White Sox’ Gordon Beckham: It isn’t bad to just be good
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org March 23, 2013 1:26AM
Gordon Beckham (15) feels pretty satisfied after homering against the Brewers last Thursday. | Mark Duncan~AP
Updated: April 25, 2013 6:51AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Gordon Beckham is aware of the scrutiny.
He understands why it’s like that, though.
‘‘I had a good rookie year [in 2009] and people expect that, plus more,’’ he said.
That said, he also wants you to save the analysis. Go break down another White Sox infielder, or the backup catcher, maybe, because what you see in Beckham is what you might get, and if that’s not good enough, well, live with it.
‘‘I feel like I’m actually turning into a good player,’’ he said.
Beckham states his case: He played strong defense at second base again last season while establishing career highs with 123 hits, 16 homers and 62 runs scored. He also drove in 60 runs and hit 24 doubles.
Avoiding arbitration after the season, he signed his first big contract for one year at $2.925 million, a reward based on a formula for experience and performance. The pay only will raise expectations, but Beckham dismisses the notion that this is a ‘‘do something more or move on’’ season in his career.
‘‘Well, what does ‘do something’ mean? You know?’’ Beckham said.
‘‘I didn’t hit for high average last year [.234 with a .295 on-base percentage], but that’s pretty much all I didn’t do. Sure, I expect a lot more out of myself than I did last year, but at the same time, I did a lot of good things. I don’t really understand what people want.’’
Beckham, who brought it on himself by batting .270 with 14 homers, 28 doubles and a career-high 63 RBI in only 103 games as a rookie, is better off not worrying about it. He has torn himself up in the past over such things, but at 26 and recently engaged and taking his faith and spiritual matters more seriously, Beckham has matured.
‘‘I had to grow up and not worry about other expectations, or other people or their opinions,’’ he said. ‘‘That was hard for me because I never really failed, but having to do that in front of thousands of people every night was not a lot of fun. But it made me stronger, made me better. Toward the end of last year I got a lot better and I kind of lost the ‘I have to do this, I have to do that.’ I don’t feel that way anymore. I just do what I have to do.’’
Carlos Sanchez is one of the Sox’ best prospects who happens to be a high-average hitting infielder whose best position is second base. If he’s not a utility infielder next year, Sanchez might be starting somewhere in the Sox infield. Beckham is aware.
‘‘Everything else is going to happen the way it’s going to happen, whether I’m a White Sox for a long time or whether I’m with another team at some point,’’ he said. ‘‘At least now I know I’m going about it the right way and understand my game. I feel like I’ve finally turned that corner into being a good player, not just a guy that was drafted high with high expectations.’’
General manager Rick Hahn’s thoughts beyond this season are private. His view on Beckham seems to mirror a common view: Good glove, decent bat with potential for more.
‘‘A large part of Gordon’s value is what he brings on the defensive side of things,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘Although his offensive production hasn’t returned to the level he reached when he first got to Chicago, we feel real good about where Gordon is right now both mechanically and with his approach at the plate. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he came closer to fulfilling his offensive potential this season than he has in recent years.’’
Spring numbers don’t mean much, but after hitting his third homer Thursday, Beckham’s were close to normal. He was batting .278 with a low .291 on-base percentage because he hadn’t walked while striking out eight times. He had four doubles and nine RBI. He says he’s ‘‘in a great place’’ going into the season, and hitting coach Jeff Manto thinks so, too.
‘‘I’m happy with the quality of at-bats — they are off the charts — and his reaction to the at-bats,’’ Manto said. ‘‘Before, he was so darned hard on himself when he made an out. Now he’s learning from each at-bat, which is a sign of maturity.
‘‘When you hear the whispers about ‘You’re supposed to hit 25 home runs,’ you try to live up to them because you don’t want to disappoint anybody. Beck does what he’s doing now. That’s exactly what he is, a doubles guy who drives in a lot of runs. He’s a Gold Glove second baseman. That’s good enough.’’