Let’s be honest here.
There’s nothing wrong with being a first-round draft pick or a collegiate All-American. There’s nothing wrong with a fast-tracked route to the big leagues and immediately meeting all of the lofty expectations set for you.
But there is a down side to a meteoric rise, a dark cloud to the silver lining.
That’s knowing what hitting a brick wall and dealing with a particular brutal slump is like.
White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham is learning just that right now.
“Obviously, Ozzie knows — and it’s no big secret — that I’m struggling,” he said after his hitless, three-strikeout performance Thursday night — which earned him a talk with manager Ozzie Guillen. “He basically said he doesn’t really care how many oh-fors I have, how many errors I make, he just wants me to have a little bit better body language and I agree with him.
“I’m so frustrated with the way I’m playing it’s gotten in my head mentally and it’s causing my body to look like I don’t want to be out there and that’s not me. I’ve grown up knowing how to play the game the right way and I’m not doing it.”
Beckham’s bad night carried over to second base, where he made two errors. On the second one, of the fielding variety in the ninth inning, he openly showed his displeasure with himself. Nothing major, but definitely not the type of body language that’s become expected of the up-and-coming second-year infielder.
Beckham is mired in a 1-for-22 slump that’s caused his batting average to dip below .200 and has struck out 11 times during that stretch. Guillen said getting his player back on the right track is a much his responsibility as Beckham’s.
“It’s my job to make every player wearing the uniform the best I can. I never criticize anybody about being 0-for-40, I never criticize anybody to make any errors. I think Gordon is better than what he’s shown. I think there’s a lot of pressure on him.
“Maybe the first time ever this kid go through this. He’s the golden boy. He grew up in Little League, he hit .600. He go to high school, best player, go to college, kick some butt. He go to the minor leagues, erupted. First year in the big leagues, kicked some butt. It’s easy to play this game when you’re good. It’s tough to play this game when you’re down. He’s got all my support.”
How Beckham handles his first real test of adversity in the majors will be a story line to watch as the Sox try to fight themselves back into contention. The first step is getting him out of the mental funk, whether it’s been perceptible to anyone besides himself or not.
“I’ll regroup and definitely play the game the right way,” Beckham said. “I got away from it the last couple days and I’m one step above embarrassed for that.”
Guillen said he didn’t think Beckham should go down to the minor leagues and didn’t believe in any sophomore year jinx.
“I think this kid has a great chance to be a hell of a ballplayer,” he said. “He’s never went through it. I guarantee he never went through this.”