Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Adventures of Josh 'n' Jon: Opening Day Starter Edition

In the least shocking news since the third reelection of FDR, Jon Lester has officially been named the Opening Day starter for the Boston Red Sox. As Manager Terry Francona said, after the first game, the rotation order is sort of a non-issue until the playoffs, but I'm sure it's nice for Lester to get that recognition.

In case you were concerned about 2009 and 2010 Opening Day starter Josh Beckett getting jealous, there's no need to fret; the big Texan is here to assure you that there are absolutely no hard feelings: "It's a really big honor and he should be proud of it. It's something he has earned."

How much of this is genuine, and how much is just for the press/team unity/warm fuzzies? It's difficult to say. Beckett has never been one to censor his feelings about his own performances, or even to hide his disdain when reporters ask him redundant questions. There's no doubt that he was extremely disappointed by his injury-marred 2010, and it's probably true that he believes Lester deserves it more this year.

However, that's not to say that the righthander isn't a little jealous, or even a bit bitter. Just a few years ago, Beckett was the young phenom who made fans excited with every pitch. He was a World Series Champion at a young age, just like Lester, with the added exhilaration of being a leader on a young and talented team, and then being a centerpiece of the trade that sent Hanley Ramirez to Florida.

Now, despite the shiny new contract extension Beckett inked last year, he's all but forgotten. All the press about Boston's rotation is the 1-2 punch of young guns Lester and Clay Buchholz, or the well-documented struggles of the enigmatic Daisuke Matsuzaka. I'm quite certain Josh is absolutely aching to be the big-game pitcher he was only a few years ago, with all the respect and accolades that comes with that.

I don't see this causing any discord in the clubhouse. For one, I really don't imagine Lester and Beckett to be the kinds of people who sit around and talk about their feelings - they strike me as more of the "act first, question later" types. Mostly, both pitchers (along with the rest of the staff) are too professional to let something like this affect their performance - but here's hoping Beckett uses it as motivation to return to the form he had just a few years back.

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For those of you interested in my travels, I am currently in Dakar, Senegal. There's a lot of random MLB gear around here, and sadly, much of it says "NEW YORK" on it - and it's not usually the National League team, either. So far, I've seen jerseys and/or hats for the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Rangers, and Nationals (who knows?), as well as quite a few Celtics and Lakers jerseys. I'm having a great time so far, and trying to spread Red Sox Nation across the globe.

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