A future World Series MVP made a long-awaited first appearance in a Marlins uniform. On this date, September 4, 2001, Josh Beckett made his Major League debut, pitching six shutout innings and allowing just one hit in an 8-1 win over the WIld Card-leading Chicago Cubs.
Beckett seemed destined for greatness from the moment Florida made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 draft, and the $7 million Major League contract that the young pitcher signed didn't exactly temper expectations. A classic fireball-throwing Texas right-hander, Beckett was beset by tendinitis in his throwing shoulder during his first professional season in 2000, but that didn't stop Baseball America from naming him the organization's top prospect (and No. 3 overall prospect) heading into 2001. In its Prospect Handbook, the publication said that Beckett "has a prototypical power pitcher's build" and "a devastating 12-to-6 curveball...the combination has drawn comparisons to a young Bert Blyleven." BA predicted Beckett wouldn't make it to Double-A until 2002--instead, the right-hander tore apart the minor leagues to the tune of a 1.54 ERA in 25 starts over two levels, culminating in his big league call-up. Beckett made three more starts with the Marlins to finish out the 2001 season and expectations were sky-high for the pitcher's future heading into 2002; BA named him its Minor League Player of the Year and baseball's top overall prospect, writing Beckett is "good, knows he's good, and would never think of shrinking from his apparent destiny."
Given all that was expected of him, it would be fair to say that Beckett's relatively short-lived Marlins career was perhaps something of a mild disappointment. Over his four full years with the club, from 2002-05, the right-hander posted FIP marks of 3.69, 2.94, 3.59 and 3.27, respectively. Beckett was certainly very solid, but he never quite broke out into the dominant No. 1 starter that the franchise envisioned he would be. Injuries were part of that--Beckett missed long stretches in each of his first three full seasons, making an average of about 23 starts from 2002-04.
Then again, perhaps Beckett's 2003 season is enough to declare his five-year Florida stint a rousing success. The regular season brought his best numbers to that point, and indeed, his 2.94 FIP from that season is still the best mark of his now 12-year Major League career. But as Marlins fans all know, the postseason was where Beckett really shined. In Florida's first playoff appearance since the 1997 team won it all, Beckett a 2.11 ERA in five starts and six total appearances, striking out 47 batters in 42 2/3 innings. He earned World Series MVP honors, largely based on the strength of his Series-clinching performance in Game 6, hurling a complete-game shutout in Yankee Stadium.
Florida traded Beckett to the Red Sox after the 2005 season, along with Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota, in a deal that netted the Marlins Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. Beckett's career since has been a mixture of highs (another spectacular performance in the Red Sox' 2007 World Series campaign) and lows (his role in the infamous fried chicken and beer-fueled collapse at the end of the 2011 season). Beckett was part of the massive salary dump trade involving Boston and the Dodgers at the end of 2012; his 2013 season ended prematurely when he underwent surgery to relive pain in his neck from thoracic outlet syndrome on July 10.
For all the ups and downs, Beckett and Marlins fans will always be able to remember the magic and promise of his debut on this date 12 years ago. He earned a shaving cream pie to the face for his efforts--teammate Preston Wilson called it a "waste," seeing as Beckett "can't even shave yet."