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John Smoltz on M&M: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester ‘put me to shame’ with work ethic

05.16.12 at 1:53 pm ET

MLB Network analyst John Smoltz weighed in on the Josh Beckett golf controversy during a Wednesday appearance on the Mut & Merloni show. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Smoltz acknowledged that Beckett “could have handled it a little bit better,” but he said Beckett’s golf excursion is being overblown in Red Sox Nation.

“We make way too much of things that have absolutely nothing to do with execution on the field,” Smoltz said, adding: “A golf swing and throwing a baseball is not even remotely close. I will give you this: A back or a lat can come into play, but unless you’re a violent golfer or a terrible golfer, it really has nothing to do with Josh’s inability to throw strikes or where he wants to. He proved it the next start. He made the changes.”

Smoltz, who pitched 21 major league seasons, mostly with the Braves, spent a chunk of the 2009 season with the Red Sox. He said he knows first-hand from that experience that the Sox starters are putting in the effort.

“To be honest with you, I talked to [Beckett] and [Jon] Lester about toning it down a little bit. Those guys worked like animals,” he said. “I’d never seen guys work as hard as they did in between starts. I played a long time, and I was always priding myself on the way that I worked, but those guys put me to shame.

“I know they were younger, and certainly that trend can not continue. But I think from what goes on in a clubhouse and what goes on on a field, sometimes we translate it into, ‘What could it be? Why is his head not right? Why is it this?’ There’s a lot of things that I think each player, if they had a chance to do it all over again, might answer questions differently or not have a certain attitude of disdain. I think taking better ownership and taking more direct hits sometimes is not fun, but you’ve just got to deal with it.

“From a standpoint of these guys and going to spring training, look, I went 21 years with the Atlanta Braves. I never did half of the stuff I did when I was with the Boston Red Sox in spring training, and the way they went after it. I mean, it was incredibly tough.”

Smoltz said he has confidence the Red Sox will turn things around, but he cautions that it will take patience.

“Time is not on Boston’s side, for obvious reasons,” he said. “People want that team to rebound from last year and be the team everyone thinks they’re capable of being, and I think they will. But time, it’s just not something that people are very patient with. And you’re seeing this very streaky team. And now the rotation is coming around. It’s going to be OK. I just know people don’t feel that way given the fact that it happened in September and it’s really carried over to this year.”

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