Friday, May 22, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: B is for…

Beckett, as in Josh

Josh Beckett is the current ace of the Red Sox. He’s a star pitcher in the prime of his career. Perhaps most important, he seems to thrive under pressure. His playoff performances are legendary including MVP performances in the World Series in 2003, and the ALCS in 2007. If I have a game seven, I can’t think of another pitcher in the game today I’d rather have on the mound.

Beckett is another player that baseball card collectors probably knew about before anyone else. Beckett was drafted second overall in the 1999 draft, right after a kid named Josh Hamilton. Josh’s first baseball cards came out in the 1999 sets, about two years before his debut with the Marlins. It also happens that the leading baseball card magazine is named “Beckett” so, I always wondered if he was getting all the attention because he was good, or because he shared a name with the magazine. It was about four years after his first baseball cards came out that he had his 2003 World Series heroics. By that time, I had been hearing about him for so long I was beginning to think he was already washed up. But, clearly, he was just beginning.

His trade to the Red Sox is an example I call upon a lot when discussing other potential trades. I will always trade potential for proven, and his deal shows that pretty well. In order to get Beckett, the Sox had to get rid of some quality players. It ended up being a 7-player deal, with Beckett (and Mike Lowell) coming to the Sox and Hanley Ramirez going to Florida. Hanley was a stud prospect. He was the top prospect the Sox had. But, Beckett had shown what he could already do in the big leagues. It was an easy swap. Even now, Ramirez has lived up to every ounce of potential. He may be the best player in the Major Leagues. He’s an elite young player, and perennial MVP candidate. But, even with all that, not many members of Red Sox nation would reverse the trade. Beckett led the Sox to a World Series title in 2007, so the deal looks just fine. So, even with the most extreme example, when the player lived up to every ounce of his potential and more…the trade was still a good one. Why not trade potential for proven every chance you get?

Beckett’s trade also gives and example of the true advantage large market teams have. When the Yankees were throwing money all over the place, and actually winning, many people claimed it was unfair since they could outspend everybody. Most Yankee fans protested, talking about how many players were “homegrown”, and they usually included players they got in trades. What the never mentioned were the trades, like the Beckett deal, that could only be done because of money. Mike Lowell had a huge contract, and he hadn’t been performing up to it. The low-budget Marlins needed to get out from under that contract. So, any deal for Beckett needed to include Lowell’s anchor. The Sox were one of a couple teams with the finances to take that kind of hit. They could afford to take a flyer, and see what they could get out of Lowell. As it turns out, Lowell ended up being a steal. But the Royals couldn’t have taken that chance. Even if they had the prospects to give to Florida. Even if they could tell that Lowell probably would turn it around. Some teams just couldn’t take the chance. The Beckett deal shows as much as any why baseball needs a salary cap-type system. (I’ve talked about my ideas to fix the salaries before.) Obviously, something needs to be done.

Once again, a single player gets wrapped up into several heavy baseball debates. Not bad for a player who may very well have his best years ahead of him.

B is for Beckett, Josh

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