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Josh Beckett

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Joshua Patrick Beckett

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[edit] Biographical Information

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Josh Beckett is a right-handed starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was selected by the Florida Marlins with the second overall pick in the 1999 amateur draft. With the nickname "Kid Heat", Beckett continued a long line of power pitchers to come out of the state of Texas. In just his second season of professional baseball, Baseball America named Beckett the 2001 Minor League Player of the Year, USA Today also named him as their POY, and he debuted with the Marlins. The young Texan reached national fame in 2003, after an outstanding postseason in which he won the World Series MVP. Injuries hampered his career in Florida, and the Marlins traded Beckett to the Boston Red Sox. The righty won 16 games for the Red Sox in 2006, and was a member of the All-Star team in 2007.

[edit] High School Career

In three seasons as a varsity pitcher at Spring High School, Beckett's record was 32-6. He posted his best ERA, 0.39, and strikeout total, 178, as a Junior. Baseball America named him as a first-team high school All-American, the only junior on the first or second team that year. There were rumors that the ace would be leaving high school early to enter the amateur draft. Instead, Beckett returned for his senior season and went 10-1 with a 0.46 ERA. He allowed 31 hits in 89 innings while striking out 155, and was again a first-team Baseball America High School All-American. USA Today deemed him "High School Pitcher of the Year", and he cemented his spot as one of baseball's best amateur pitchers. Scouts compared the phenom to his childhood idols: Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays passed on Beckett with the first pick, choosing Josh Hamilton. The Marlins signed Beckett to a seven million dollar contract that included a four million dollar signing bonus. Prior to the deal, the last high school pitcher to sign a big league contract was Todd Van Poppel in 1990.

[edit] Florida Marlins: 2000-2005

The Marlins' young stud blazed through the minor leagues. Beckett worked two innings in his first spring training appearance, fanning all six batters he faced. He started 12 games for the Kane County Cougars in 2000, he recorded 61 strikeouts and his ERA was 2.12. His playing time was shortened because of mild shoulder injuries. He pitched one inning in the 2000 Futures Game, walking one but striking out the side in a scoreless frame. Had he qualified, he would have led the Midwest League in ERA. Baseball America still rated him as the top prospect in the 2000 MWL, ahead of players like Albert Pujols, Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn. They also rated him as having the best fastball in the MWL. "Kid Heat" returned to full health in 2001, going 14-1 between Brevard County and Portland. He was named Minor League Player of the Year by both Baseball America and The Sporting News. He made four starts with the Marlins, winning two and posting a 1.50 ERA.

Beckett had the first of many bouts with blisters in 2002. The Marlins sent their hurler to the Disabled List in May, June, and August. He still made 23 appearances for the club, and was able to strikeout 113 hitters in 107 2/3 innings. Beckett was the opening day starter in 2003, but faltered early in the season. In May, he was sent back to the DL with a right elbow sprain. Upon returning in July, Beckett helped push the Marlins into the playoffs. He was 9-8 with a 3.04 ERA. His postseason ERA was 2.11 in six games. He set a NLCS record for fewest hits in a complete game when he 2-hit the Cubs in his first career complete game. The most memorable outing was a complete game shutout in game six of the 2003 World Series. Beckett pitched the Championship clinching game on just three days rest. The performance earned him the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.

2004 brought the young star to the DL three more times; twice for blisters and once for a pulled muscle in his back. Beckett's 9-9 record was a disappointing follow up to Beckett's World Series performance. He delivered 29 starts in 2005, a career best. His record was 15-8 and his ERA was 3.38.

[edit] Boston Red Sox: 2006-2012

Beckett (left) speaks with Pres. Obama before the 2009 All-Star game.

With his value at a peak, and the Marlins looking to go in a different direction, Beckett was sent to the Boston Red Sox with Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota in exchange for a number of prospects - Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Harvey Garcia and Jesus Delgado.

Boston's newest ace surged early in the 2006 season. On May 20th, he hit the first home run by a Red Sox pitcher since Marty Pattin in 1972, this one coming in an interleague contest. In July, he signed a three-year extension worth 30 million dollars. Beckett struggled as the season progressed; his ERA for the month of August was 6.38. He finished with a 16-11 record, but his season ERA ballooned to 5.01. Perhaps most important to Red Sox fans, the fireballer was not able to lead the team into the playoffs. In four starts against the Yankees, Beckett's ERA was 9.45. At the same time, Hanley Ramirez pieced together a fantastic season for the Marlins, climaxing in the Rookie of the Year Award.

Beckett's dominance returned in 2007. He charged to the top of the win list with an 8-0 record, and was the victorious pitcher in the 2007 All-Star Game. Beckett finished the season as the American League's lone 20-game winner. He helped the Red Sox sweep the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS, contributing a complete game shutout in the first game of the series. Beckett was also 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in the ALCS, and surrendered just one run in seven innings during his only start of the World Series. That brought his record to 6-0 with a 1.73 ERA and 82 strikeouts in ten career postseason appearances.

