Boom goes the dynamite.
Unless you've been living as a hermit somewhere in the wilderness, you've heard by now about the mega-trade that's going down between the Red Sox and the Dodgers.
Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto head to Los Angeles, while the Red Sox are relieved of 95% of the $275 million collectively owed those players in salary.
Meanwhile, in return, Boston gets right-handed Dodgers reliever Rubby de la Rosa, who just pitched Wednesday night for the first time since having Tommy John surgery 13 months ago, along with an assortment of players which includes first baseman James Loney and prospects Allen Webster (right-handed pitcher), Ivan De Jesus (infielder) and Jerry Sands (outfielder), per yesterday's Gordon Edes blockbuster scoop.
Update: according to the official announcement, the Red Sox are receiving Loney, DeJesus and Webster, and two players to be named later.
I hate losing Gonzalez, who really hasn't been the bust some people make him out to be. He's acquired a reputation for being un-clutch, but a cursory glance at the situational stats will tell you otherwise: He's hitting .415 and slugging .818 this year with bases loaded, for example. With runners in scoring position, he's hitting .398 and slugging .677. RISP wth two out, hitting .333 and slugging .567. These are not poor numbers by any stretch of the imagination.
But Gonzalez is the linchpin of the deal. How else do you get anyone in their right mind to take Josh Beckett, for example, never mind absorb a quarter-billion dollars? So, it must be. And they at least got some value in return for the albatross contracts, like Beckett's, that they're unloading, which is not to mention the freed-up payroll space to pursue free agents this off-season. Some are skeptical that money can be well-spent, but this remains to be seen.
So that's the clinical part, the dispassionate part. The emotions are slower to come, but they're there, at least when it comes to one of these players, at least for me.
I've had a strange sort of love-hate fascination / repulsion with Josh Beckett since he was signed. I was loath to give up Hanley Ramirez to get him, though I would obviously come around given Beckett's dominance while in a Red Sox uniform and Ramirez's later behavior problems in Florida. It was, for all the drama in the end, one of the better trades the Red Sox made in the HWL era.
His first year, 2006, Beckett struck me as a pigheaded SOB, unwilling to change his approach to suit the AL East, unwilling to admit he couldn't just blow it by guys anymore. I still maintain his problem that year was 98% mental, though much was made of his mechanical readjustments before the 2007 season. Personally, I think he got an attitude adjustment, somehow, that offseason as well, and that made all the difference.
In 2007 we saw the flowering of all his potential, channeled perfectly from preparation and work ethic to execution and attitude on the mound. He'd toned down his more bombastic tendencies, and by the 2007 playoffs was a stone-cold pitching machine, the key to the Red Sox' victory in the hard-fought ALCS against Cleveland.
I'll never forget that 2007 season, particularly the playoffs. I'll never forget that ALCS Game 5, when all Beckett's swagger and arrogance was aimed in the right direction, and he singlehandedly shut down an entire exuberant stadium.
In games like that, Beckett wasn't just tough and mean -- he was also a beautiful thing to watch. He had, in games like that, a fluid grace, a freakish coordination from head to toe, and over and over, you could wath the ripple of kinetic energy flow from his legs to his back to his shoulder to his arm and then the ball, rocketing toward the plate. He was something else.
Yet all along, there was a negative undercurrent tempering my admiration of his feats on the field, something I couldn't quite put my finger on, not being in the clubhouse day to day, but something clear and unmistakable as he dropped F-bmbs in press conferences and generally came off an eccentric, prickly sort at best.
The roller coaster that peaked with him that year then began its long descent. Little by little, that attitude problem increased in direct proportion to the fading of his talent. He grew heavier, clunkier, slower, and the arrogance that had served him at the Jake in Game 5 grew to caricaturish proportions.
He had been my favorite player,or at least the player I spent the most time thinking and talking and writing about, but I could no longer defend him to anyone, on any front, even to myself. The fire was out, the spark was gone, and he'd become the poster child for the clubhouse's considerable problems. It was time for him to go, and even ater everything he'd done for my team, I wouldn't even miss him.
At tthis point, about the only feeling I can muster for Josh Beckett is a sense of regret about just how sad all that is.
Still, I can remember a time when I thought I'd never get over Nomar, or Bill Mueller. A time when Beckett upstaged Pedro Martinez at Fenway and I was incredulous. The first time I realized I was falling in love with the upstart rookie Dustin Pedroia.
The beautiful thing about baseball is, there always seems to be another favorite player waiting, just around the corner.