Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays make overdue decision, send Tim Beckham to minors

BOSTON — For the second time in less than a week, the Rays took action to part ways with a player who has been the subject of considerable consternation.

Though, once again, your immediate reaction was what took them so long.

Having released oft-injured and questionably motivated Desmond Jennings on Saturday, the Rays decided after Wednesday's 8-6 loss to the Red Sox they had seen enough, at least for now, of Tim Beckham, who after making yet another baserunning blunder was optioned to Triple-A Durham.

If you are keeping track, which can be hard to do, that's three such mental mistakes just on this road trip by Beckham. And it's the latest of an ongoing series, on the bases and occasionally in the field, during a season in which any good he does seems to be washed away by bad.

More galling, it comes at a time when manager Kevin Cash has been openly annoyed and critical of the players for making too many.

And amazingly even worse, it was the same one Beckham made over the weekend in Houston and had been talked to about: not hustling to score when there was a potential third out being made on the bases.

"It is disappointing," Cash said.

Beckham had a co-conspirator Wednesday, when the Rays were looking to build on a 4-1 lead in the fourth. Kevin Kiermaier made an admittedly "really dumb, dumb play" in trying to stretch his two-out single to a double, especially with Evan Longoria, their top hitter, coming up.

But that didn't absolve Beckham for not running hard from second to home, and it cost the Rays a run when Kiermaier was thrown out before Beckham made it across the plate, umpire Gary Cederstrom waving off the run.

Cash said both Beckham and Kiermaier were to blame for the play, but Beckham's mistake was clearly the more egregious.

"Definitely the not hustling," Cash said. "That is required of us. And probably the easiest part to do in baseball."

Cash could have — and maybe should have — taken immediate punitive action and pulled Beckham from the game, as he did earlier this season when Steven Souza Jr., another of their repeat offenders, did not hustle to first base.

Cash said he didn't do so for bigger picture reasons, in that they committed to giving Matt Duffy, the starting shortstop, the day off to rest his sore left Achilles and didn't want to force him into action.

There did seem to be other options, such as moving Nick Franklin there or, in what probably would have been an extreme reaction, giving up the DH and using Brad Miller at short.

But maybe Cash already knew then what action he and baseball operations president Matt Silverman would take after the game, and that Beckham would soon be gone.

The demotion was not announced until after Cash had done his interviews and the clubhouse was closed to the media, but Beckham didn't have anything to say anyway, relaying word through a team spokesman that he declined to comment.

Beckham has always been the subject of ample criticism anyway, essentially for not being Buster Posey.

The Rays' decision to make Beckham the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 draft rather than Posey, the Florida State-produced catcher who has gone on to become a repeat All-Star and an MVP for the three-time world champion Giants, has been one of the most costly mistakes in franchise history.

And Beckham has only made it worse with his slow track through the minors, a drug suspension, injuries and, once he would get to the majors, incessantly inconsistent play and repeated errors of judgment.

His mistakes, obviously, were hurting the team. Worse, allowing him to stay in the big leagues and keep making them, as if there was an entitlement clause, was sending the wrong message throughout the organization.

If Wednesday's loss after the how-could-he-do-that-again mistake was the cost to make this move, and this point, it was well worth it.

Now it will be interesting to see when, or if, Beckham plays again for the Rays.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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