Monday, September 26, 2011

John Lackey – paying the price, time to accept the responsibility

On December 16, 2009, John Lackey signed a five-year $82.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox. Lackey, who has been one of, if not the biggest reason for the Red Sox 2011 collapse, should be ashamed of his behavior following Sunday’s potentially season-saving performance.

The Red Sox, leading the American League East on September 1, nine games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, are now in the midst of accomplishing what seemed unthinkable on Labor Day, missing the playoffs. At the center of it all – John Lackey.

The Red Sox won the second half of their Sunday doubleheader with the New York Yankees. In his post game press conference Lackey demonstrated a complete lack of judgement in attacking the media. This from a professional athlete being paid more than $14 million a year, from a professional athlete who has become his team’s albatross.

Lackey has the highest ERA in Red Sox history for a pitcher with 150 innings pitched in a season. He was given the start Sunday night in game two of a day/night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. This was arguably the most important game in the 2011 Red Sox season.

After giving up three runs to the Yankees in the bottom of the first inning, the Red Sox appeared destined to lose their 18th game in September and end the night tied for the Wild Card with Tampa Bay. They were able to come back and win in extra innings thanks to the heroics of MVP candidate Jacoby Ellsbury.

The story, however, became what happened immediately following Sunday night’s Red Sox. It may have shown more about the man John Lackey is and may provide some of the answers for why John Lackey’s has become the reason why the Red Sox have gone from World Series contender to ticket holders on their own version of the Titanic.

A little more than two minutes into his post game press conference Lackey exploded on the media.

It all started with a harmless question from The Boston Herald’s Mike Silverman. "How do you think you pitched?" asked Silverman.

Lackey lost it and responded by saying, “thirty minutes before the game I got a text message on my cell phone from one of you, somebody in the media, talking about personal stuff. I shouldn't even have to be standing up here dealing with it.

"I'm sitting here, listening to music. I don't know who got my phone number, but that's over the line.

"Anything else you want to talk about?"

According to several members of the media covering the Red Sox minutes before what was the most important game of the Red Sox 2011 season Lackey was engaged in what ESPN Boston’s Gordon Ede called an “animated discussion with a club official about the text message and how his phone number had gotten out”

Lackey’s rant directed at the media ended with Lackey saying “"I can't believe … any of you who would get into that is going to have a serious problem." At the very least Lackey’s abusive comments bordered on being a veiled threat to members of the media who have followed the Red Sox throughout the 2011 season and whose job it is to report on the Red Sox and John Lackey.

What led to John Lackey’s post game rant may speak more of the man, than the pitcher. What led to John Lackey’s post game explosion may speak more of the character or lack thereof.

A celebrity gossip website (allegedly the people who sent Lackey what was an offensive text message 30 minutes prior to his Sunday night pitching appearance) reported that Lackey filed for divorce from his wife, Krista ... who is in the middle of battling breast cancer.

Lackey filed on August 30th, according to court docs in Texas claiming "the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities." The couple married in November, 2008.

Sources close to the family tell TMZ ... Krista underwent a double mastectomy back in March and underwent chemo as recently as June.

The divorce petition says John and Krista had a prenuptial agreement. It also says Lackey has "separate property" he wants to keep for himself.

Lackey filed the divorce papers using only his and Krista's initials -- a tactic other celebrities like Tony Parker and Eva Longoria ... and Sandra Bullock and Jesse James also used in their Texas divorces.

There is little, if any, debate as to what TMZ represents. What is at issue is Lackey’s behavior in his post game press conference and to a lesser extent the public perception of his alleged actions.

There is no excuse for Lackey’s reaction at Sunday night’s post game press conference. Even if Lackey is afforded the benefit of the doubt, given that Lackey had no idea who sent the terrible text, he had no business attacking members of the Boston media who have been justified in assailing is 2011 on-field ineptitude.

If the Red Sox miss the 2011 playoffs, John Lackey will have been one of, if not the key reason, the Red Sox failed to succeed in 2011. Lackey had no business attacking members of the media when he had no idea who had attacked his character.

The actions between a husband and a wife should be kept between that man and that woman. However the age of instant information athletes, entertainers and those living in the pubic eye have come to loathe have had to learn to live with the likes of TMZ.

Sad as it may seem they have no choice but to accept they are living their lives in a fishbowl. That said there is a sense of responsibility these individuals have to accept. In the case of John Lackey, he is paid more than $14 million a year to pitch and to represent the Boston Red Sox. Given his complete ineptitude on the pitching mound, his actions in representing the Boston Red Sox are worth looking examining.

If TMZ’s report proves accurate, then Lackey’s actions need to be examined by the Boston Red Sox. Do those allegations if they are indeed proven to be true, harm the reputation of the Boston Red Sox?

Does that suggest if he pitched effectively throughout the 2011 season his alleged actions with his wife would be acceptable? That’s not the issue. The issue is by agreeing to an $82.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox, John Lackey agreed to pitch for and represent the organization.

Ultimately, Red Sox owner John Henry, team president and CEO Larry Lucchino, or General Manager Theo Epstein will be the ones who decide if Lackey’s alleged off field actions have done damage and harm to the storied franchise’s reputation.

Late Monday afternoon the Red Sox issued the following statement regarding Lackey: "John Lackey is dealing with a deeply personal family issue, and it is one the Red Sox do not feel is appropriate for public debate. The Red Sox request that John and Krista’s privacy be respected.

The Red Sox will not have any further comment.”

Needless to say once the Red Sox 2011 season is over, the team may have a great more to say about John Lackey and his 2011 season with the Red Sox. What they decide to do in the event they determine he did damage is anyone’s guess.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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