Dear Josh Beckett,
You're about to find out I'm not your biggest fan.
It's factual and it's been documented that Josh Beckett has been both an on and off the field issue for the Boston Red Sox and their fans for the past two seasons. His numbers don't lie and his sour puss is rarely hidden. I won't rehash "Chicken and Beer Gate" because my head will explode, but I will say this: I firmly believe Popeye's never would have entered the Red Sox' clubhouse if Beckett was an employee of another ball club. You know how they say good hitting is contagious? So are bad attitudes.
Looking at the two home-grown arms on the staff, Jon Lester was always Boston's Golden child, especially after beating cancer and tossing a no-hitter in 2008. His embrace with manager Terry Francona after the 27th out is an image and moment engraved in the hearts and minds of Boston sports fans. And then there's Clay Buchholz, who may be the most mysterious of the two, especially given his injuries, who broke out as the Sox' rising ace after being discussed in Cy Young chatter when he went 17-7 in 2010.
"It's been fun this season," Buchholz told me at Camden Yards in an exclusive camera interview with MASN when I asked him about pitching with Lester. "Each of us want to go out and do better than one another. Not in a bad way, just being a little competitive within the team.
"Jon, as far as I'm concerned, is the best left-hander in the game right now. It's fun to be a part of a team that has five starters that can win a game on every given night.
Those were the days, huh? Oddly enough, those days weren't that long ago.
"He's growing up in front of everyone," said Pedroia of Buchholz in another exclusive interview that same year. "Everyone knew once he settled in he would be a force and we're seeing that now. It's been fun to watch."
Both players, Pedroia and Buchholz, in both interviews, mentioned "fun." The only time we heard that word this season was when David Ortiz, as I mentioned in last week's column, said it's not fun playing in Boston anymore.
Where did it all go wrong?
September, 1 2011.
In my opinion, Beckett set the tone. He's the ring leader. He's been less a part of the solution and more part of the problem. At $15.75 million a year, a losing record, two stints on the disabled list and an awful attitude to boot, Beckett cannot be considered the ace of the staff or any kind of leader in the clubhouse. Unfortunately, with his stature, he could and should be.
He does not set a good example for the youth, but he could. He does not appear to care about his public image and he does not take responsibility for his actions, but he should. In my opinion, Beckett does not care about the Red Sox or their fans.
That's not the way things work around here. Maybe it's time to cut ties.
Honestly, when was the last time the Red Sox employed somebody with this attitude? From what I understand, he didn't have this reputation when he was with the Marlins. So has Boston brought out the worst in Beckett? If so, maybe it's time to cut ties. And just maybe, Lester and Buchholz can go back to out-dueling each other.
I've only had two interactions with Beckett, neither of which were positive. And after watching the Red Sox fall apart at the seams, it all makes sense now.
Let's stick to the facts. In 2011, he lounged in the clubhouse and drank beer during games then failed to own up to the September collapse, one he played a major role in. He then chose to golf on his off day instead of resting his shoulder for the better of the team. And after both occasions, shrugged off the media with a miserable disposition and smug attitude as if he didn't owe anyone an explanation.
That's not the way things work around here. Again , maybe it's time to cut ties.
I met Beckett in 2006 when I was a writer for the YES Network, the New York Yankees cable arm. I had sketched up a three-minute pregame show feature on three pitchers from the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins; AJ Burnett, Carl Pavano and Josh Beckett, who at the time, were all members of the American League East. My angle was this: Which team got the better deal from the Marlins' garage sale?
Burnett had signed a five-year deal with the Blue Jays worth $55 million after the 2005 season. That same winter, Pavano, who was an absolute bust for the Yankees, had inked a four-year deal worth just under $40 million. A year later, Beckett left the Marlins in a trade that would send him and Mike Lowell to the Red Sox for shortstop Hanley Ramirez and pitcher Anibal Sanchez.
Once teammates, now division rivals. Good story, no? I thought so.
Prior to me attempting to interview Beckett, I had already sat down with Yankees' GM Brian Cashman, Pavano, Burnett, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Yankees manager Joe Torre, Jorge Posada, Blue Jays' manager John Gibbons, and the Blue Jays' pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, who coincidentally was the pitching coach of the Florida Marlins in 2003. So clearly, Beckett was the final piece of the puzzle.
