Wednesday, March 09, 2011

How Josh Beckett and the Star Trek films mirror each other

Josh Beckett’s tenure with the Red Sox is in sync with the quality of the Star Trek movies. Don’t believe me? Don’t understand me?

Follow along… it is logical.

Josh Beckett’s first season in Boston (2006)
mirrored Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Both were eagerly anticipated by fans:
Red Sox fans were getting the 2003 World Series MVP who conquered the Yankees.

Star Trek fans were getting to return to the Enterprise for the first time in more than a decade.

Both were trying to recreate a success from 2 years before:
The Red Sox needed an ace to fill Pedro Martinez’s shoes and replicate the 2004 World Championship.

Paramount needed a science fiction blockbuster in 1979 to answer the staggering success of Star Wars.

Both were incredibly expensive:
Beckett cost the Red Sox budding superstar Hanley Ramirez, a good pitcher in Anibal Sanchez and a big fat $30 million contract extension.

Star Trek The Motion Picture was, at the time, the most expensive movie ever produced. It’s price tag was around $45 million.

Both were initially big let downs:
Beckett let up way too many homers, his ERA soared to 5.01 and Red Sox fans shook their heads. “This is NOT what we wanted in an ace.”

Star Trek The Motion Picture lumbered along with a not exactly action packed plot. And the flight through V’Ger was the longest and most dull special effects sequence in history, rivaled only by the laborious introduction of the Enterprise.

Both had some decent numbers, but not what was expected:
Beckett won 16 games and pitched over 200 innings, which would be fine for most pitchers. But for Pedro Martinez’s replacement, it was a let down.

Star Trek The Motion Picture grossed over $130 million world wide and made $30 million in profits for Paramount. Impressive, but not even close to Star Wars.

Both had, in retrospect, some bright spots:
Beckett pitched brilliantly out of the gate, winning his first three starts convincingly. He homered in a game against the Phillies. And on September 21, in his second to last start of the season, he out pitched Johan Santana in a game where the Twins were trying to take over the Division lead. Beckett went 8 innings of shutout ball.

There are some cool scenes in Star Trek The Motion Picture. The Klingons attacking the V’Ger cloud at the opening was neat. Spock’s spacewalk and mindmeld with V’Ger was a cool scene. And in retrospect, the film plays like a very good episode that happened to have some overlong special effects sequences shoved into it.

Josh Beckett’s second season in Boston (2007)
mirrored Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Both addressed what went wrong before:
Beckett stopped relying on his fastball and learned how to pitch in the American League with his breaking stuff and location. And along the way reduced the walks and homers that plagued his 2006 season.

For Star Trek II, they brought in a whole new creative cast and crew. And (get ready for some blasphemy) removing Gene Roddenberry in favor of Harve Bennet was the best thing to ever happen to Star Trek! The Wrath of Khan acted like Star Trek The Motion Picture didn’t even happen. It picked the story up with Kirk wanting the Enterprise back and, unlike the first movie, acknowledged the fact that the cast was old. Now the age of Kirk was no longer a distraction but part of the story and it worked big time.

Both obliterated all of the earlier doubts:
Beckett’s 2006 made people wonder if he was yet another National League pitcher who couldn’t make it in the American League. And some people started pointing out that his regular season stats weren’t exactly eye popping. Nobody was saying that after 2007.

Critics wondered if Star Trek was just a TV show that couldn’t translate to the big screen. I mean if they couldn’t make it work with a big budget and Robert Wise directing, what chance did it have? The new producers, writers and director solved that!

Both were so much better than anyone could have imagined:
Beckett was hoping for a good rebound season. What he got was a Cy Young caliber season where he played the role of ace and etched his name into Red Sox lore.

The Wrath of Khan became the gold standard of every Star Trek movie and episode since. It was more than a good Star Trek movie. It was a good MOVIE. Even non Trekkies (or Trekkers) admit that it is a heck of a good sci fi action film.

Both had a cool bad ass quality:
Beckett didn’t just win. He won with an unmistakable swagger and he was unflappable. Remember how the Red Sox were down 3-1 in the ALCS and Beckett had to save the season? He not only won, but he barely broke a sweat. The Indians hired his ex girlfriend to sing the national anthem. He didn’t care. Kenny Lofton tried to charge the mound, and Beckett shrugged. Nothing phased him.

Think Star Trek is nerdy? Check out Riccardo Montalban as Khan, chest out and out hamming William Shatner. There was nothing dorky about dropping creatures into Chekov’s ear. And Kirk was at his coolest, out smarting Khan and finding out he was a dad. Even Spock showed a unflappable side, lying in one scene taking one for the team at the end. The Enterprise was never cooler.

It just kept betting better:
Beckett just kept winning. On September 15th he faced off against the Yankees supposed ace Chien-Ming Wang and won easily. He opened the Division Series with a complete game shutout of the Angels. Won the ALCS MVP and probably would have been the World Series MVP if he got another start.

Wrath of Khan kept topping itself. The Khan sneak attack. The Genesis planet. Kirk screaming Khaaaaaaaan! The battle in the Nebula. And just when the film couldn’t get any better, Spock had a death scene. Are you kidding me?

The ending was not delivered goose bumps but promised more greatness:
Beckett won the opener of the World Series and set the tone for the Red Sox sweep. When they won, it felt different than 2004. There was the possibility of more titles on the way.

Wrath of Khan ended with the funeral of Spock. But then the camera swooped down to the Genesis planet with all new life forming from death… AND SPOCK’S COFFIN WAS INTACT! And the “Space The Final Frontier” monologue was said by Spock, not Kirk. You know what that means: There was going to be an awesome sequel with Spock in it!

