Commentary

Josh Beckett stays, not wanted

Red Sox fans voice displeasure after early exit, but no deadline deal

Updated: August 1, 2012, 11:40 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The vote was as decisive as the day that Manny Ramirez popped out of the Boston Red Sox dugout to pinch hit shortly after the trading deadline had passed, and Fenway Park shook to its foundation from the cheering.

The people had spoken, and they wanted Manny.

Tuesday night, they spoke again, and the message was just as unmistakeable.

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They didn't want Josh Beckett.

For Beckett, there was not even the common courtesy of polite applause that is extended to a visiting player when he leaves a game after an injury. When Beckett departed in the third inning Tuesday night at Fenway with back spasms, boos rained down as steadily as the downpour that provided a miserable accompaniment to his every step to the dugout.

"It is what it is," Beckett said of the booing, so rare for an injured player that veteran observers could not recall a precedent.

His reaction? "None whatsoever."

But surely he noticed it.

"Yeah, you always notice," he said.

The fan reaction was nasty, brutish, ill-timed and unsparing in its honesty, a message directed not only to the pitcher, but to the front office of the team that had promised bold, and instead delivered same old, same old.

For bold, you had to go to Anaheim (Zack Greinke), Texas (Ryan Dempster, Geovany Soto), Chicago (Francisco Liriano, Brett Myers, Kevin Youkilis), Detroit (Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante) or New York (Ichiro Suzuki). And that was just in the American League.

[+] EnlargeJosh Beckett
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesBoos, as well as raindrops, fell on Josh Beckett as he left Tuesday's game after suffering back spasms.

The Red Sox flirted with bold. They tried to find a taker for Beckett, and evinced the most interest from the Texas Rangers, though general manager Ben Cherington said it never got to the point that they asked Beckett if he would waive his 10-5 rights to veto a deal.

They were tempted by offers for Jacoby Ellsbury, knowing that even if they are willing to break the bank to keep him before he can exercise his right to leave as a free agent after 2013, he still harbors some bad feelings from the "soft" tag attached to him after he fractured his ribs in 2010.

"There was a lot of interest in Ellsbury," a team source said, "but we would have had to be blown away to do anything with him."

They even talked to the Los Angeles Dodgers about Adrian Gonzalez, although those talks never gained traction.

"We never talked seriously about Gonzo," the team source said.

One baseball source said that while the Dodgers eventually traded for another outfielder, Shane Victorino, at the deadline, he expected they would make a serious run at Ellsbury this winter. "And if they don't, Theo will," the source said, referring, of course, to Cubs president Theo Epstein, who was the GM who drafted and signed Ellsbury.

Cherington on Tuesday would not discuss specifics regarding talks he held with other clubs.

"We had conversations with a number of teams on players and I'm not going to comment specifically on any player who's still here," he said. "Our general feeling was that we were not apt to do anything that was going to hurt our team this year unless it was too compelling to ignore, so that was sort of the general operating path we took.

"A number of things got talked about, but look, every guy's name in that clubhouse at some point has been talked about and that's what happens at this time of the year. You talk to the GMs of every team and you talk about all sorts of things. Some of those things get out, some of them don't. There was no intent to go trade one guy or the other. We just listened to opportunities and presented some opportunities and ultimately this is where we are."

On Tuesday night, Beckett all but dismissed the trade talk surrounding him as the product of overactive imaginations, although scouts and executives from multiple clubs and Red Sox sources confirmed that it was real.

"A lot of times people try to throw as many things up against the wall as they can and, if one sticks, they look like a genius," he said.

There is truth in Beckett's words, of course. That happens many times in this business. This wasn't one of them. But he is here, and after injuring his back again, good luck to the Red Sox finding a willing trading partner down the road.

The last time Beckett hurt his back on a wet track, it was in Yankee Stadium in 2010, on a night that Terry Francona had downplayed the risk of his pitcher getting hurt on a slick mound. Beckett wound up on the 60-day disabled list and missed 56 games.

Beckett hoped this time wasn't as bad, but ask anyone who has ever had a bad back -- he can't be sure.

"It locked up on me," he said. "I've had this before, it's been worse. It wasn't getting any better.

"We'll just see how things are. I'm stiff right now. That's about it."

On a night that the Red Sox decided to make only a minor adjustment, adding left-handed reliever Craig Breslow and subtracting right-handed reliever Matt Albers, the loss of Beckett for any length of time would seriously undermine their decision to try to qualify for the postseason tournament with what they have.

Franklin Morales almost certainly will be restored to the rotation, Breslow's addition leaving Bobby Valentine still with two lefties in the bullpen, but if Beckett is out, the Red Sox almost certainly will need to add another starter during the August waiver period.

On Tuesday, the bodies already had continued to pile up. Outfielder Ryan Sweeney probably is lost for the season after punching a door, fracturing a knuckle on the pinkie of his throwing hand and undergoing surgery. Scott Atchison is seeking a second opinion in hopes that he can avoid season-ending Tommy John surgery on his elbow.

Sweeney's placement on the disabled list is the 26th time this season that the Red Sox have used the DL. Beckett, who has already appeared once on the list, is hoping to avoid an encore appearance.

The Sox won their fourth straight game on Tuesday, and for the fourth straight night picked up a game on the division-leading Yankees, against whom they posted back-to-back last at-bat wins this past weekend before coming home to take two straight against the Tigers. They caught a break Tuesday; the Tigers had the bases loaded with the potential tying runs when the game was called in the sixth.

For days, Valentine has been preaching the Red Sox can win, though he knows there are holes on his team. But he wasn't deviating from his message Tuesday, and even made an unscheduled cameo with TV cameras rolling, mugging in the background, "I don't want to get fired -- he made it all up" just as Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy was about to go on the air.

He said he was so busy discussing the playing conditions with his infielders he didn't notice the booing Beckett received.

"I don't think he deserved a boo at all," the manager said. "Those who were booing will probably take it back today when they figure out what the situation was."

The fans who were booing know the situation only too well. The people have voted. No one should count on a recall.

Information from ESPNBoston.com contributor Tony Lee was used in this report.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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