The Red Sox were in town, New York that is, and I was assigned the visiting clubhouse, as usual. In my past experiences, even under some of the most stressful circumstances, the Red Sox had been extremely accessible, easy to talk to, and most important, willing to talk. I've never had an issue sitting with Pedro Martinez on any given day. David Ortiz was never reluctant to give me an interview. Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury were nothing less than a pleasure to speak with. And Jason Varitek was never one to turn down a chat.
Just my luck, Beckett was one of the last players to arrive at the ballpark on this afternoon. As he finally entered the clubhouse, I walked towards him and called his name.
He kept walking.
He kept walking.
"Excuse me, Josh?"
Beckett then looked over his left shoulder, continued to walk away, and rudely asked, "WHAT?"
I mean, this guy couldn't even stop, properly turn around and engage himself like a normal human being.
"Hi, I'm Jen Royle," I said. "I spoke with your media-relations guy, John Blake, about talking to you for a couple of minutes for a story I'm working on. Do you have a couple of minutes?"
"Nah. I'm busy," Beckett replied... And walked away.
It clearly wasn't the response I was looking for but I respected his answer and left him to his pregame duties. I later spoke with Mr. Blake and asked him to double check with Josh to see if he could give me a couple of minutes the following day.
Fast forward 24 hours.
I had a different approach this day. My cameraman/producer Joe Auriemma and I set up camp in the Red Sox' dugout in an attempt to make it as easy as possible for Beckett to give us a minute of his time. Low and behold, after about an hour of dugout down time, Beckett emerged.
"Hey, Josh," I said with a smile. "You're just the man I'm looking for. I'm sorry to stalk you but I would love just two minutes of your time so I can complete this feature I'm working on for the Yankees' pregame show."
"Oh yeah. I remember you," Beckett said. "John Blake told me about your story... and I think it's stupid."
"You think it's stupid?" I replied.
"Yeah. Why would I want to talk about my old teammates? And who assigned you that story anyway? I'm not interested at all. I wouldn't want to comment on those guys, especially Pavano since he's hurt."
"Well I'm not asking you to comment on his injury," I said. "And to be honest, in the time it's taking us to talk about this, the interview could have already been completed."
Beckett then started his ascent up the dugout steps onto the field and once again told me he was not interested in my story, even with Joey sitting five feet away with a camera on his shoulder.
Really, dude? Is it THAT painful to answer a couple of harmless questions?
As I began to realize Josh Beckett may be one of the rudest athletes on the planet, he confirmed my thoughts.
About ten feet into the infield, Beckett turned around and said, "By the way, yesterday when I told you I was busy... I lied."
Love them or hate them, and I assume you hate them if you're a Boston fan, not one player in my seven years of covering the New York Yankees has ever disrespected me the way Beckett did. And even though they were the worst teams in baseball for the two years I spent with them, not one player on the Washington Nationals or Baltimore Orioles, in the midst of their misery and losing, dismissed me the way Beckett did. In fact, the Orioles and Nats very well may have been some of the classiest guys I've had the pleasure of working with.
I covered Randy Johnson, who often told the media we were a bunch of gremlins. It didn't bother me. I covered Mike Mussina, who looked at me like I was a complete moron every time I asked him a question. It didn't bother me. I covered Kevin Brown, who was the grumpiest human being I've ever known. It didn't bother me. And for two years, I covered Ray Lewis, who never once intimidated me for a split second.
But this was different. This was malicious.
Either lead by example on the field, or lead by example off the field. One or the other, but preferably both. In Beckett's case, he's doing neither. Maybe it's time to cut ties.
So where do we go from here, Boston?
When I asked somebody on the Red Sox what Beckett's problem was after he dismissed me in 2006, the person replied, "He's different."
In that YES Network feature, Jorge Posada told me Josh Beckett had better stuff than both Pavano and Burnett. And I agree. But if Beckett was currently 13-1 like RA Dickey, a little less attention would be given to his attitude and maybe he'd be tradable. But that's not the case.
I just can't remember the last time the Red Sox employed somebody as "different" as Josh Beckett.
We demand greatness in Boston, that's what makes our city so special. If Beckett can't and doesn't respect that, it's probably time to cut ties.
Jen Royle is a Columnist for SB Nation Boston. You can follow her @Jen_Royle on Twitter.