Should Beckett be the next to go?

785660.jpg

Should Beckett be the next to go?

Back in 2007, Josh Beckett was arguably the best pitcher in the American League.

Of course, he ultimately lost out on the Cy Young in a squeaker to C.C. Sabbathia (and for a good laugh: John Lackey finished third), but all things considered, the season belonged to Beckett.

He was baseballs only 20-game winner. He boasted a 3.27 ERA (Lackey led the league at 3.01.) and a 1.14 WHIP. He struck out 194 batters and walked only 40. He was dominant in every way.

That dominance only escalated in the playoffs, where Beckett went 4-0, giving up only four runs over 30 innings (thats a 1.20 ERA) and striking out 35 batters while walking only two. The highlight of his ridiculous run came in Game 5 of the ALCS against Cleveland, when the Sox faced elimination, the Indians famously hired Becketts ex-girlfriend to sing the National Anthem and the Texas Tough Guy responded by surrendering only one run and racking up 11 Ks over eight innings and celebrated by making sweet love to his ex on top of the Indians post-game clubhouse buffet. (I think.)

At that moment, right on through the World Series and into the winter, Beckett was a legend around these parts. Every bit the moody, entitled, unlikable crab that he is today, but too good for anyone to care. He was a bonafide ace, a postseason giant. Short of learning that he spent his off-season training pit bulls with Michael Vick, Beckett was a guy you wanted on your team. Always and forever.

Fast-forward to 2012, and forever has come and gone. In the aftermath of Kevin Youkilis being shipped out of town, many believe that Beckett is the next shoe to drop in the cleansing of the Sox clubhouse. Even more, many want Beckett to be that next shoe. For so long four and a half years we've held on to the memories from that historic postseason (on top of what he did in 2003), been teased continuously with flashes of brilliance and almost blindly believed that when push came to shove, regardless of all the BS, Beckett was still a guy you wanted on your side. A guy who was proud enough, and had the fortitude to step up and return to greatness on the game's biggest stage.

But at this point, now that it's been three years since the Sox won a playoff game and Beckett's attitude has remained ornery as hell, the question has become: Can the Sox get back to that stage the postseason, the ALCS, my God the World Series with a guy like Beckett lingering in the clubhouse? Or, conversely, can the Sox get back to that stage without their most experienced and potentially dominant pitcher?

It's a confusing predicament. Another case of addition by subtraction, but Beckett's issue is a little deeper than most. After all, it's one thing to jettison a struggling, malcontent third baseman when the future's standing right behind him, already overdue for a shot in the driver's seat. It's one thing to shed a malcontent shortstop even if he's one of the most beloved figures in franchise history when your line-up's already stacked and you can get a gritty, defensive vacuum in return.

It's another thing when you talk about dropping the best pitcher on an already shaky staff. When he's a guy who makes so much money, and is approaching an age where you'll not only have to accept lesser value in return, but pay an obscene amount of cash in the process. When all the behind the scenes "problems" have been almost exclusively perpetuated by the media. When his teammates have almost always come out in his defense, and the only guy who we have reason to believe had a serious problem with this pitcher is now living it up on Chicago's South Side.

Sure, it's been five years so long ago that John Lackey was still one of the AL's best since we've seen Josh Beckett take it to another level in the playoffs, but it's almost impossible to look at some of the stretches he's had this season (for instance, May 15-26: 21 and twothirds innings pitched, three earned runs) and not fall back on that same unconditional faith. To wonder: Why would the Sox give that up? How could they give that up? Or, as Rob Bradford asked on last night's late edition of Uno's Sports Tonight: "Well, who's going to replace him? You want Kyle Weiland starting games in September again?"

Maybe Beckett isn't the machine that he was in 2007, but the Sox have still won over 60 percent of his starts (58-37, .611) in the four-plus years since. By comparison, they're 86-57 (.601) in Jon Lester starts over that same time. Either way, they still win when Beckett's on the mound. And maybe I'm crazy, but I'd much rather roll the dice with No. 19 and all his baggage than like Bradford said, end up in another position where the Sox are relying on the likes of Kyle Weiland in September.

