Josh Beckett of the Los Angeles Dodgers threw a no-hitter yesterday, the first of his career and the first by a Dodger since 1996. The Philadelphia Phillies fell victim to the 34 year old Beckett, who turned the clock back, even if just for one afternoon. While a no-hitter does not mean a pitcher is a star or a Hall of Famer, and luck plays into it more than anything, this is an interesting development for a pitcher who has not had much positive news go his way in a while.
The year 2007 seems like an eternity ago. In Internet years, it might as well be ancient history. I was still in high school, we still had dial-up Internet at home, it was before Twitter, before I was on Facebook or Reddit, and Josh Beckett was right there with David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, and Paul Pierce as one of the most popular athletes in Boston. Beckett was unreal that year. While Mike Lowell was the 2007 World Series MVP, they would not have won that year without Josh Beckett. In a year where Daisuke Matsuzaka was a major disappointment, and Clay Buccholz was too fatigued to pitch in the playoffs (sound familiar?), Beckett took charge of the pitching rotation, and became the ace of the staff. It wasn’t the first time he had done that either. In 2003, he carried the Florida Marlins to their second World Series title. The guy was well on his way to a career that would be enshrined in Cooperstown when he started to rest on his laurels.
The decline of the Boston Red Sox was best personified by the decline of Josh Beckett. He became the face of Fried Chicken and Beer-gate. He was the face of the negativity and the laziness on the team. He was the face of Terry Francona getting fired. When Bobby Valentine was hired as manager, it only made things worse. It got to the point for Red Sox fans that the 2012 regular season was the worst season ever from start to finish, and the only thing that redeemed it in any way was it allowed for the Sox to hit rock bottom and start over. Bottoming out for the Red Sox involved trading Beckett, along with Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto, to the Dodgers. The Dodgers were loading up for a playoff run they didn’t end up making in 2012, but Yasiel Puig helped them get there in 2013. While Beckett and the Dodgers fell short in the NLCS (though Beckett was out with injury and did not play), his old team bounced back from the previous year’s disaster and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
Before throwing that no-hitter, Josh Beckett was a has-been whose best pitching days seemed further behind them than most star pitchers his age. After throwing the no-hitter, he might still be a has-been, but it shows that he just might still have some people, myself included, to prove wrong. The Texas Tough Guy might not be what he used to be, and he’ll likely never be as popular in any city as he was in Boston in 2007, but he’s not hanging it up just yet, either.