DENVER -- It was supposed to be a tough decision. It wasn't.
Josh Beckett had spent nearly seven years in a Red Sox uniform and appeared in a total of 202 games for the franchise. Yet when the door was opened last weekend, the 32-year-old had no qualms about walking through it. He knew it was time.
"It wasn't going to turn around," he said while sitting in his new Dodgers uniform in the Coors Field visitors clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.
The right to veto any trade had been earned by Beckett after spending more than five years with the Red Sox and upwards of 10 in the big leagues. When the pitcher had reached the tenure milestone last August, the idea that such a clause would be relevant seemed unrealistic. Friday night, it became a reality.
Beckett was being traded to the Dodgers, and the Red Sox needed his permission to make it go through. Saturday morning, he gave it to them.
"The whole 10-5 thing, you have to earn that. It's got to still be somewhat on your terms, but nobody wants to be in an awkward situation, which I wasn't [going to do]," Beckett said. "[Sox GM] Ben [Cherington] was very straightforward with me. If something was going on, he would tell me, and when people would say stuff was going on and nothing was going, he would tell me that. I thought Ben did a great job and I thanked him for the way he handled it in the last conversation with him. He did a really good job, and I think he's done a good job with everything. We didn't do our part. I think owners did what they thought they were supposed to do, and it didn't work out.
"It had to be a good situation [to accept a trade]. I have two years left on my deal. I wanted to come somewhere where if I play out those two years I felt we had a chance to win a World Series. First and foremost, it had to be a good situation for my family. There are some out there that wouldn't fit. My family wouldn't want to do it. I'm not going to name any of those teams or anything like that. But there are situations out there my family would nix it. Then there is the deal of winning. I didn't want to go to a situation where I'm here for two more years and we have no chance. This is awesome. They're trying to win, now, and we've got the talent."
So while it was long believed that the final moments of a decision to accept a trade would come down to Beckett digging into his desire to finish off the final 2 1/2 years of his contract with the Red Sox, what really finalized the commitment was the simple approval of the other Sox players being sent to Los Angeles.
"I called Adrian [Gonzalez] and Nick [Punto] and Carl [Crawford] to see if this was a situation … I wanted to ask Carl if he was going to waive his no-trade clause, and I wanted to see if those other two guys were going to a situation they didn't want to," Beckett said. "I just tried to take into consideration, just like I would want somebody to do. Even if that didn't help them make up their mind, and they went against me, at least I asked and kind of knew. I think everybody was on board with it. It was an exciting time. I said it the other day in my press conference: Who doesn't want to go to Los Angeles? I went from one storied franchise to another, and feel very fortunate to be able to do that. Even if something happens at the end of this year, I feel fortunate."
But, as Beckett explained, the springboard to joining his third major league franchise wasn't about any last-minute phone calls, or overnight family consultation. From the pitcher's perspective, the road out of town had been paved long before last weekend.
After eight months of living in the epicenter of the Red Sox' chaos, Beckett had reached the point of no return … and he knew it.
"Once they want you out of there, they want you out of there," he said. "By them, I don't necessarily mean the fans. There are certain people in the media who painted me out to be a monster with horns, and that's just not the case. I said that in my press conference, people out here hear from certain media members that [portrayal]. I'm like, well, maybe you should start asking some people who are around me and know me. That's the thing, nobody ever asks them. And if they do ask them, they don't write that. They don't write what people say because that's not how they want perception to be. They've done it to a lot of people. I got a text message from one of the head security guys over there. He's like, 'You're not the first person I've seen this happen to.' Once those people want you out of there, they want you out of there. They're going to keep on, keeping on, keeping on until they get what they want."
From Beckett's vantage point, "those people" were getting what they wanted, and, in the end, got their ultimate prize -- a ticket for the pitcher to leave town.
In analyzing the events leading to his departure prior to the Dodgers' game against the Rockies Tuesday, Beckett painted a very clear picture. He was at peace with both what he had accomplished in six-plus seasons in Boston, while also siphoning satisfaction from the way he had approached life as a Red Sox on and off the field.
For example, when asked if he would have done anything differently, he gave an answer that might not have been what the public had hoped for but was presented with the kind of conviction that often was perceived to be both the pitcher's blessing and his curse.
"I don't know how I could have," Beckett explained regarding any potential regrets. "You just try and be yourself, and if that's not enough, what are you supposed to do? Act like somebody else? I don't know how that gets you anywhere. Once you start lying then there's another lie and then you have to cover that with another lie. I think that just makes things worse. You just have to go and be yourself, which I did. I was the same exact person all seven years there, and the four or five prior to that when I was in Florida I was the same person. I'm going to be the same person over here. Stand there, answer my questions and move on."
It isn't difficult to uncover moments in the past few months that served as dividing lines for the perception of Beckett the postseason hero vs. the player who was consistently showered with boos.
Perhaps the most referenced lightning rod moment came after it was reported Beckett had golfed a day after being scratched from his scheduled start due to a lat strain. But while the pitcher knew the motivation for the missed start had more to do with the need to get Aaron Cook on the 25-man roster than any ailment, Beckett chose to answer any questions about the outing with defiance and secrecy. And when manager Bobby Valentine took the same clandestine tact, it left the pitcher's words -- "We get 18 days off a year. I think we deserve a little time to ourselves" -- lingering.
