I don't think that Beckett piece is the one with which to start a discussion about how Shank is a good writer but doesn't put his talents to good use.
I suppose the sentence-level stuff is pretty good and punchy and all that, but a lot of the reasoning here is pretty specious.
Even the lede, which is punchy, kind of had me scratching my head:
Good Josh/Bad Josh. The ultimate splitter.
Because, you know, some pitchers throw a splitter. Except Beckett doesn't... So, ha-ha, pitching terminology, but that's a much better lede for a Papelbon or Clemens or someone known for a splitter. Seems Beckett's been maligned for refusing to learn a splitter, but Shank doens't actually make any mention of that.
And then there's all kinds of lazy stuff here, so that the premise, which might be interesting (why have we had such mercurial performance?), becomes: sometimes Josh is good, sometimes he's bad. It would be better if he's good.
Yep. No shit.
For example, this is the set-up for "Bad Josh":
Then there is Bad Josh. Bad Josh is the guy who came to the American League in 2006, tried to strike everybody out, and wound up with a 5.01 ERA that he characterized as “embarrassing.’’ Bad Josh gets mad and overthrows and gives up far too many hard-hit balls for a guy with four plus pitches. Bad Josh fumes when he gives up homers. Bad Josh lets his stubborn nature get the better of him.
The idea isn't just that he pitches poorly, it's that the Bad Josh character flaw (gets mad, stubborn nature) is what causes the poor pitching.
So, a good column writer would carry that idea through. Let's see if Shank accomplishes this.
For six innings he was the pitcher we all remember from the glory days of 2007. Then came the seventh and he was the hard-headed hurler with the (are you serious?) 6.50 ERA.
Right, Good Josh was good, and then hard-headedness undid Bad Josh.
So, where's that follow through? There's a whole bunch of ancient history about how he was good then bad after coming off the DL, but there's no description of how the character flaws of Bad Josh did him in. That's because yesterday was a perfect example, obviously. It's coming. It must be on the second page.
Here we go:
Then came the seventh. The Sox had just scored four runs in a 27-minute sixth to take a 4-0 lead. Beckett started the seventh by fanning Figgins for his seventh strikeout. Then he fell behind Branyan and the caveman lefty mashed a 3-and-1 pitch into the bullpen. After a hard single by Jose Lopez, old friend Casey Kotchman launched another homer into the bullpen on a 2-and-0 pitch. Beckett’s day was over and he was angry.
“Nobody else to be mad at,’’ he said.
So, he struck out Figgins. That's good. Then he fell behind Branyan (who's a caveman, apparently) and gave up a dinger. Did he give up that dinger because he was being hard-headed and stubborn? Did he shake off Victor and throw a fastball in a fastball count because he's so stubborn? Dunno. It was just a "pitch." Did he then get mad and lose his cool and that caused the single and second homer on the 2-0 pitch? Maybe, but Shank doesn't mention it.
He makes a point of telling us, by the way, what the count was when both homers were hit, but doesn't actually say what pitch it was he threw, nor mention anything about how this character flaw came into play.
Rather, he did what lots of bad writers do, which is try to impress you with details that are absolutely meaningless to the point being made, or which actually prove a contrary point.
Rather than Bad Josh, that hard-headed and stubborn guy, isn't it more likely that the same Can't Hit His Spots Josh, who was beating a .236 batting Seattle team, continued pitching and finally got tagged?
Maybe Shank is just doing a kind of slow play, though, and we'll get to Bad Josh:
Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon came on and did the job in textbook fashion, but Beckett and his manager were less than satisfied.
“The biggest inning of every game is after you score runs,’’ said the manager. “You want to put up zeros.
“There’s probably some hurdles he’s got to get by, but the good news is that he pitched pretty well.’’
“I didn’t feel tired,’’ said Beckett. “My pitches stayed up.’’
Ah, nope. It looks like it was, indeed, Can't Hit His Spots Josh. His pitches stayed up. Anybody mention his stubborness or hard-headedness? If he was being stubborn, is he stubbornly refusing to pitch well?
In fact, there is exactly zero follow-through on Shank's little theory about there being two "split" personalities here.
But, surely, he'll wrap things up in a way that brings it all together?
Beckett is no longer a dependable starter, but the Sox need Good Josh to show up in September if they want to stay in the quixotic chase for a playoff spot.
No shit. Or, to put it another way, "Beckett hasn't been very good. It would be better if he was good."
This guy sucks bags of dicks and those of you fooling yourselves into thinking he's a "good writer" shouldn't be fooled by decent sentence-level syntax. Just because you can string words together in relatively pretty fashion and your prose doesn't plod along like Nick Cafardo's doesn't mean you're a good writer. Good writers have something to say and make you think something you hadn't thought before. Shank never does that.