Beckett's blue after a rare rough outing

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Beckett's blue after a rare rough outing

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE Its been a pretty mellow season for Josh Beckett.

Sure, the Red Sox offense hasnt done much to provide him with offensive support and it seems like hes been stuck on nine wins for an eternity.

But if things havent been letter-perfect for the gun-slinging righty, theyve been pretty close. He's third in the American League with a 2.40 ERA and tied for second with a 0.97 WHIP. He's allowed a miniscule 105 hits in 150 innings pitched for a .198 batting average against. He even made the All-Star team. Everything aside from the fickle win-loss total -- which is more an indication that the Red Sox haven't scored runs for him rather than any statement about his pitching -- has been among the best of his career as he's fully bounced back from last year's tumultuous 6-6, 5.78 campaign. He's been one of the biggest factors in the Red Sox' first-place standing.

Because of all that, Beckett hasnt been the four-letter-word-dropping fiend with a short fuse and colorful vocabulary that hes been during tough times in his Boston career. Hes been much more the seasoned 31-year-old veteran who's seen it all and done even more.

But Saturday nights first-inning freefall brought back the R-rated Beckett everybody knows so well.

The big righty had his worst start of the season, giving up five runs and a pair of homers before hed even recorded the first three outs of the game. He was able to lock things down after that, but the Sox couldn't make it all the way back and dropped a 5-4 decision that lowered Beckett's record to 9-5.

Beckett, who suffered his first career loss in Seattle after eight starts, hadnt allowed more than seven hits in a game this season. But the powder-puff Mariners offense pounded out nine hits against the hurlers mediocre stuff in five innings of fitful work.

The five runs allowed in Saturday nights first inning by Beckett equaled the total number of runs he'd allowed in the first inning all season. That means a couple of different things: Beckett has been consistently awesome in the first inning of his starts this season, and he was the opposite of awesome against a woefully inadequate Seattle offense.

That was a tough first inning, said Terry Francona. He didnt miss many bats.

Ichiro Suzuki rocked the first Beckett fastball of the night into the right-field stands for a solo home run, and the Sox righty continued to miss high with just about everything as the anticipated duel between himself and Seattle ace Felix Hernandez never materialized.

Beckett prides himself on being able to work deep into ballgames and saving the bullpen, but he could only fight through five innings and 99 pitches. He's finished with five innings or less only four times in 23 starts this season.

And when it was over, his reaction was vintage Beckett . . . from 2010, that is.

I left pitches up, they got it, said Beckett, who then repeated the same no-frills assessment. Left pitches up, they got hit.

Its pretty expletive simple. Its tough whenever youre facing a guy like Hernandez. That expletive game could have been over before the second inning. If you leave expletive balls right down the middle, then, expletive, I could have gone up there and hit. It was tough to make adjustments early on.

The good news: Beckett's next start will come against the Kansas City Royals, another team thats not quite ready for prime time, and he should be properly motivated to get everything down in the zone.

If not, then get ready for another episode of Beckett raw, uncut and uncensored, a show thats been happily stored on the shelf all summer.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.