Friday, March 30, 2012

John Lackey – his life can only go forward

The Boston Red Sox 2011 season ended in complete turmoil and disarray.  September was a calamity of errors for the Red Sox. After beating the Texas Rangers on September 3, the Boston Red Sox were 84-54. Although half a game behind the Yankees in the American League East, the Red Sox had a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League wild card playoff spot and roughly a 99.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Red Sox went 5-18 over their last 23 games, one of the more remarkable collapses in sports history, and on the last day of the season, failed to make the playoffs.
John Lackey’s 2011 season was emblematic of what went wrong with the 2011 Red Sox. In 28 starts, Lackey finished the season 12–12 with a 6.41 ERA and 1.62 WHIP, both career worsts. The 114 earned runs he allowed were the most in the American League, and his ERA was the highest in Red Sox history for a starter with at least 150 innings pitched. In the end of the 2011 season, Lackey and two other starting pitchers (allegedly Josh Beckett and Jon Lester) were in the center of a controversy that the three (and sometimes more) drank alcohol during games.
Lackey will head into the third year of a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Red Sox. Lackey will not pitch for the Red Sox in 2012, following Tommy John’s surgery during the off-season. He also finalized his divorce from his wife – a divorce that became very public for Lackey and the Red Sox.
Lackey’s last 2011 start took place on Sunday, September 25, the last win the Red Sox would record for the 2011 season, a game played against the Yankees in New York.
The story, however, became what happened immediately following Sunday night’s Red Sox game. It may have shown more about the man John Lackey is, and it may provide some of the answers as to why Lackey became one of the reasons the 2011 season imploded in September.
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 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 his 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 was in the middle of battling breast cancer.
Lackey filed on August 30th, according to court documents 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 told TMZ ... Krista underwent a double mastectomy back in March and underwent chemo as recently as June.
Lackey was later linked to the beer-drinking, chicken-eating antics that fellow Red Sox starting pitchers Josh Beckett and Jon Lester had also been associated with.
Lackey is at training camp with the Red Sox. Lackey had a media-friendly reputation when he pitched with the Los Angeles Angels, prior to signing with the Red Sox. Lackey spoke with The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, and Lackey’s temperament hasn’t changed. Shaughnessy didn’t ask Lackey about his divorce, but he didn’t shy away from asking Lackey about the issues that plagued the Red Sox clubhouse last year.
“This is stupid to even bring it back up . . . It was tough for a couple of us that got kind of thrown out there. You kind of wonder where those kind of things come from, first of all. It got blown out of proportion pretty big. I saw Josh a few times during the offseason. What can you do? Even talking about it right now is stupid, because it’s just bringing it back up.’’
Both Lester and Beckett talked about their involvement. The Boston Globe first reported what took place in the Red Sox club, and said Lackey was as much a part of the beer drinking that went on during games throughout the 2011 season, in the Red Sox clubhouse. Lackey wasn’t interested in Shaughnessy’s question.
“And there’s a good reason for that,’’ he said. “All you’re doing is re-hashing it. It kind of went away until you, right now.’’
As for suggestions, the drinking moved from the clubhouse to the Red Sox dugout?
“They [media] just see how far they can go,’’ he said. “That’s just a flat-out lie.’’
Is Lackey willing to acknowledge that mistakes were made? “I guess. Sure. They’re being made in every clubhouse in the big leagues, then. If we’d have made the playoffs, we’d have been a bunch of fun guys.’’
When exactly does John Lackey realize enough is enough? When will the Red Sox have enough of this malcontent? Lackey’s behavior late last season – the explosion in the locker room after his September 25 start, embarrassed the Red Sox.
His interview with Dan Shaughnessy showed whatever media savvy Lackey may have once had, has disappeared. Lackey plans on traveling with the Red Sox throughout the 2012 season. Lackey was a headache for the Red Sox in 2011, his first 2012 interview with Dan Shaughnessy was not good for the Red Sox or for John Lackey.
Major League Baseball contracts are guaranteed. The Red Sox owe John Lackey too much money to release him from his contract. The Red Sox could try to trade Lackey, however, given Lackey will have two years and close to $32 million owed on his contract, and he’ll be trying to return from elbow reconstructive surgery, it’s unlikely the Red Sox will be able trade Lackey.
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the Red Sox signing of John Lackey is an example of a number of things. The Red Sox may have overspent on Lackey, but the Red Sox can afford to overspend and to lose on players like John Lackey; and John Lackey can be replaced.  As a business, the Red Sox can afford to pay Lackey $16.5 million and not have him pitch.
On November 28, 2005, B.J. Ryan signed a five-year, $47 million contract with the Blue Jays. Ryan was a coveted free agent at the time of the signing and provided the Blue Jays with two good seasons. Ryan was released by Toronto in July, 2009 after going 2-4 in save opportunities to start that season. Two good seasons at the cost of $47 million makes BJ Ryan one of the worst signings in team history because B.J. Ryan’s lost three seasons with the Blue Jays, were tens of millions of dollars the Blue Jays could not afford.
The Red Sox are saddled with John Lackey for three more seasons. His injury issues are being addressed. His lack of tact with the media is an issue the Red Sox need to focus on. He didn’t do the organization any more favors when he talked to the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy.  John Lackey should be held accountable for how he represents his employer with the media.
For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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