Recently, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett was scratched from a start due to injury, and then he had the temerity to go out golfing. Depending on your perspective, that sentence might read sarcastically or non-sarcastically. Beckett's golf outing was wildly unpopular, and after Beckett ... well I'm sorry for the phrasing, but after Beckett shit the bed in a start Thursday, now Beckett is wildly unpopular. Fans in Boston just can't stand the guy for seemingly fiddling while Fenway burns.
Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron isn't concerned with Beckett's golf outing or personality so much. Cameron doesn't think Beckett's problem is that he doesn't care. Cameron thinks Beckett's problem might have to do with something else, something physical and intuitively significant:
Last year, Josh Beckett’s fastball averaged 93.0 MPH, and he topped out at 94-95 with regularity. This year, Beckett’s fastball is averaging just 91.5 MPH, and the fastest pitch he threw last night was 92.9 MPH. The difference is easy to see in graph form.
It’s not just his fastball, either. His curveball is off over 2 MPH from last year, so this isn’t just a case of a missing top-end velocity, but instead, Beckett’s just not throwing anything as hard as he has in the past. Missing velocity isn’t always a sign of a health problem, but in Beckett’s case, we don’t have to speculate about whether there’s something physically wrong – the Red Sox already confirmed that there is when they skipped his last start.
Maybe Beckett really is apathetic, doesn’t care that he’s struggling, and is just counting the days until the season is over. Or maybe he’s trying to pitch through an injury and figure out how to pitch without the ability to throw his fastball by hitters anymore. One of those two theories can be supported by the evidence and isn’t all that uncommon in the world of pitchers. The other requires us to judge the motives of another human being despite having no real knowledge of his inner thoughts.
It is absolutely possible that Beckett is just this indifferent prick who's totally over pitching for the Red Sox and putting in the necessary effort. It is absolutely possible that that isn't the issue at all. Sometimes there are players who badly want to play for the Yankees or the Red Sox, because those are two of baseball's truly historic, iconic franchises. Sometimes there are players who very much don't want to play for the Yankees or the Red Sox, and you can understand why. The media isn't like other media. The media will string you up and cut you.