francona won't take center stage this week and next -- that attention will, rightly, go to their respective beleaguered franchises.

But the subtext shouldn't be overlooked. Once the partying and the parades come to an end, a path to Cooperstown for either the winning manager or winning president of baseball operations can be cleared.