In 2008, Josh fell to 12-10, 4.03 in 27 starts; he gave up 4 runs in five innings in his only start against the Angels in the ALDS, but escaped with a no-decision, then put up a 9.64 ERA in two ALCS starts against the Tampa Bay Rays, but still finished with a win and no loss. The Red Sox were eliminated in seven games though. In 2009, he bounced back by going 17-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 212 1/3 innings. He was named to the All-Star team for the second time and struck out 199 batters, a career high. Once again facing the Angels in the ALDS, he wasn't able to escape a poor start, being charged with the Sox's 4-1 loss in Game 2 when he gave up all 4 runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Injuries limited Beckett to 21 starts in 2010, and he was clearly pitching below his usual strength when he did take the mound, finishing the year at 6-6, 5.78. He got off on the wrong foot, posting a 7.22 ERA in April after being named the Opening Day starter, then was on the disabled list with a lower back strain from May 19th to July 23rd. He then bounced back with a very good year in 2011, returning to the All-Star Game and finishing with a record of 13-7 and a career-best 2.89 ERA while making 30 starts. He gave up only 146 hits in 193 innings, the second-best H/9 innings ratio in the American League that year. However, the Sox season ended on a sour note, as they were caught and passed by the Rays on the last day of the season after leading the Wild Card race for most of the year, the year ending with tales of clubhouse indiscipline and recrimination, culminating with the firing of long-time manager Terry Francona in the off-season.

Beckett was poised to set the team back on the right track under new skipper Bobby Valentine in 2012, but instead, he got off to a poor start reminiscent of his 2010 season, taking a 10-0 loss in his first outing against the Detroit Tigers on April 7th. In early May, he was scratched from a scheduled start after complaining of stiffness in his shoulder, then was spotted the next day playing golf, making many wonder whether he was malingering. When he was bombed in his next start on May 10th, giving up 7 runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians, the Boston faithful found him a perfect target against which to vent their frustration at the team's poor start, booing him lustily when he was taken out of the game. He was 2-4, 5.97 at that point. Things did not improve much in the following weeks, and after 21 starts, he was 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA and residing in Valentine's doghouse with the Red Sox in a state of turmoil unseen in ages.

[edit] Los Angeles Dodgers: 2012-

Beckett's tenure with the Red Sox ended on dramatic fashion on August 25, 2012, when he was included in one of the biggest blockbuster trades in baseball history. Along with teammates Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto, owed a combined $260 million in future salary, Beckett was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for five players, four of them prospects. The move was meant to free a large amount of financial room for the Red Sox to re-tool, but also to get rid of players seen as trouble-makers. Not that the Dodgers perceived Beckett in this manner: he was immediately inserted in the starting rotation in place of the ailing Chad Billingsley and identified as a key piece in the Dodgers' quest for a division title in a tight race with the San Francisco Giants. He had a decent first start for the Dodgers against the Colorado Rockies on August 27th, giving up 3 runs in 5 2/3 innings at Coors Field. He started off on the wrong foot by surrendering a lead-off homer to Tyler Colvin but then settled down nicely before tiring in the 6th. Unfortunately for him, though, the Dodgers' bats took the night off and his relievers allowed seven runs in the 8th inning to make the final score an ugly 10-0. Ironically, he was facing Jeff Francis, his opponent with the Rockies in Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, but this time Francis got the better of him. He then won his first game as a Dodger in his next start on September 1st, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks, 2-1, pitching 6 2/3 innings; the win was his first since July 20th, snapping a string of five straight losses since. He ended the season with a record of 2-3, 2.93 in 7 starts for the Dodgers, for a seasonal total of 7-14, 4.65 in 28 games and 132 strikeouts in 170 1/3 innings.

Beckett had a rough start to his 2013 season, even though he was one of only a few healthy pitchers in the Dodgers' starting rotation following a string of early-season injuries. He started the year 0-5 with a loss to the Washington Nationals on May 13th and had a 5.19 ERA after 8 starts. That was in spite of a solid 41/15 K/W ratio in 43 1/3 innings, and one complete game, which resulted in a 1-0 loss to the Diamondbacks on Paul Goldschmidt's walk-off homer in the bottom of the 9th. He went on the disabled list after that start, and in late June, it was announced that his season was over, because he needed surgery to relieve pressure on a nerve in his neck. The surgery involved the removal of a rib.

He was back in the Dodgers' rotation at the start of the 2014 season, but could not buy a win in the early going. He made four April starts without a decision, then lost to the Marlins on May 2nd to go 0-1 in spite of a 3.14 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. That made him 0-6 since the end of 2012. He finally picked up a win when he defeated the Marlins, 7-1, on May 13th. Ironically, his opponent that night, Jacob Turner, extended his own streak of winless starts to 16 in getting charged with the loss. On May 25th, he was even better when he pitched a 6-0 no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies on the road at Citizens Bank Park; he struck out 6 and walked only 3, needing 126 pitches before getting Chase Utley to look at a knee-high fastball for the last out. It was the first no-hitter of the season, the first by a Dodgers pitcher since Hideo Nomo in 1996, and the first nine-inning no-hitter by an opposing pitcher in Philadelphia since Bill Stoneman of the Montreal Expos had accomplished the feat back in 1969. He had to go on the disabled list on July 8th, the victim of an injury to his left hip. He was back in late July, but after making two starts went back on the disabled list on August 4th with the same hip injury. This time, it was season-ending, his year finished with a record of 6-6, 2.88 in 20 starts. Needing off-season surgery to continue his career, he told reporters late in the season that he was instead mulling retirement at age 34 and confirmed his decision to retire after the Dodgers were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.

Sources: JockBio: Josh Beckett Biography, 1999-2007 Baseball Almanacs

[edit] Miscellany

Through 2008, Beckett was the only pitcher ever to have more career shutouts in the postseason (3) than in the regular season (2). He pitched two regular-season shutouts in 2009 to end that statistical quirk.

[edit] Notable Achievements

[edit] Further Reading

  • Bob Nightengale: "No-hitter sweet redemption for Dodgers' Josh Beckett", USA Today, May 25, 2014. [1]

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