Josh Beckett has a live arm, a World Series ring, and the potential to be far more than he is right now. Today's contract extension shows that the Red Sox believe that he, along with Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon will form the cornerstones for the Red Sox starters of the next few seasons.
Yes, Beckett has warts, and a history of blisters, and hasn't pitched 200 innings. His curveball isn't always consistent, and his changeup needs to lose at least 5 mph. He's been Denny McLain with the gopher ball. But he's still young, still learning his craft, and where better to learn for a passionate guy than where the passion rises to the heavens? Who's to say when Curt Schilling teaches him a devastating slider or he learns the Circle change, palm ball, or just learns how to choke the ball enough to make the changeup an out pitch?
Add in Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen out of the pen, and you have almost half of a pitching staff that can compete for the division title annually. The strongest organizations in professional sports build to compete for both now and the future, usually around defense and strength up the middle. The Beckett signing shows that commitment.
The Sox have made the same commitment in the past to Jason Varitek, who despite a subpar offensive season is the coach on the field.
The focus should remain on the 2006 season, although the Sox look concomitantly into the future. The shadow of Jeff Bagwell shouldn't hang over the franchise, and the Sox shouldn't take anything but Godfather offers for any of their centerpiece pitching. Young, live arms, especially at reasonable prices are not commodities, but proprietary values that shouldn't be surrendered. The Sox must, I emphasize MUST understand that it is a sellers market. Greg Maddux is a shell of his former self. Dontrelle Willis has a short contract that shouldn't be assumed in trade for low budget solutions for the Marlins. Ditto for Jason Schmidt.
The Sox have taken a page out of the Patriots' playbook, securing the center of the field (the Patriots have restocked the D-line and O-line) and adding parts as available and necessary to compete within budgetary constraints. Yes, they are the New Yorkers 'light', but an ancient ballpark and loyal Nation allow for a macro payroll.
John Wooden reminds us that "no progress occurs without change, but not all change is progress." Baseball trades and development are not so different from stock trades, in that most will be 'scratches', but your ultimate success is determined by the great successes amidst the mundane moves.
The Beckett signing represents a promise to the diehards among us that the Sox recognize that "the race is not always to the swiftest or the battle to the strongest, but it pays to bet that way."
It's a bet that Sox fans want to endorse, Nitwit Radio or not.