By Matt StraubOur State of the Red Sox column is back for its fifth installment with the golf outing heard round the world, with Josh Beckett doing his best to turn the Boston faithful against him. As always, we want to hear what you have to say about your favorite (or least favorite) team below in the comments section. And check back next week for the latest from the Red Sox right here.
|Josh Beckett could be on his way out. (AP photo)|
The High Point
After Clay Buchholz gave up a run in the top of the first Friday, Boston responded with four early runs to change the tone of that game and, perhaps, the year. Buchholz struggled in the seventh, but the team held on for a huge win. That set up a fantastic effort by Felix Dubront Saturday. The lefty went six strong innings and was backed by a bullpen that has suddenly become reliable. Throw in a rout of former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson on Sunday and the Red Sox had won 3 of 4 and started to look like a good home team for a change.
The Low Point
This is easy to pick, harder to get my head around. Josh Beckett gets scratched from a start, then is seen on a golf course, where he played with Buchholz instead of resting his sore shoulder. The Red Sox, after pleading ignorance for a day, rushed to Beckett’s defense, with manager Bobby Valentine not only proclaiming that golf is “as much a part of the pitching culture as the curve ball,” but then trying to say Beckett wasn’t really injured. His absence, Valentine said, was just a precaution. Whatever name they want to put on it, there was some concern about Beckett’s shoulder. None of this concern, however, was held by Beckett. He could have ended the whole controversy, not that he cared to, with a big effort Thursday night. Instead, he threw batting practice, giving up a touchdown before getting pulled and leaving to a chorus of boos that went on for a long time. Once the game was over, Beckett’s answers to any question about his golf game, his shoulder or his respect for his team all amounted to “none of your business.” He said he should be able to do what he wants during the team’s 18 off days a year, and he’s right. But he shouldn’t want to do anything that could hurt himself and, in turn, his team. Further, he should know the Boston market. The Boston media and fan base are in some ways tougher than New York’s because the focus is more singular. In New York, something is a big deal until the next big story breaks. With occasional exceptions in the Celtics and Pats (though they can do very little wrong in most New Englanders’ eyes), Boston’s attention is pretty much on the Red Sox all the time, and the beating the fans’ least favorite players get is more constant. The sad thing is, it’s easy to get Boston fans to love you. Just work hard. Trot Nixon, who had very little actual talent, was beloved at Fenway Park. Jason Varitek’s effort and intensity made him a cult hero. Kevin Garnett’s recent play with the Celtics has people wanting to build a statue In his honor. All Boston fans ask you to do is care as much as they do. Josh Beckett is a great pitcher, but he doesn’t care about his results as much as the fans in the stands do. That’s why the Red Sox will end up dealing him this summer I believe.
|Daniel Nava celebrates with Will Middlebrooks. (AP photo)|
Will Middlebrooks: The rookie homered again Sunday afternoon. He’s hitting .310 and seems to be doing everything right. The only problem he has created is what to do with Kevin Youkilis when the old third baseman returns, which sounds like it’s going to be soon. The conventional wisdom seems to be that the Red Sox will send Middlebrooks back down, which will further anger the fans.
Daniel Nava: A feel-good story two years ago, the outfielder came back up this week thanks to more injuries and has been great. He drove in three more runs Sunday and is hitting .600. It won’t last, but it’s another fun story for a nice, hard-working guy.
Dustin Pedroia: A 14-game hitting streak for the should-be-captain has been a consistent bright spot through it all. And while the Sox had a big lead Sunday, his hit started an explosion that turned the game into a rout, so it was an important one. After all, this team needs as big a cushion as it can get.
Josh Beckett: See the earlier rant.
Nick Punto: He’s only a utility player, but the Red Sox need to be able to feel comfortable putting him out there a couple of times a week. With his average, they can’t.
Jon Lester: Only one of the runs he gave up in Kansas City was earned, but he hasn’t been a stopper yet this season. Not what you’d expect from your ace.
The Red Sox have three big games at home against Seattle this week, which are incredibly important because of what comes next: at Tampa, at Philadelphia, at Baltimore, home for Tampa, home for Detroit. With such a hard schedule coming, the Red Sox would do themselves a big favor to beat up on the Mariners.