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How Game Six of the 2003 World Series created a new Yankees villain

Josh Beckett put the dagger in the heart of the 2003 team, but it was only the first time he’d get in their way.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Florida Marlins - August 12, 2003 Photo by Jon Soohoo/Getty Images

The ending of the 2003 World Series is a particularly painful faceplant in the Yankees’ long history in the Fall Classic. They received a strong pitching performance from their homegrown ace in Andy Pettitte — which is part of a storyline in itself that Matt wrote about earlier this week — only for the offense to get dominated and fail to put up a single run. One pitcher took the ball for the Marlins and ended the Yankees’ season, and his name was Josh Beckett.

Beckett was still just establishing himself into the league as a 23-year-old in 2003, finishing his second full season in the majors. He only logged 142 innings that year, and was initially placed behind standouts like Carl Pavano and Dontrelle Willis in the rotation. He made enough of an impression over the course of the season, however, to lead off the rotation beginning in the postseason. That decision proved fruitful, as Beckett tore through the Giants and Cubs before doing the same to the Yankees.

The type of performance Beckett gave in 2003 was special, and for most teams it would signal that he’s a core piece of a team’s future. Had that been the case, the Yankees’ memory of Beckett could have just been one painful experience and then nothing more.

The Marlins are not most teams, however. They have made the postseason twice in their franchise history, and won the World Series both times. They then proceeded to blow up both of those rosters. While Beckett wasn’t a part of the initial fire sale after 2003, he would still end up getting moved, and to a significant destination.

Following the 2005 season, the Boston Red Sox made a move for Beckett — alongside Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota — in exchange for a package consisting of Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Harvey Garcia and Jesus Delgado. Now wearing the cap of the arch rivals, it was clear that Beckett was going to be a nuisance to the Yankees for the foreseeable future. It was eerily similar to how Curt Schilling — albeit a pitcher with a much more accomplished playing career — went from postseason nemesis to division rival, and it happened just two seasons apart from one another.

As far as his direct battles with the Yankees went, Beckett actually didn’t do too much damage to them. He was nearly untouchable against them in 2011, going 4-0 in five starts with a 1.85 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 34 innings, and he was also decent in 2008, but for the most part the Yankees were able to exact some revenge against Beckett when they versed him. His 5.53 ERA against New York is the fourth highest of any opponent that Beckett made 10 or more career starts against, only better than his outings against the Blue Jays, Indians and Rangers.

What made Beckett a villain to the Yankees wasn’t his performance against them directly, but rather what he was able to do for the Red Sox in the rest of his starts. Beckett finished second in the AL Cy Young Award race in 2007, and his postseason dominance returned to help guide the Sox to a World Series title. He stuck around in Boston until 2012, when a massive trade with the Dodgers allowed the Sox to restock and jump from one of the worst teams in baseball to champions again in 2013.

Josh Beckett has had his hand in a number of Yankee misfortunes. He may not have been the most dominant pitcher of his era, but he made the most of his opportunities to beat the Yankees when it mattered most and then help their rivals when the Yankees couldn’t stop them. He’s a part of the enormous amount of baseball history that was made in the 2000’s, and it all began when he ended the hopes of one of the best teams that the Yankees have ever had.