It certainly doesn't look good on paper. Josh Beckett was hurt. He was not healthy enough to make his next start. Then he went out and played 18 holes.
Manager Bobby Valentine responded to the story on WEEI this week:
"I don't know that I'm aware of it," Valentine said. "I'm aware of the story being out there. I haven't gotten to Josh about that yet. I'm trying to sort out my feelings. Golf is as much a part of the pitching culture as the curveball, I know that for sure. You know, when we decided for Josh not to make his start, it wasn't that he was injured. It was just a precautionary situation. His lat was a little tight. Again, I don't know the specifics of this situation. I don't know if he was out in a charity match and just putting or if he was wailing away or if he felt that might have loosened him up. I have no idea what the situation actually is so it's hard for me to comment on it. If that was the case, I would say that was less than the best thing to do on that day off."
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Considering the circumstances, Valentine did an admirable job downplaying an explosive story that, at the same time, could very well have been blown entirely out of proportion.
The story was, after all, originally dug up by the flash guy on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Gresh & Zolak Show, a program that in the past has brought us such classic hits as "Jacoby Ellsbury is a P****" and "No one will ever watch the NBA again because of the lockout."
Unfortunately the public will likely never know for sure if Beckett entirely and brazenly put his golf game ahead of the well-being of the Red Sox last week. Beckett could very well have been out on that course last week just hanging out and drinking a few Bud heavy's with the boys - a version the Sox would actually welcome at this point. Regardless, there will be plenty of spin that comes from this, as is always the case with the guys on Yawkey Way.
But even if Beckett played the full 18 and was going all out at the tees, is he that much of a clubhouse cancer that the entire dynamic of the team would change for the better with him gone?
At this point, a lot of Sox backers would nod, uncontrollably, YES! But he is one of the few semi-healthy starting pitchers on this team. He is one of the few players remaining in Boston that currently has All-Star level talent. Unlike in 2004 when the Red Sox dumped Nomar Garciaparra, seemingly to tinker with the chemistry of the team, the Red Sox can't afford to dump All-Star level talent for the sake of "shaking things up."
There is also the very real possibility that Beckett could emulate his hero, Roger Clemens (some hero), and shove it down the throats of Red Sox management for a decade. The sight of an ... ahem ... in-shape Beckett coming to Fenway in a Blue Jays uniform would be a frightening one, indeed.
But this isn't 1996. This isn't 2004. It's 2012. And, sadly, the one way to salvage this season right now, is simply to hope this team comes around. Hope this team plays to its capabilities. Hope they eventually buy into Bobby Valentine. The time for drastic clubhouse change was last October, November and December. And it appears the Sox dropped the ball in that regard. Trading arguably your best pitcher in the middle of May is not the answer for a below .500 baseball team.
- Matt Burke is sports editor of Metro Boston. Follow him on Twitter @BurkeMetroBos.