Life is good these days if you're Gordon Beckham. The 26-year-old White Sox second baseman received a "yes" when he popped the question to his sweetheart a few weeks ago, and a short time later was awarded a sweetheart $2.925 million one-year contract.
White Sox fans, management and Beckham all expect more than the .234 average and .296 on-base percentage he produced last season, although his 16 homers, 60 RBI and excellent defense were nothing to complain about. Problem was, the first-round draft pick set the bar with a .270 average, .347 on-base percentage, 14 homers and 63 RBI his rookie season in 2009 that still stands as his best year.
With top infield prospect Carlos Sanchez playing to good reviews in the Arizona Fall League and in the Sox system, Beckham knows his personal bar should be raised in 2014.
"The way I ended the season kind of turning the corner, I'm not really worried about it,'' Beckham said Thursday after to talking on U.S. Cellular Field office phones to prospective Sox ticket buyers. "I think people assume 'you need to really do what you're capable of doing' or it might be the end of the road, but I know what I'm capable of doing and I feel strong about how I finished the year last year. I have a lot of things going for me, I have a great support staff and support from coaches and the organization so I'm not worried a bit.''
Beckham knows leaving worry to someone else relieves his stress and pressure and gives him the best chance of playing his best. The Sox September fade was a case in point.
"We all pressed a little bit at the end,'' he said. "You could see that. It wasn't a lack of drive, it was too much try. So that was kind of the issue there. We definitely want to do better than that this year. It wasn't for a lack of effort, it was too much effort, and I know this pretty well -- when you try too hard the production goes down. It's just something we have to learn from. If we get in that position this year, I bet we won't do it.''
Beckham had 345 plate appearances in the ninth spot in the batting order and 213 batting second, where he batted .258 with a .303 on-base percentage.
"I would rather hit second than down in the order but it's obviously their call,'' he said. "I like being a big part of the team and in the second spot you're placing the table for the guys who are supposed to do all the damage. I like that kind of pressure, that's kind of nice.''
He'll look a new kind of pressure in the eye when he walks down the aisle in November to marry Brittany Fletcher, whose father is former Sox infielder Scott Fletcher.
"I'm very happy,'' Beckham said.