There were a lot of things Josh Beckett could have said about playing golf the day after being scratched from a start last week.
He could have explained that he understood how bad it looked with his team in last place in the American League East or admitted an error in judgment or, perhaps, apologized. He could have consulted “Bull Durham” for some clutch Crash Davis cliches.
So many choices. Instead, the Boston Red Sox starter who was knocked out in the third inning Thursday night in Fenway Park, chose a defiant, defensive stance in his first opportunity to explain his golf outing with teammate Clay Buchholz since the story broke Wednesday on a Boston radio station.
“We get 18 off days a year,” Beckett said. “I think we deserve a little time to ourselves.”
Beckett, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes wrote, “made it clear it was an affront to his right to privacy for anyone to even question why he would play golf the day after Sox fans were told he was physically unable to perform. Or for anyone to ask him, in light of how badly the Sox are playing, if he even thought of how it might look from the outside.”
Beckett (2-4) gave up seven runs on 56 pitches as the Red Sox lost 8-3 to the Cleveland Indians and now has a 5.97 ERA. Fenway fans let Beckett hear about it as he departed and he was asked whether he or the team was the target. “It was directed at me. I pitched like [expletive],” he said. “That’s what happens. Smart fans.” (Especially the one who protested by wearing a bag on his head and prompting a Twitter #FreeTheBagGuy trend.)
Pressed for an explanation about the golf game, Beckett replied that “my off day is my off day” and left the increasingly indelible impression that, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo writes, he just doesn’t get it.
And he isn’t likely to gather much sympathy for that “18 days off a year” thing. Edes wasn’t buying it:
And the true extent of his tone deafness was that for most people hearing or reading his words, the immediate response is:18 days? What about the 3 1/2 months after the season, or 4 1/2 months if you blow a certain playoff spot and don’t play in October?
Trust me: A baseball season is a grind. The travel, the odd hours, the physical beating, the time away from family, the nightly pressure that can wear down the strongest of men. No one begrudges a player the few days off he has in the course of a summer. No one usually cares, or knows, what players do with that time off, either.
But Josh Beckett is paid $15.75 million. If he makes 32 starts in the course of a season, that means he is paid $492,187.50 per start. Is it so egregious to have to answer a question or two about the wisdom of golfing when you’re supposedly too hurt to pitch? Or to concede that perception does matter and when people are desperately looking for a reason to fall back in love with this team after last summer’s fiasco, you have to be sensitive to those perceptions?
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