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A reasonable so-long to Josh Beckett

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 28, 2012 07:00 AM

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A trio of leftover thoughts tied to The Trade while wondering which team makes the postseason sooner, the bridge-crossing Sox or Theo's Cubs ...

You might find a scattered Red Sox fan or two who is still lamenting that Adrian Gonzalez, a hitter who will not be easily replaced, was the cost of getting rid of the Josh Beckett malignancy. But I doubt you'll find anyone beyond fellow Cabela's Big Game Hunter enthusiast John Lackey who wishes the regressing righthander with a habit of choosing defiance over accountability hadn't been dealt.

He's taken his smirking moon-face and 7-13 record and 5.26 ERA over the last calendar year to LA, where he'll surely annoy us from afar by humming a "Hell Yeah, I Like Beer/I Love LA'' medley while finding his former good form just to spite Sox fans one more time. He pitched decently Monday night -- 5.2 innings, 7 hits, 3 earned runs -- and that will be good enough to win more than he loses with that star-studded offense backing him.

But you know, now that we're looking at Beckett's time here in the rear-view mirror, it probably should be acknowledged that he's a more pivotal figure in Red Sox history -- yes, in a good way -- than most of us are liable to remember for a while.

He is vilified for his performance in September 2011 and beyond, and he deserved every bit of grief, every single boo. But as my kindred spirits at Surviving Grady pointed out, not only was he everything an ace is supposed to be during the ride to the 2007 World Series title, but he actually already had a deep reservoir of goodwill built up with Red Sox fans for something he did before he arrived in Boston.

His Bob Gibson-like performance in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series -- a complete-game five-hit shutout on short rest at Yankee Stadium -- gave the Marlins the title over the Yankees. It didn't eliminate the pain of the Red Sox' agonizing loss to the Yankees in the ALCS, but it did dull it a bit.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that's the same guy. Beckett's performance had too many peaks and valleys during his six-plus seasons here during which he went 89-58 with a 4.17 ERA overall. A year after Matt Clement started Game 1 of a postseason series, he was brought in to be the young ace the Sox lacked, and occasionally he fulfilled that promise of the golden-armed former No. 2 overall pick who was anointed the next Clemens and carried himself as if that baseball destiny was his birthright.

His 2011 season was permanently stained by September, but by some measures it was also the best he had in Boston statistically. It doesn't feel that way, but he was very good until relatively recently

It's telling -- and entirely his doing -- that we won't remember him well, at least not until the more recent memories of ineffectiveness and arrogance fade.

* * *

A week ago, I didn't think Bobby Valentine would be back with the Red Sox in 2013. I do now, though I still do not think he should be. I'm going to stick with my mantra: He makes every potentially controversial situation worse with his incurable passive-aggressiveness, and that is poison in a market such as this one.

The Red Sox will be entering a true bridge year next season, methodically filling in the gaps on the roster while waiting for the gems of the farm system to arrive and establish themselves. While I've probably undersold their pitching in recent columns -- I'm starting to believe Lackey can be better than decent next year now that he's healthy -- it would be stunning if they are in contention when the days start getting longer.

So in that bridge year -- man, I've always disliked that term since Theo's original intent was misconstrued, but it really does apply now -- I suspect the Red Sox' thinking will be that they might as well keep Valentine around, perhaps as a bridge himself to the next manager. He has one year left on his deal. So does Blue Jays manager John Farrell.

If the Red Sox covet Farrell as much as it is believed, the succession plan would line up nicely, bringing him here just as the team is beginning to ascend again. That might be a cold and callous way to end Valentine's time here, but I'd argue his tenure never should have begun in the first place.

* * *

I like him as a role player, and I like him as a personality, but I'm not sure I like the idea of Cody Ross sticking around on anything more than a two-year deal for, say, $14 million.

Now stay turned as I talk myself into giving him more years and loot if that's what it takes.

According to baseball-reference.com, Ross's most similar player is Kevin Mench, and his most similar player through age 30 is Craig Monroe. Like journeymen Mench and Monroe in their day, he's a player just capable enough that you're generally cool with keeping him around for 450 or so at-bats a season until you can find someone better.

But there are secondary circumstances that work in Ross's favor when it comes to remaining in Boston. He's back to pummeling lefthanded pitching this season (.330, 1.130 OPS this year in 117 plate appearances), and the notion that his swing was tailor-made for Fenway has proven true (.312, 13 homers in 226 plate appearances).

Considering the deficiencies that exist in their lineup currently and probably will into next season, keeping around a player who is a good fit in the ballpark as well as the clubhouse (if not quite cavernous right field, where he is a Pembertonian adventure) isn't the a foolish idea, though it would be better if they could do it without spending too much of that Beckett/Crawford/Gonzalez windfall.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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