Josh Beckett: slow as molasses and no one seems to care

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In addition to the maddening Curt Schilling-Nomar Garciaparra back-and-forth, another thing that made the Yankees-Red Sox game so damn hard to watch last night was its pace. Yes, I realize that’s an old complaint, but it’s still a valid one. These games are interminable and it really drives me nuts.

It’s especially bad when Josh Beckett is pitching. He takes FOREVER to come set and deliver a pitch, and it’s the same whether there is a runner on base or not.  Sure, he’s usually effective, undermining that whole “don’t think, it can only hurt the ballclub” rule, but it’s an aesthetic nightmare.

Terry Francona talked about with with WEEI’s Mike Petraglia yesterday, and he said that he had no intention of speeding Beckett up. He doesn’t want to throw him off his game.  His quote: “if I have my choice of him pitching slow and winning and getting a letter from the [MLB], that’s what I’d go with rather than him hurry and get knocked around.”

And you know what? Francona is right about that. It should not be his job to speed his pitcher up. All he should care about is winning baseball games.

But it is someone else’s job: Major League Baseball’s. And that job should not, as Francona implies, be carried out in the form of letters suggesting to managers that they do something about slow play. Letters which, as Francona demonstrates, he can ignore with impunity. There is a rule on the books that covers it and it covers it quite thoroughly. It’s Rule 8.04:

When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.” The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

Baseball should not single out Josh Beckett for enforcement of this rule. It should enforce it across the board.  With umpires empowered to call balls when pitchers dilly-dally. And, I will add, to penalize hitters if they similarly dilly-dally. If this requires some rules tweaks — say, because we now think 12 seconds is a bit too harsh or because we need a different way to deal with hitters — fine.

But baseball needs to take responsibility for this because its failure to do so until now has resulted in a poor product.

Report: White Sox discussing trade for Joc Pederson

Joc Pederson
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A number of teams are making calls about Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson these days, as is the general nature of the offseason. Per Jason Kinander of FanSided, there have been some preliminary trade discussions between the Dodgers and the White Sox, though a formal deal doesn’t appear imminent and any potential competition from other clubs is still unknown.

Pederson, 26, has enjoyed quite a run with the Dodgers over the last five years. A perennial 25-home run hitter (when healthy), he slashed .248/.321/.522 with 56 RBI, an .843 OPS, and 2.7 fWAR through 443 plate appearances during the 2018 regular season. Following the Dodgers’ unsuccessful postseason campaign, Pederson agreed to a one-year, $5 million contract in advance of the arbitration deadline, and is currently slated to remain under team control through the 2020 season.

Despite his relative affordability and clear value to the club, shedding Pederson from their roster would allow the Dodgers to pursue the kind of right-handed hitters they need to balance out their 2019 lineup. It’s not certain what the White Sox are prepared to give up, but Kinander mentions right-hander Carson Fulmer, lefty reliever Aaron Bummer, and recent draft pick/third baseman Bryce Bush as a few possibilities.