Lately Josh Beckett has taken to shocking us all by...acting normally. The interview of a calm, relaxed Beckett playing catch with Chris Collins has been watched with riveted fascination by pretty much everybody at this point, including yours truly.
I first saw this kinder, gentler side of Josh on my World Series DVD, in the bonus footage of the World Series celebrations. A hand-held camera settled jerkily into its shot, and in the moments before the focus resolved itself I thought that the loud voice I heard speaking was Curt Schilling's. It had his barky tenor. But then I could see the player speaking clearly, and it was Josh. Curt stood with the milieu as Josh stood next to Papi--and was allowed to speak first.
Last season I thought I had him pegged as a stubborn, somewhat brainless frat boy with a few comical anger-management issues. I freely admitted that if he was on another team (and I paid attention), I would probably dislike him.
But seeing that, the position of respect his teammates put him in, made me reconsider. He can't be a total jerkosaurus and have his teammates treat him like that, can he?
My dad has always maintained that if they had Josh do press conferences the day after his starts, we would know a much different guy than the one who laces his postgame snarls liberally with profanity, who my dad maintains is the product of still-pumping adrenaline, fatigue, and pain, as indicated by the ice pack on his shoulder during many of his press conference faux pas.
The video of his game of catch with Collins seems to confirm this theory. In the middle of a regular Monday afternoon in the Florida sunshine, he seems quiet and intense, but calm. At times you know he's biting his tongue or steering himself away from a smartass answer, the same way you know he is bringing his right arm around slowly and deliberately when throwing the ball so as not to wound or maim his civilian catch partner. But yes, he is well-behaved, even kind and earnest.
This is Clark Kent Josh, so to speak, mild-mannered somewhat goofy alter ego of the Commander Kickass we've come to know and depend on in elimination games. Much like Cinco Ocho, Commander Kickass doesn't have full control of his faculties, much less social graces. Clark Kent Josh, meanwhile, seems like he'd have no trouble fitting in on John Henry's yacht.
I also believe that it's only been in recent years that Clark Kent Josh has even developed, as stories of the "Phenom" jacket and feet up on the coffee table of the owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and various borderline-unprintable quotes from back in his Fightin' Fish days can attest. I don't think it's anything to do with the Red Sox necessarily, but it seems they have him at the right age--the age at which maturity is beginning to set in.
Out of this newfound gregariousness, several new little factoids about the Inner Josh have emerged, none more awesome to me than the revelation that he writes in a journal between starts as a way to steer himself mentally.
"I look back in my book and what I try to remember are the positive things,” said Beckett … “I write a really long entry the night before I pitch. It’s more of a building up to my start. The night before my start I write a bunch of stuff about myself that I like, such as things I did the previous four days that I like, the positive things such as attack the hitters, no walks, what I liked about my side session and what I need to work on before my side session. Stuff like that.”
That's my favorite image of Beckett yet--the image of him writing down 'attack the hitters' and 'no walks', with grim concentration, in a notebook. I wonder if he also writes such messages on his hands before starts, or sticks Post-It's with written affirmations under the brim of his hat. Or maybe Dustin Pedroia just lets him use his chest.