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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Josh Beckett's 'Redemption' Comes at an Awfully Convenient Time

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I think weíve proven over the years that weíre not ones to hold grudges.

So, of course, congratulations to Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Josh Beckett on his first career no-hitter Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies, proving that even quitters can indeed prosper.

Beckett was filthy in his historic moment, walking only three and striking out six en route to his teamís 6-0 win, Beckettís third in a row, after starting 2014 with five no-decisions and a loss. It was the first no-hitter for the Dodgers since Hideo Nomo fever spread like Six Degrees of Jonah Hill across Los Angeles.

What a comeback. Right?

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The Dodgers have paid Beckett some $22 million since obtaining the hurler in the epic August 2012 trade that sent him, the charismatic Adrian Gonzalez, hard-core Carl Crawford, and big-time Nick Punto packing. They've seen five wins and a no-hitter for that investment.

But Beckett is 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA this season for the Dodgers, after missing most of 2013 after having a rib removed to help cure a shoulder condition. He's already made nine starts in 2014, one more than he managed all of last season, when the narrative wondered if he'd ever pitch again. If the Dodgers didn't owe him $15.75 million this year, he'd likely have been sent to the scrap heap, just another one-time dominant pitcher whose career had ended in shambles.

Instead, the new incarnation of Beckett has become a parable of sorts, a story of redemption in a town that was bred on such fantasies coming to life.

Please.

As Beckett crept closer to his moment on Sunday, Red Sox fans who were watching Boston cough up its 10th straight loss were in no mood to celebrate a guy who had quit on their team down the stretch in 2011, then showed no remorse for his role in the collapse the next season under Bobby Valentine. Beckett sought out the "snitch." He spoke more about his off-days than getting back on track. He was mercilessly booed at Fenway Park, a matter that really got into the craw of Beckett's PR directors in the BBWAA, some of the same writers whom were embarrassingly rooting for the Dodgers pitcher over the weekend.

Maybe this really is Beckett returning to the form that made him one of baseballís most-feared pitchers and a two-time World Series champion, with a postseason resume that can be lumped in with the best in baseball history.

Maybe itís also a matter of convenience that the 34-year-old is a free agent at the end of the season and is likely looking for one more payday.

Call us cynical, but itís hard to believe that a guy who has looked more like a talented Grimace on the mound the last four years has suddenly found that spark that was missing for so long. Beckett parlayed a 17-6 season in 2009 into a $68 million, four-year contract extension the following spring. He went 6-6 that season with a 5.78 ERA that would make Clay Buchholz drool. The following year, he was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA, but apparently became too disinterested in matters like winning, dragging his lapdog fellow starters along for the ride.

Since signing his last deal, Beckett is all of 29-36 over four seasons. On the day the Red Sox announced the extension in 2010, Beckett maintained that he was happy that he didnít press for the fifth year that teammate John Lackey had received a year earlier.

"A lot of people look at what you lost. I look at what I gained,Ē he said. "I look at four more years of stability, knowing I'm going to be on a winning team. The season gets old when you're losing 90 games. I know I'm going to have a chance to win every year here."

Sure. On the other hand, Beckett probably understands all too well that thereís only so long that you can go about conning the people who write your paychecks.A fifth year of sucking? The ramifications could be dreadful.

But three years, followed up by a National League tour of ďredemption"? Well, now that ought to get more than one general manager shaking some change out of their ownersí pockets in the offseason.

And now, well, he also has Sunday.

ďIf the Dodgers have a sense of humor, they'll even have chicken and beer on the flight home to Los Angeles,Ē USA Todayís Bob Nightengale wrote in the wake of the no-hitter (an honest-to-goodness chicken and beer joke, kids!). ďAnd celebrate the man who is a living testament to what can happen when you refuse to give up.Ē

Wait. Come again?

ďAnd celebrate the man who is a living testament to what can happen when you refuse to give up.Ē

Oh.

Giving up is what Josh Beckett does best, after all. It was his surrendering that cost manager Terry Francona his job in Boston, leading to the most pathetic season of baseball that Boston has witnessed in a generation. In his final days here, Beckett proved to be a guy who didnít care, a target the Red Sox drastically needed to rid themselves of. Is there ďredemptionĒ in figuring it was finally time to give a damn?

"It's special," Beckett said on Sunday. "It's something you certainly think about during your career but very few people have been able to do it."

Welcome back, Josh Beckett. You may have fooled the Phillies for one day, but youíve got the whole rest of the year to keep up your well-timed ruse.


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