Yeah, maybe in a perfect world, you get rid of Beckett and start fresh, but this isn't a perfect world, and it only seems logical to roll with him at least one more time, give him at least one chance to make amends for last September. Even if he can't capture the magic 2007, if he can just crank it back to last month, it would be enough.

Call me a sucker, but I'm still holding on to the hope that he can. And absolutely positive that if Beckett can get back there physically, all the bitching about his attitude will disappear faster than Kevin Youkilis' clubhouse name plate.

Whether he can get back physically is another question all together. Here's what Beckett had to say to the media after being placed on the DL with an inflamed right shoulder: "I got overruled, and it's probably smart. I'm definitely not ready for my career to be over."

To be honest, that last line concerned me more than anything having to do with Beckett's personality: "I'm definitely not ready for my career to be over." That he'd even bring that possibility up is a little scary, and makes you wonder what's actually going on in that shoulder feels, andor how much it has left in the tank?

But for now, the Sox are certainly playing it the right way. They're doing all they can to make sure Beckett's in position to be the best he can be down the stretch. And as crazy as it sounds, when that stretch arrives, I truly hope Beckett's still in Boston.

He may not be ideal, but all things considered, he's still the best we've got.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

red_sox_blue_jays_what_we_learned-overlay-master.png

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays…

1) Toronto’s offense can never be taken lightly.

Coming into the series, the Blue Jays had scored 197 runs, putting them in the middle of the pack among all Major League teams and averaging four runs per game. In the two games against Boston, they’ve scored 17 runs.

So an offense that had appeared to be dormant has been woken up thanks to some subpar Red Sox pitching.

It seems like these two teams are very similar and could be in opposite positions just as easily. The Blue Jays are only three behind in the win column (five in the loss), so Boston needs to win David Price’s Sunday start to widen the gap and cut their three-game skid.

2) Craig Kimbrel is only effective for so long.

Boston’s closer wasn’t giving excuses following Saturday’s game -- and this isn’t one either.

Saturday’s 39-pitch performance wasn’t just his season-high, but his career high in pitches.

This not only resulted in a drop in Kimbrel’s velocity, but it exposed flaws in the Red Sox’ pen. Kimbrel is truly a one-inning guy, so if Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara can’t get him the ball, he’s useless.

And it seems like Uehara won’t be used on back-to-back days frequently in the near future, so Boston won’t be able to use Tazawa in a seventh inning role with much consistency.

Somewhere along the way Dave Dombrowski will need to find another reliever for the back-end of the bullpen.

3) Offense can only take a team so far.

Both teams had big offensive days, in large part because pitchers from both sides made a lot of mistakes -- but they still took advantage of them.

Had the Red Sox been the home team in this contest, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have won -- just based on the progression of the game and ignoring any statistical splits.

If the Red Sox are serious about making the postseason, they need pitching to pick up the slack once in a while. Because when they hit the road late in the year, games like will slip away when quality pitching is lacking.

Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

boston-red-sox-hanley-ramirez-misplay-052816.jpg

Quotes, notes and stars: 'Unfortunate situation at a key moment'

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays:
 
QUOTES
*“We’ve seen Hanley [Ramirez] catch that ball multiple times...An unfortunate situation at a key moment.” John Farrell said of the final play of the game.
 
*As soon as I let it go I thought he was out...I feel like that game kind of slipped away from us.” -Travis Shaw said of his throw in the final play of the game.
 
*“Everybody was so excited on the bench. We’d lost the lead and to have him come through in that situation . . . It was huge.” -Hanley Ramirez on David Ortiz’s go-ahead homerun in the ninth inning.
 
*“We’re a strike away on a number of occasions . . . you watch the attack plan all day long right-handers with curveballs were having success against [Justin] Smoak.” -Farrell said of the bullpen’s performance and Smoak’s ninth inning hit off Craig Kimbrel.
 
