The roller coaster ride that Tampa Bay Rays infielder Tim Beckham has called a career has soared down yet another hill. On the very same day that Beckham smashed his fifth home run of the season, he was optioned to Triple-A Durham.
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It wasn’t an easy decision for the Rays, but simply put, they needed pitching. Right now, the Rays could very well be overachieving, but is has been on the shoulders of the pitching staff, especially the bullpen. Beckham had one option left, and they Rays needed an arm.
“It was difficult there’s not doubt about it. I think their all tough, this one was deserving to kind of shake everybody up because of what Beckham has provided the type of player he’s been and probably most importantly the type of teammate he’s been – everybody loves him.” Rays Manager Kevin Cash told Sports Talk Florida. “We’re hopeful that he’ll be back soon but I think we had to make the move simply because we have to do what’s best for the team and innings are what’s important right now – our bullpen is a little gassed and have been worked very hard and it made the most sense.”
Beckham was the former first overall draft pick selected by the Rays in the 2008 draft. His long road to the Major Leagues has earned him the label as a huge bust in many baseball circles.
Now, I won’t lie to you. In my past life, before becoming a writer, I was an English teacher. I taught in Griffin, Georgia, and I taught Tim in his Freshman year. Maybe I am a little biased, but I still hold out hope that Beckham has what it takes to succeed and win on the big league level. Has Beckham had the career that a first overall pick should have? Not quite yet, but for every Darryl Strawberry, there is a Shawn Abner. While Beckham may not be a Strawberry, he is by no means an Abner either. Isn’t that right, Matt Bush?Apr 24, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Tim Beckham (1) is congratulated after he homered during the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 12-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
When Beckham was drafted at the age of 18 in 2008, there was no doubt that it was the right selection. He was the number one high school player in the nation, and looking back, only Eric Hosmer and Buster Posey now seem like they could have been better picks. Gerrit Cole would go later, but he was not top pick quality at the time, and the Rays had just drafted this David Price kid a year earlier with the first pick.
Again, Beckham was a teenager. Teenagers are not yet developed, and in Beckham’s case, his maturation was slow. His footwork took time catching up, and he committed a lot of errors. That is when he went from top prospect to organizational depth as people questioned if he could ever play everyday at the big league level. Then the wheels started to come off.
There is no denying that Beckham has not had the most pristine career. He was popped with a 50-game suspension in 2012. He tore his ACL in 2013 when things began to look good, and he missed most of 2014 because of that.
The thing is, the Rays never let him go. They added him to the 40-man roster to protect themselves from losing him in the Rule 5 draft, and they could have traded him away for a draft pick somewhere down the road. Someone would have taken a chance on him on the cheap. But the Rays stuck with him, and he seemingly rewarded them now.
Beckham, still just 25-years old, had a promising stint in his first full time action as a big leaguer this season. He only had 85 at bats, but every hit he got, he made count. He had 19 base hits, 8 of which went for extra bases. He was second on the team in home runs with five and drove in 16 Rays as a utility player. Sure, he was only hitting .224, but with time, he could work that out.
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Now he will get everyday licks to work on that batting average with the Durham Bulls. Asdrubal Cabrera and Nick Franklin aren’t exactly all world shortstops, so Beckham should be back in the bigs soon. Although Beckham no longer necessarily translates as well to shortstop as he does to a second baseman, he still committed no errors in seven games at the shortstop position.
I’m not saying Beckham will return and compete for Rookie of the Year honors. I’m not even necessarily saying he will one day have a career that merits going first overall. What I am saying is that it seemed like baseball gave up on him, and maybe it was a bit too quickly. Beckham may never be the next Derek Jeter, but he is starting to show he can be a reliable and serviceable infielder for a contender.