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Opinion: Sox fans right to boo Josh Beckett

08.01.12 at 11:09 am ET

This time, the fans got it right.

As a rule, you shouldn’t boo an injured player. You know that, I know that, and the (alleged) sellout crowd at Fenway Park knows that.

But this is different.

The fans weren’t really booing Josh Beckett for leaving Tuesday night’s game with back spasms. It was a terrific excuse at the perfect time. They were booing Josh Beckett for last September, booing Josh Beckett for coming back this season and never acknowledging that he was a significant player in the collapse and all that followed, booing Josh Beckett for being a mediocre pitcher this season, a season that has defined Beckett every bit as much as 2007, booing Josh Beckett for playing golf after missing a start with an injury, booing Josh Beckett for being out of shape last season and looking out of shape this season, booing Josh Beckett for “We get 18 off days a year,” booing Josh Beckett for making $15 million (though to be fair, I’m pretty sure he didn’t go into Theo Epstein‘s office with a gun and a $68 million contract) and booing Josh Beckett for still being in Boston after the trade deadline, which also gave them a chance to boo Ben Cherington and Larry Lucchino.

Beckett was the face (or chins) of the collapse last year, and he’s still the face of a team that — even with a four-game winning streak — is a whopping two games over .500 on Aug. 1. The underachiever on a hugely underachieving team. Maybe this team will keep winning and winning and prove all of us wrong. Who knows? But if it doesn’t, and Beckett continues his individual duel of lousy starts vs. DL stints, nothing will change.

And we’re told that Beckett doesn’t care what we think, that, to paraphrase the late and very great Gore Vidal, beneath Beckett’s cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water. OK. He’s not going to apologize for who he is and why he does (or doesn’t do) what he does. Stubborn, prideful, all that. Got it. And I think, for the most part, Beckett has been given a free pass around here. His managers (with Bobby Valentine every bit as guilty as Terry Francona), pitching coaches, front office, fellow pitchers (and doesn’t it just seem so wrong to see John Lackey in the dugout every night?) and, yes, the media all have played a role in enabling Beckett. And the fans are done with it. That’s what you heard Tuesday night.

And spare me the idea that fans in Boston should know better than to boo an injured player. No kidding. But this is an outlier. If Felix Doubront or Clay Buchholz or Alfredo Aceves or any other pitcher on the roster — Jon Lester included — left the game with a back injury, no one would boo. And if Josh Beckett had blown out his knee or broke an ankle and was carried off the field, no one would have booed.

There are those who think he was faking an injury Tuesday night, which is ridiculous at best. Think about it: Why would Beckett fake an injury? What’s the motivation? If he was going to do that he would have said he hurt himself warming up and skipped the start entirely. He only looks worse by leaving the game, and he knows that.

But Beckett has earned distrust, has invited suspicion by his actions on the mound and in the clubhouse last season. It’s fair to wonder what exactly has changed. And he looks exactly the same to me as he did last September, puffy (and 20 or 30 extra pounds can lead to back injuries, maybe someone in the organization should’ve mentioned that to Beckett in the offseason), ineffective and unapologetic.

As a rule, you should never boo an injured player.

But Josh Beckett has done — or hasn’t done — enough to be the exception to the rule.

Read More: Bobby Valentine, Josh Beckett,
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