*“If he makes an accurate throw he’s out.” -Farrell on Christian Vazquez’s errant throw in the ninth inning.
 
*“In some key spots we gave an extra 90 feet when otherwise we have not of late.” -Farrell said about Boston’s inability to execute late in the game.

NOTES
*Xander Bogaerts has hit safely in his last 21 games, extending his streak with a home run to lead off the fourth inning. He’s hitting .402 with five home runs during the streak. Bogaerts logged his ninth three-hit game of 2016.
 
* Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to five games with his first-inning double. Pedroia has also hit safely in his past 22 games against Toronto. He’s hitting .444 during the short streak.
 
*David Ortiz extended his own hitting streak to six games with a double in the fourth. He's hitting .520 over that span.
 
* Russell Martin logged his fifth multi-hit game of the season -- and first three-hit game -- smacking a double and a home run. Martin entered the game batting .179 with three extra-base hits.
 
 
STARS
1) Russell Martin

Not only did he score the winning run, but he also tied the score in the ninth and launched a home run earlier in the game.
 
2) Xander Bogaerts
Another threre-hit performance, extending his hitting streak to 21 games, Bogaerts keeps creating headaches for opposing pitchers.
 
3) Rick Porcello
On a day where pitchers from both side scuffled, Porcello’s 6 2/3-inning effort gave Boston more than enough of a chance to win. 

First impressions: Big trouble for Red Sox bullpen

boston-red-sox-craig-kimbrel-052816.jpg

First impressions: Big trouble for Red Sox bullpen

First impressions of the Red Sox' 10-9 loss in Toronto:
 
Rick Porcello was back in top form.

Despite the matchup at the Rogers Center being less than favorable for Porcello, and the righty not at his best of late, he held a streaking, dangerous offense at bay for 6 2/3 innings (four runs, seven hits) before the bullpen coughed up two leads. 

While Porcello hasn’t performed poorly of late, there’s no question he hasn’t been at his best -- so it’s good to see him have a consistent feel for his pitches.

The bullpen might be in trouble Sunday.

With Junichi Tazawa struggling, Craig Kimbrel throwing a season high 39 pitches and Matt Barnes pitching in both games this series, the bullpen won’t be at it’s best for the final game in Toronto. So, if there were ever a time for David Price to throw like a true ace, Sunday would be it.

Tommy Layne proves again that he’s not trustworthy.

With a four-run lead, and only needing to get two batters out, Layne couldn't get an out in the eighth, allowing two runs on two hits and starting something not even Kimbrel (who gave up leads in the eighth and ninth after being called on for a five-out save) could stop. The lefty specialist may have entered the game with an ERA below 3.00, but his results are inconsistent.
 
Umpire Mike DiMuro’s injury changed the tone of the game.

The home plate umpire took a hard foul ball off the center of the mask, delaying the game for several minutes and forcing Brian Gorman to call the game behind the plate.

And with that came an inconsistent strike zone. Both sides were frustrated by his inconsistency with his zone. Porcello had two pitches stopped due to late timeout calls. Marcus Stroman was almost allowed to quick pitch Hanley Ramirez twice in the same at-bat.

The crew got it right removing DiMuro from the game, but Gorman was bad in relief.
 
David Ortiz getting doubled up in the fourth inning can’t happen.

Darwin Barney showed some range, getting to Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s soft line drive up the middle, flipping the ball to second quickly after to get Ortiz. This comes a night after Hanley Ramirez got double up off a screaming line drive.

There’s a difference between the two though. Ramirez had no time to react. Ortiz had all the time in the world. Even though Papi’s speed hasn’t become enhanced in his old age -- unlike his power -- that was a rally-killing play he could’ve prevented.
 
Don’t sleep on Dustin Pedroia.

Between Ortiz’s farewell tour and the youth rising, Dustin Pedroia continues to perform well under the radar.

He went 2-for-4, lacing two doubles off Toronto’s ace, Marcus Stroman. Pedroia is hitting .309. He’s not the only player being overlooked, but he’s definitely received the least amount of attention in Boston’s power-packed lineup.