In so many ways Josh Beckett has become the poster child for the fall of the Red Sox. His prominent role in the collapse of the team last September along with his involvement in the "beer and chicken" brigade has made him the target of anger from fans and media for the current state of the franchise. His defiant refusal to apologize for any of his actions, on or off the field frustrate media trying to cover him and enrage fans who want to see a bit of contrition to make themselves feel better about things.
After a decent start to the season, Beckett has reverted to his frequently injured, inconsistent self of the last several seasons, and has been lit up early in a couple of recent starts.
Many have deemed Beckett to be the lamb needing to be sacrificed in order to change the culture and atmosphere surrounding the Boston Red Sox.
While no fan in his or her right mind can be pleased with Beckett's performance this season, the incident Tuesday night surprised some. Beckett was struggling in the third inning after breezing through the first two, when he walked in a run and then requested the trainer out of the dugout. Clearly limited, he was removed from the game to a chorus of boos from the hometown fans at Fenway Park.
How did it get to the point where the home fans are booing an injured member of their own team?
Were they pushed to this point? The season has seen daily on-air rants, both radio and television from those who have Beckett only slightly lower than Satan on the all-time evil list. Prominent columnists who have been positioned as the voice of Boston sports also have declared Beckett a pariah and an evil force which must be vanquished.
When this is heard and read day after day, does it start to sink in and have an effect on fans? If it was Jon Lester who came up lame and had to come out of that game, would he have been booed? Lester is the alleged ace of the team, and has had a worse season than Beckett has had. Lester has shown some contrition for what happened last season and frustration with his performance this season. But he's still been terrible. He's not getting the same treatment Beckett is.
It seems the media is divided on the issue. I thought Peter Abraham had a tremendous post on the Boston.com Extra Bases blog this week about Beckett being booed. He concluded:
But he didn't try to get hurt. He didn't want to get hurt. He was pitching in a 1-0 game against Verlander. He wanted to win the game.
Beckett is a stubborn jackass. But he's a jackass who has done pretty well for your team and kept throwing the ball until he couldn't on Tuesday night.
Booing a player who comes off the mound in a pouring rain with an injury? Boston is better than that. Or at least should be.
Later in the day, when Michael Felger came on the air, he enthusiastically applauded the fans for booing Beckett, saying that he didn't know the Boston fans had it in them, and that it was long overdue.
How much of the fans actions on Tuesday night were spurred on by the likes of Michael Felger? How much influence does the media have in fan opinion? How much are fans influenced by the media, and vice versa?
It's a question I've asked many times, and have never really been able to come to a clear conclusion. In many ways it is the Chicken and the Egg dilemma - are the fans perceptions shaped by what the media tells them, or does the media come their conclusions based on feedback from fans?
While some of the boos on Tuesday night may have been directed at the situation in general - a rainy night, the Red Sox didn't make any meaningful moves at the deadline earlier that day, and Beckett on the mound - I tend to think at least some of the people booing as Beckett came off the field were doing so because they had been pushed to that point and encouraged to show their displeasure.