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  1. Rays

Why Tim Beckham, not the Rays, sheds the Buster Posey burden

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Tim Beckham (1) singles in the third inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, July 24, 2017.
Published Aug. 1, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — Around here, we will always remember Tim Beckham for the things he wasn't instead of the things he was.

He wasn't a star, even though he was drafted first overall by the Rays in the 2008 draft. He was never considered part of the Rays core, even though he had appeared in 87 of Tampa Bay's 106 games this season. He was never counted on to be part of the Rays future, even though he still is only 27 years old.

Most of all, he was never Buster Posey, the MVP, rookie-of-the-year, five-time All-Star catcher and three-time World Series winner that the Rays passed on in that fateful 2008 draft.

For Beckham, the constant nightmare and reminder of being taken before Posey is over. He's no longer a part of the organization that made that mistake.

For the Rays, it will live on forever. Unless this minor-league pitcher the Rays acquired from Baltimore for Beckham turns into Clayton Kershaw, taking Beckham ahead of Posey will go down as one of the great gaffes in Rays' history. Beckham's misery was compounded by the fact that the Rays have never had a really good catcher.

But one can't help but feel a bit sorry for Beckham.

It felt as if Rays fans complained how long it took Beckham to get to Tampa Bay and then couldn't wait for Tampa Bay to get rid of him once he did.

Beckham didn't draft himself ahead of Posey. That was Tampa Bay's call. And, Beckham fell victim to the enormous expectations of a player taken first overall. If he had been a fifth-round pick or minor-league picked up as a throw-in in some major trade, Beckham probably would be seen as having a better career so far.

Look at this season, his first real chance to be an everyday player.

He was hitting a very respectable .277 on July 4 until a recent slump dropped his average to .259. He's on pace for 18 homers and 55 RBIs. Both not bad.

His fielding wasn't spectacular, but better than his reputation.

Whatever struggles he has had could be attributed to sporadic playing time and the lack of a regular position. In his major-league career, Beckham has played 124 games at shortstop, 77 games at second base, nine games at third base and six games at first base. And even when you add up those numbers, you're talking about a very short sample size.

Besides, he still is a way better middle infielder than Brad Miller.

Could there be more to all this? Perhaps. Maybe there were other reasons the Rays wanted to rid themselves of Beckham.

Maybe there were attitude issues or maturity questions or something we never will discover. Not saying there were, but we never know totally what is going on behind the scenes.

But aside from that, and not knowing much about the prospect the Rays are getting in return, I'm not crazy about trading Beckham, especially with the Rays still in the hunt.

As a ballplayer, Beckham was a better player than you think. He has made himself a decent major-leaguer. There's nothing wrong with decent.

The problem is, decent isn't good enough when you're compared to Buster Posey.

Contact Tom Jones at tjones@tampabay.com. Follow @tomwjones

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