Josh Beckett’s third season in Boston (2008)
mirrored Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

Both had an impossible act to follow:
How could Beckett top his near Cy Young winning 2007 season where he built on his reputation of being an all time Post Season pitcher? He couldn’t.

Could The Search for Spock even come close to the awesome roller coaster that was Wrath of Khan? Nope.

Both seemed like hollow facsimiles of the previous triumph:
Beckett got some big wins to be sure. But he hovered around .500 around most of the season and his ERA hovered around 4.00. Not bad, but not great.

There were some nice scenes in The Search for Spock. But Christopher Lloyd was a poor man’s Khan. And destroying the Enterprise and killing Kirk’s son just didn’t hold a candle to Spock’s sacrifice.

Both saved the best for last:
Despite some bad outings against the Angels and Rays in the playoffs, Beckett won Game 6 forcing the ALCS to go the limit. It didn’t have the cool ending as 2007, but Beckett did his job at the end.

The Search for Spock felt a little cheap and slapped together after Wrath of Khan. But the finale on Vulcan and Spock raising his eyebrow was a great ending.

Josh Beckett’s fourth season in Boston (2009)
mirrored Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Both were fun if a little light and less ambitious:
Beckett won a bunch of games including a terrific opening day start against the Rays and a complete game shutout against the Braves. He also showed his fire was there when he threw at Bobby Abreu’s head and got suspended. The Angels got revenge by beating Beckett in the playoffs.

The Voyage Home had no intention of topping Wrath of Khan. There was no bad guy and no great sacrifice. There were funny scenes in San Francisco and a save the whales message. It was the big screen equivalent of The Trouble with Tribbles.

Both were a nice return to form:
While he didn’t dominate in the playoffs, Beckett became an All Star starter and along side Jon Lester, it looked like the Red Sox had their aces back.

The Voyage Home was no Wrath of Khan. But all the crew was back and in uniform. Rand and Chapel had cameos. Even Spock’s mom showed up to say hello. And at the end, a new Enterprise was introduced meaning that the series was going to get a fresh start.

Josh Beckett’s fifth season in Boston (2010)
mirrored Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Both looked bad right from the beginning:

Beckett started the season against the Yankees got clobbered, being chased in the 5th inning. He looked bad and it wasn’t going to get better.

The Final Frontier opened with Spock, McCoy and Kirk singing "Row Row Row your boat" around a camp fire. It was worse than embarrassing. It was Mystery Science Theater material.

Both tried but failed to fix things in mid stream:
Beckett sat out a start in May before getting his butt kicked by the Yankees again. He was put on the disabled list after the Yankee start. But when he came back, he was dreadful, watching his ERA rising to 6.67 in mid August.

The Final Frontier went through so many different script changes and reedits that I am convinced that none of the actors knew what the plot was from scene to scene.

Both were so bad that you wondered if there was any hope for the future:
Forget being an ace. A 30 year old pitcher going 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA could be filed in the “he’s done” bin.

With the incomprehensible ending on the God planet, a return to the camp fire and a fat and old cast, the idea of another Star Trek voyage seemed unlikely.
Both made you think “better leave it to the next generation”:

Beckett was no longer the ace. Buchholz and Lester had that title. Should Beckett step down and give the Michael Bowden and Felix Doubronts of the world a shot?

Kirk, Spock and McCoy? By 1989 they should leave the “boldly going” to Piccard and company.

So where does this leave Beckett for 2011?

The good news is that Star Trek VI was the best written film of the series other than Wrath of Khan and gave the crew a great send off. So things look good for the Sox and Beckett.

Bad news is the NEXT Star Trek film, Generations, blew a great chance to have Kirk and Piccard team up. The film was a mess. Which means Beckett will probably flop in 2012.

However Star Trek: First Contact was a terrific and fun film. The Borg on the big screen? Awesome. Which bodes well for Beckett and the Sox in 2013.

The last year of Beckett’s contract is 2014. Sadly Star Trek: Insurrection was so forgettable that I forgot I saw it while I was in the theater. Doesn’t look good for Beckett that year.

And if a team signs him for 2015, bad news. I couldn’t finish Star Trek: Nemesis. I am guessing Beckett won’t finish that season.

A ray of hope for 2016? The Star Trek reboot wasn’t bad. Maybe he’ll finish in style.

Live long and prosper, Josh Beckett.

(How often can I combine two different childhood obsessions into one post?)

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  1. Anonymous2:15 PM

    (How often can I combine two different childhood obsessions into one post?)

    How about Cindy Crawford and Billy Barty?

  2. I find your analysis fascinating... but not logical.

    You forget the contributions of the chemically-enhanced fat men: Scotch-fueled Scotty in Wrath of Khan, steroid-fueled David Ortiz of the '07 Sox.

    Then there's the Tampa Bay Rays, who in 2008 were as slithery as the Klingons of The Search for Spock.

    Fortunately, The Voyage Home and the 2009 season both ended as rebirths for the good guys: The Enterprise 7 got a new Enterprise, and the Yankees got a new Stadium and a new champi... oh, that's right, this is a Red Sox blog, you think THEY'RE the good guys.

    Someday I'll do that piece on how the Eagles' song "Lyin' Eyes" is about the Red Sox. Don't believe me? Well, it WAS a hit in October 1975...

  3. I love how Uncle Mike brings up 'roids in 2007... but leaves it out in 2009

    I seem to remember A-Rod getting a lot of big time homers in 2009 and Andy Pettite winning the clincher.

    Why do I have a feeling Uncle Mike cheered for those juicers?

  4. This may be the greatest blog post of all time. Anywhere. Live long and do away with the DH.

  5. As a fellow Texan...I have to say this is kicks off the shit of my cowboy boots as good as kicking the fence post! LOVE IT. Love the SOX!!

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