"If the Red Sox want to clarify what happened … That's the thing, I never feel like I need to explain myself," he said. "That's on them. I've always said this: I would rather take the heat off those guys, and that's exactly what I did the whole time. Was it tough? Yeah. But I would rather get that. I don't want those guys to deal with that. I want those guys to go on and be successful there and have good careers. They don't need that. I would rather take that off them. That's why whenever anything like that came up I didn't flinch, I didn't make an excuse, I just said, 'This is me and this is how I am.' If somebody else wants to clarify that, they can. I don't need to clarify anything. I know who I am. Pretty much everything I heard when I left was, 'Hey man, you're going to be missed.' That's enough for me. My teammates know who I am. That was all that mattered to me. As long as they knew I had their back, and I knew they had my back, we were going to be fine. I can take the brunt of that other [expletive] and just move past it because I know who I am."
Then came a stretch when Beckett stopped doing something he had regularly executed throughout his career -- answering questions after starts. Of all the moments that suggested times had changed for the righty, it was the lack of postgame press conferences that perhaps most definitively signaled these were different times.
"Whenever I was on that good stretch and I was still getting beat down about velocity and strikeouts, that's why I stopped talking to the media for a month, because I got tired of answering the same questions start after start," Beckett explained. "Whether it was good start, bad start, indifferent start, I had to answer the same questions every time. So I was like, 'You know what? Their stories are already written. I don't need to keep answering these questions.' That's what I was saying. They want my perception to be that way, so that's why they continued to ask the same questions, and I don't know if that necessarily made things better because then you're the cocky [expletive] who doesn't talk to the media. If you noticed, every start I felt I cost the team a win, I was there. I was there every time. I don't need any credit, which I've never asked for. But if I felt like if I cost the team a game I stood in front of my locker and answered every question everybody had."
The combination of last September, an unsettling offseason and this season's missteps had accelerated any momentum against Beckett. And then there was also the pitcher's individual poor performance. He was 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA, with the Red Sox 7-14 in his starts. All this while making $15.75 million. That was the one part of the equation Beckett said he understood might lead to ill will.
But when it came to having to fend off claims the pitcher was a negative clubhouse influence, that he couldn't comprehend.
"If that's what people want to write, they're going to get it. There is no way you can change that. All you can do is just go and be yourself and after that you can't control it," he said. "That's what I keep saying when they were asking, 'Do you care that you get booed?' I was like, 'No. If I pitch better you don't get [expletive] booed. It's pretty simple.' They don't boo guys who went eight innings. They just don't. It just doesn't happen. You just never see it. So you pitch better, and that wasn't what was happening. It wasn't because I didn't want to. People think you want to go out there and give up [expletive] seven runs? That's just not the case. You want to pitch good. It wasn't working out.
"There's times I wish I could have been more consistent, and then there are times I did everything I could for that organization, whether it was pitching hurt in the playoffs, helping young guys. I got some wonderful text messages and e-mails from people, some of them who are my teammates now and some are from teammates from the past. I love that organization and I did everything I could to help that organization grow. But, like I said, the perception is not how [I want] it to be perceived. I don't get to pick that. Somebody else picks that for me. That's the unfortunate thing. That's not me. I'm not a social network guy. … Once they want you out of there, that's what happens."
For Beckett, the wave of negativity was becoming something more than just an obstacle. A legacy -- one that included a 5-1 postseason record with the Red Sox -- was being reshaped.
"There are only about 45 guys who have won a World Series there in about 100 years," he said. "I know they want to win a World Series every year, but it doesn't happen. It doesn't happen anywhere. I don't care how much money you spend. I think if you look back I feel very honored I got to win a World Series there because who knows how long it will be again? Shoot, it might be next year, it might be another 100 years. I don't know. I don't think that winning one World Series gets enough credit. It just doesn't. Why that is, I don't know. Is it the money that's spent? Possibly. I felt like I had some other pretty good years there, too. I was there for seven years and I led the team in innings probably four of those years. Like I said, it's crazy. I saw what happened to Keith Foulke. Same deal. If I saw anything that was similar to what I went through this year it was Keith Foulke in 2006, because 2004 he was a monster. Then two years later … I'm sure everybody has a reason why they did that to Keith Foulke, but this guy won the World Series for you and you hadn't won one in 86 years and he got painted the same way, and he wasn't like that at all. I saw it first-hand."
For Beckett, Foulke served as one of the Red Sox' first cautionary tales. The Dodgers starter suggested Tuesday he might be the latest ... but not the last.
"It's just a matter of time before they get you, basically. And that's unfortunate," he said. "I think Jonny Lester knows that. I think Clay Buchholz knows that. Your time will come.
"I think more people will go in with their eyes open to it. I've already had people ask me. I just tell them, 'You have to deal with some of this and some of that, but you're going to get this and get that.' Everybody has to make up their own mind. It's a special place to play. As much as I'm looking forward to the next chapter, I enjoyed the last one. Even during the tough times I met so many people who were just awesome. They were real fans. I think there's the real fans and there's the guys who go there to watch somebody fail. I get that sense. I don't know what the percentage of each one is, but there are certain people who don't want to see anybody succeed. I don't know why, because I know when I'm a fan of somebody I want to see them do good."
Now Beckett finds himself with a new fan base, and a new start. He explained he doesn't want to dismiss his time in Boston (noting one of his last memories was helping raise $230,000 for Children's Hospital via the latest Beckett Bowl charity event earlier this month), but the desire to wipe the slate clean is strong.
For the pitcher, moving on just seemed like the right thing to do.
"Whenever they say I've changed -- I've been the same person my whole career," he said. "I've never said 'me.' I've never said 'I.' It's always been 'us.' I give credit when we win in every press conference. I take blame when we lose. That's who I am. If that's not enough, there's nothing I can do. I'm not the person that these people want me to be. Hopefully that's different in LA, that we can have a good relationship, particularly with some of the media. I may not be the media darling, but I answer questions. That's it."