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Soup of This Day #178: Gotta Fight Your Way Through The Hustlin’ Mob

May 17, 2012

Hadlock Field
The Maine Monster at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. From 1994 until 2002 the Sea Dogs were an affiliate of the Florida Marlins. 1 of their 2002 ‘graduates’ was then-Marlins pitcher Josh Beckett. He’s now, like the Sea Dogs, with the Red Sox – Photo: Dudesleeper, 2007. Dudesleeper is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Sometimes I ask myself why I’m getting out of bed in the morning. It’s a rhetorical question but I feel compelled to ask it, mostly on cold weekday mornings.

It’s a comfortable bed you see.

Usually I stumble out of bed, sort of an upwards fall. This is sometimes prompted by a kick in the old wedding tackle from The Noah who has wiggled and squirmed his growing frame into the space between a pregnant Mum and a sleepy Dad, often with a book or many. Currently The Cat in the Hat Comes Back is in vogue.

People in sport, the very top end of sport, probably need a little more than. Actually the last thing they need is a kick in the privates. Partly because it hurts but mostly because they have to get out of bed and then they have to go and do serious stuff like swim laps.

Lots of laps. Kilometres of them.

Or they have to run a long way, eat some scientifically formulated slurry for breakfast and then run some more. And all for a fleeting shot at glory.

Mhairi Spence has that dream for the 2012 London Olympics. She is a British competitor in the modern pentathlon, an event that comprises fencing, swimming, horse-riding, running and shooting.

So Mhairi has to swim those kilometres, run a long way, eat the science mush and then run some more. Then she needs to wave a sword around, sit on a horse while it runs and then shoot stuff while trying not to throw up her nutritionally optimised food from all of the running involved in getting there.

Sounds easy.

It’s probably not though and Mhairi must have done a lot of it because, as of the weekend just past, she is the World Champion at it.

That’s just a step along the way for her though. She has bigger dreams.

Her globe-defying success has earned her a shot at the Olympics. For most that noble dream would be the ultimate motivation to get out of bed to train. Mhairi though has to train at 5 things so she needs a little more.

She needs a puppy called Donald.

If she medals at the Olympics Mhairi is going to get a puppy called Donald. Donald is at present just a concept-dog. Mhairi hasn’t actually met a dog called Donald. She just wants 1 and she will call him Donald.

‘I dream of Donald… I’m sure he dreams of me’


I know that Donald is more of a dream than a reality at this point but I’m feeling a little sorry for him right now. We just lost a dog. He had won his place in our family via a back scratch and a throw of a tennis ball. And from that simple criteria we had 9 years of canine friendship and he got owners who got him.

Donald’s chance at that happy outcome is dependant upon Mhairi winning a place on the Olympic podium. Which is a lot more complex than throwing a tennis ball.

Best of luck Donald.

That may sound like I’m mocking Mhairi but I’m not meaning to – I have a lot of respect for her and I’ll be barracking for her in August – She sounds like a hell of a competitor and since she’s in the modern pentathlon I’m a-guessin’ that she isn’t in it for the money.

Josh Beckett pitches for the Boston Red Sox. He reckons he has it tough too. And maybe he does – I have no idea if he swims, runs, rides a horse, fences or shoots each day. I do know that a baseball season is pretty gruelling, with 162 games compressed into 6 months.

That means a game most days. Or as Josh recently put it – They only get 18 off days a year.

Which isn’t quite accurate. What Josh meant was that they get 18 off days across the season. Even so that’s a busy schedule and half of it involves travel away from home. To be honest I couldn’t handle that – I get homesick.

The flipside of all of this is that Josh Beckett gets paid handsomely. And when I say handsomely I mean George Clooney handsome as opposed to Rob Schneider handsome.

Apparently George is something.

Sorry Rob.

Currently Josh pulls down $17 million a year and is in year 2 of a 4 year stretch. Prior to that deal he’d notched up 4 years with the Sox at $10 million per year. That’s a lot of money but in the MLB market Josh has been worth it. He’s an ace who was the 2003 World Series MVP as his Marlins outfit earned the title. Switching to Boston in 2006 he played a key role in their 2007 World Series triumph, snagging 20 wins across that year.

For all that, recent evaluations might be a bit lower – His 2010 involved a back injury and a 6 and 6 record. 2011 was better, with a 13 and 7 compilation, but in September, with a momentous team implosion underway, Josh was tagged for 2 critical late-season losses to Baltimore.

He was also tagged with eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse during games he wasn’t pitching in.

This year he’s apparently off the chicken and beer but his record has been patchy – His line reads 3 and 4 with an ERA of 4.97 from 7 starts. He’s missed a spot in the rotation once – Handing over to Aaron Cook for a May 5 match-up with Beckett’s recent-hoodoo Baltimore. Cook, in for Josh thanks to a lat strain for the ace, was belted around by the O’s for 7 runs in 2.2 innings. It’s a shame that Beckett was missing because there’s no way he’d have gone for those numbers. That though is a moot point – Josh had a lat strain and he needed to get on top of that by playing golf on his off day.

Yeah, I said golf.

2 days before Cook subbed in for the ace who had developed a lat strain while hurling in a 1-4 loss to the White Sox, the ace spent a team off-day out on the links.

Which would have been ok except that in his next start he got shelled for 7 runs off of 2.1 innings. It turns out that Josh Beckett can go for the same numbers as Aaron Cook after all.

7 runs in 2.1 innings.

At Fenway.

In a 3-8 loss to Cleveland.

For whom former Sox legend Derek Lowe got the win.

The comparison with the 39 year old Lowe was pointed. The pitcher who won all 3 deciding post-season games in 2004 for the Sox managed 6 innings for 2 runs this night against the Sox. The Sox badly needed some of Lowe’s quality – That was their 8th loss in a 9 game stretch. Maybe it took all of those factors but Josh Beckett was booed off the mound while Bobby Valentine was cheered as he came out to hook him.

For mine, that’s a bit harsh, particularly in hindsight. Beckett did bounce back next start with a 7-innings, 4 hit gem in a 5-0 win over Seattle. That result capped a 5-win streak that has seen the Red Sox climb back to within a shout of .500. That effort at least has Josh back, if only partially, in the Fenway faithful’s good books.

To complete the transformation and make the 32 year old Josh Beckett a hero at Fenway once more the next step is surprisingly easy. It does not involve golf. It does not involve fried chicken, beer or even scientifically formulated mush.

It just needs a puppy named Donald*. He’s dreaming of you winning another ring Josh – Count on it.

And now, it’s been a long day – I’m off to bed.

*Not the same puppy as the 1 that Mhairi Spence is dreaming of. It’s a different Donald.

Gotta Fight Your Way Through The Hustlin’ Mob

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