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Fair or fowl, Josh Beckett can be who he wants to be with Dodgers

T.J. Simers

Josh Beckett reputedly was an ornery cuss in Boston, and there was that 'chicken-and-beer' incident. But appearances may be deceiving with this veteran pitcher.

August 28, 2012|T.J. Simers

DENVER — Word is they couldn't stop booing Josh Beckett in Boston, folks tired of the stubborn Texas tough-guy routine, Beckett swearing just to destroy live interviews, the countless lousy pitching performances, ducking out after losses like a spoiled child, the arrogant one never apologetic for drinking beer and eating chicken while his teammates were on the field folding last September, and this year playing 36 holes of golf after missing a start because of an injury.

Beckett pitches for the Dodgers on Monday and the Dodgers suddenly become the fumble-bums that are the Red Sox.

The second pitch he throws in his Dodgers debut leaves Coors Field as if attached to a rocket for a home run.

Did I mention Beckett also likes killing deer?

So how do you think we're going to get along?

I've never had a problem with punks, louts or the idiots who sometimes pull on a uniform.

I just document how childish they act and drop by again the next day for another chat.

Jim McMahon swore so much when we chatted I had to ask him to slow down so I could note it all.

Gary Matthews Jr. and I talked almost every time I went to an Angels game, although I don't recall Mr. HGH saying anything.

I have always found the punks, louts and idiots amusing, expecting to be treated as if they have discovered the cure for cancer.

It really doesn't matter if these guys love you; I have a wife, two daughters, a son-in-law, three granddaughters and a dog. On most days I'm good with four or five of them.

It's a beautiful thing to see Matt Kemp mature into a superstar, but I still have a pond with six fish so I know I'll always have someone on my side.

But you know how it goes, we get one of these guys new to town and he already has a reputation. In many cases it's so dreadful it scares off the media or leaves them asking Dwight Howard what he thinks of the Southern California weather rather than the circus the nation just endured.

I've always thought it best to just ask someone if they are a head case or problem child. It affords them a chance to set the record straight.

Besides, why waste time making nice with maybe Attila the Hun?

Now you know what I have learned over the years in being direct with these so-called punks, louts and idiots who sometimes pull on a uniform?

Some really are, yet just as many are not what everyone else has been saying about them.

Everyone told me Albert Pujols was a cantankerous, ornery superstar. I found him not only engaging, but a pro's pro.

Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Torii Hunter are jewels, so many others in town like them, and so every day isn't pulling teeth out of a monster.

Everyone told me Jeff Kent was a grouch, and he was. But he was also smart and funny, making him only a complicated human being.

Everyone says Adrian Gonzalez shut down his personality in Boston, but when I tease him Sunday night I get a bunch of smiles in return and Gonzalez saying his wife wants more personality out of him as well.

Now how cool is that? Welcome to L.A.

So here we go with the Texas tough guy, meeting him briefly Sunday, dismayed to find him sneering at no one.

I ask him about being as bad as everyone says he is, and he shoots back, "I don't think the right people are talking about me."

We banter some more, telling him he'll get the chance to prove wrong those folks who are saying negative things about him. We make a date to meet in Denver, and who thought we would be this close already?

He says a poor performance will probably make for a better column.

It's not exactly Manny Ramirez asking me to sit on his lap, but where's the "vinegar personality," as a reporter online described him earlier in the day?

We go to Denver and Don Mattingly is telling me Beckett called General Manager Ned Colletti worried he didn't have a sports coat to wear on the team plane. He also stops in Mattingly's office to make sure it's OK with everyone.

This kiss-up is the Texas tough guy?

Game over and it doesn't smell or look like Beckett has been drinking beer and eating chicken, but he did keep the media waiting while hiding in the back.

He gives up three runs and the Dodgers collapse.

"I was the second-best pitcher out there," Miss Congeniality says after Colorado's Jeff Francis goes five innings to get the win, leaving Beckett with the loss.

But what about that pitch that was walloped for a home run? It ever come down?

"I figured it would eventually," says Beckett, who then throws an obscenity into the microphones while describing the pitch hit for a bomb.

"That's your choice of words?" I ask.

"Sure," he says defiantly, while wiping out any chance the folks with microphones and TV cameras will have of playing his sound bite.

I ask how he emotionally dealt with his Dodgers career beginning in such an unsettling way.

"I didn't draw it up that way," he says. "I had it going differently in my head."

How did you have it going?

"A weak ground ball to first base would have been nice," he says, revealing almost a hint of personality.

He's asked if he's on his best behavior and he says no, while adding this is probably how he will always be.

"But I'm not promising anything," he says, right now everyone in Boston probably nodding and knowing what that might mean.

Think what they like; he has every chance now to be who he wants to be here. And we'll just document it as he goes.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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