CHICAGO -- Gordon Beckham is no stranger to offensive struggles. The Chicago White Sox second baseman impressed in his first season with the team, posting a solid .270/.347/.460 line in 2009. However, over the next four seasons, Beckham failed to produce an OPS over .700.
Early on this season, upon returning from the disabled list in late April, Beckham’s struggles at the plate appeared to be continuing. Beckham hit .167 in his first 11 games with just two extra-base hits.
But a 4-for-5 night with a home run on May 6 against the Chicago Cubs seemed to spur Beckham on to a 20-game run during which he is posting a .957 OPS with four home runs and five doubles.
With a team performing around him, Beckham’s struggles were less magnified; it allowed him to work through them out of the spotlight.
“When you have some good things going on, it’s a lot easier to get in the groove of things when you’ve got other people around you doing well,” Beckham said. “The onus is spread out over the whole team and not on one or two people. I think that’s a real big factor in our success so far.
“If I was struggling, it was kind of an easy scapegoat to say, ‘What is he doing?’ But with the talent that is around now, everything is spread out. Everyone is just doing their job, doing what they’re capable of and not trying to do more than they have to.”
Beckham said not overthinking things is something he’s learned throughout his career. Having an even-keeled approach, regardless of success or failure, is something Beckham believes has helped as he’s emerged as a clubhouse leader.
“The older you get, the more that weighs on you. You try not to let the smaller things get you down as much, because you don’t want to show the younger guys that that’s OK,” Beckham said. “I’ve been trying to do that more than anything. It’s not always easy, everyone has bad game and they’re kind of out of it. But just show up every day and play hard.”
Like veteran teammate Paul Konerko, Beckham doesn’t believe you have to be vocal to lead.
“The old saying is, ‘Don’t talk about it, be about it,’” Beckham said. “I’m trying to be about it; I don’t worry about talking about it.”
Konerko also was a much-hyped prospect who struggled early on his career. Konerko often has pointed out that adhering to a daily routine is something that allowed him to finally live up to his potential and stay productive late into his thirties. Beckham agrees that a routine has been key to his resurgence.
“There’s a lot of what [Konerko’s] done in his career in my game,” Beckham said. “We’re obviously different and there’s some things I’m very different from him on, but, over the last month or so I’ve had a good routine. I’ve just followed it and then I’ve just gone out and tried to compete and not worry about swing mechanics during the game. I think that’s what’s been coming through, it’s just me going out there and competing.”
It’s that consistent routine, whether you’re playing well or struggling through a slump, that Beckham says is most important for the younger players in the clubhouse.
“I don’t feel like anybody should have to open your mouth to lead,” Beckham said. “It’s just something you go out there and do, and you don’t always have to be doing well to do that. [There are] moments where you’re not doing well where you can be an influence on a younger guy or somebody that doesn’t have as much experience, and that’s what drives younger guys.”
Early on in the year, Jose Abreu has proven to be the exact type of leader that Beckham describes. And despite losing Abreu, their most potent bat, the last 10 days with an ankle injury, the White Sox entered Wednesday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians fourth in baseball with 4.72 runs per game. With Abreu expected back on Monday, Beckham has high hopes for the immediate future.
“I was thinking about that last night. What if we had him?” Beckham said. “Right now, we’re scrapping along and getting some wins. That’s all you can ask for until he gets back and then hopefully he can carry us just like he had been.”