If you had $82.5 million, would you give it to Josh Beckett to keep him atop the Boston Red Sox pitching rotation for five more years? That’s approximately the question facing the Red Sox these days, not so much the average dollar amount per year but the number of years on any contract extension.
Beckett is about to begin the final year of his current three-year, $30 million deal with Boston, a deal that at the time was considered to be to the Red Sox’s advantage due to its short term and relatively meager $10 million per year for one of the top young righthanders in major league baseball.
Since signing that deal, Beckett merely has remained among the majors’ elite pitchers. In his four seasons in Boston, he helped the Red Sox win one World Series and earn three straight trips to the playoffs.
But despite pitching more than 200 innings in three of his last four seasons, Beckett’s long-term health is being questioned because of shoulder issues first detected a decade ago.
The Red Sox fear that injury may finally catch up with Beckett during the next six years.
Yet as he nears age 30 in May, Beckett seemingly is in the prime of his career, and rates no worse than even with the team’s big free-agent addition of the most recent off-season, 31-year-old righthander John Lackey.
Lackey has about the same overall regular-season record as Beckett — he’s 102-71 with a 3.81 ERA compared to Beckett’s 106-68 with a 3.79 ERA, but Lackey has not had nearly the postseason success. While Lackey is 3-4 in the playoffs, Beckett is 7-3 with a 3.07 ERA on the October stage.
Lackey also has had health concerns that limited him to 163¤ innings in 2008 and 176¤ innings last season.
Yet the Red Sox were quite willing to pay Lackey $82.5 million over five years.
Perhaps Boston signed Lackey to replace Beckett atop the rotation. After all, Lackey and lefty Jon Lester represent a solid 1-2 punch for the future, but questions remain with others in the rotation.
What, ultimately, will the Sox get for their $100 million investment in Daisuke Matsuzaka? How much longer can the ageless Tim Wakefield hold on? And will Clay Buchholz ever realize what the Sox brass believe is his superstar potential?
What isn’t in doubt is that Josh Beckett is one of the best pitchers in the American League. It’s not my money, but I’d sign the guy.
Bruins need to keep offense simple
The Boston Bruins are in the stretch run for the playoffs and, entering Monday night’s game against Buffalo, they had won three of their last four games.
The Bruins’ problem most of the year has been a lack of offensive production.
They were last in the NHL in goals per game (2.42) before Monday’s game and had scored two goals or less 40 times in 74 games. Their power play was 17th among the 30 teams (17.9 percent).
Some of the problems have stemmed from injuries to players like Patrice Bergeron, Marco Sturm, Dennis Wideman, Milan Lucic and, now, Marc Savard (Grade-2 concussion). They have missed anywhere from six to 33 games.
Savard has played in just 41 of Boston’s 74 games and it appears as though he has been lost for the season courtesy of the blindside hit by Matt Cooke that resulted in a rule change forbidding that type of hit.
He is the only one of the aforementioned players sidelined at the present time.
If the Bruins are going to make the playoffs, they will have to mimic the performance they turned in during the 5-0 win over Calgary on Saturday.
When you are offensively challenged, especially without Savard, the team’s leading scorer the previous three years, you have to keep things simple.
They will need to drive the net and get pucks to the net from everywhere. They must create screens, play gritty and generate garbage goals.
The fact they had fewer power-play chances (240) than anybody in the league indicates they aren’t drawing enough penalties by keeping their feet moving and driving the net.
Their defense and goaltending will keep them in games. Three goals may be enough to provide them with a win.
They were tied with New Jersey for lowest goals-against average in the NHL (2.39 goals allowed) and, unlike a lot of teams that go primarily with one goalie, they have two capable goalies to share the load in Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask. So fatigue won’t be a factor.
They entered Monday’s play in eighth place, the last playoff spot, with a two-point lead over Atlanta, a four-point lead over the New York Rangers and within two points of both Philadelphia and Montreal.
The Bruins had played one fewer game than Atlanta and the Rangers and two fewer than Philadelphia and Montreal.
So they control their own destiny and once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.
Remember, the Bruins have a better road record (18-13-6) than home record (16-15-6), so not having the home-ice advantage in the playoffs is no big deal to them.
— Larry Mahoney