12/15/11 5:56 PM EST
Beckham has renewed sense of self for 2012
White Sox second baseman puts negativity in rearview mirror
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Not about the negative energy surrounding the White Sox seemingly after just three rough weeks into an underachieving 2011 season. And certainly not about the plethora of doubters who pegged Beckham as a failure after being unable to fight his way out of last year's season-long struggles at the plate.
In his quest to return to form from a strong 2009 rookie campaign, that renewed high level of confidence just might turn out to be the right prescription for Beckham's success in 2012 and beyond.
"I had to figure out things in my life to get past and get over," said Beckham during a Thursday afternoon phone interview with MLB.com. "I've gotten back to where I was after getting too far away from who I was when I first came up.
"There was too much outside stuff that affected me, which shouldn't have. It's part of the learning process. In experiencing the tough times I had from last year, you start to figure out who you really are. I became someone who was timid and afraid to be myself and excel and compete the right way.
"Really, I don't blame anybody for anything that went wrong," Beckham said. "I blame myself for getting away from who I was, someone who was confident and who knew he was capable of doing great things. I'm back there now, and I'm excited to get back in there and compete."
Before too much is read into the opening statement of this tale, here are a few things to which Beckham attaches great passion: hitting the ball consistently with authority, playing continued great defense at second base and accomplishing both of these while contributing to a White Sox turn around.
Beckham simply has put negativity in the rearview mirror. That theory should apply to Adam Dunn and Alex Rios, according to the 25-year-old talent, who had their own 2011 downturns offensively.
"People have bad years, and it seems so stupid to keep focusing on it," Beckham said. "Show up this year and see what happens. I care about what I have to do and what I have to do to prepare myself. I just don't care what people say because I know I'm going to succeed."
Making this mental adjustment seemingly accomplishes half the battle for Beckham, who talked to MLB.com in late September about feeling he "didn't have a shot" on a number of 2011 at-bats. As he enters his third full big league season and fourth overall, some physical changes have to match the mindset improvement to complete his return.
Proper nutrition becomes a somewhat surprising concern for Beckham. He entered Spring Training at 205 pounds, but he fell below 185 in his final September weigh-in. Part of Beckham's weight loss was stress-related, as White Sox director of conditioning Allen Thomas explained.
Part of the issue stemmed from Beckham realizing that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
"Eating breakfast will go a long way to keeping weight on," said Beckham, who felt he came into camp "a little heavy and puffy" last year and wants to be around 195 this February. "I like to sleep, and sometimes I would sleep too late and not get breakfast.
"Part of the reason I lost that weight was because of my performance. When I don't hit well and don't do that kind of stuff, I don't eat. I have no appetite. It was one of those things, I don't know, bad year all the way around, on the field, off the field. But I think getting up and having a routine will help me keep weight on."
Thomas has yet to meet with Beckham in the offseason, but he frequently talked to Beckham last year about his dietary habits.
"He's an everyday guy. He's coming to play. He's leaving things out on the field," Thomas said. "He trains his butt off every day, his strength was there. So when your strength is still there and you're losing size, then you know it's going to be stress related or he's not eating enough.
"Clearly we talked about it, but he has to eat better and eat a lot. He has the body and the genetics from his family of athletics. He has to eat to play. What it also constitutes about eating as an athlete is mentally you are sound when you eat and physically you are sound. If you don't eat, you are not going to mentally be there."
While Thomas focused on nutrition, Beckham talked to captain Paul Konerko during this offseason about figuring out he wants to be as a person and as a player. Beckham decided upon the player who looks to confidently crush the ball with each at-bat, and not the guy last year just hoping to get a hit.
Doubters once fueled Beckham's desire to succeed. In 2011, they caused him to think about failure far too often.
"I've always played hard, but last year there was too much bad that was in and around me," Beckham said. "I wasn't good about throwing that away, but now I have a different attitude where I'm not allowing myself to fail. The only way you can change it is to change your mindset and attitude and how you feel and I've done that in the offseason.
"Now I don't care. Say whatever you want about me but be confident that I know what I have to offer. It's always fun to prove people wrong, and I couldn't be more excited about playing for [new manager] Robin [Ventura] and [third-base coach] Joe McEwing.
"For multiple reasons, I got away from being me: not just on the field," Beckham said. "I was mentally weak and let small things get to me. It's nice to be on the other side and feel the way I'm feeling. I'm going out this year and trusting I worked hard enough to do what I can do and enjoy it."