My relationship with John Lackey is an odd one. Especially given that we’ve never met.**
I wasn’t a fan when he was with the Angels. I thought he was a good pitcher but a little obnoxious. It felt like he never missed a chance to throw his teammates under the bus and that’s something that never sits well with me. So while there were plenty of non-Red Sox players I enjoyed watching, John Lackey was not one of them.
Then I sat at Fenway Park one night in 2008 while the Angels were in town and watched him almost no-hit the Red Sox…against Clay Buchholz no less. When that game was over (Dustin Pedroia broke up the no-hit bid in the 9th and the Angels won 6-2) I found myself a little sad that Lackey didn’t get his no-no…and I started to actually kind of like him.
I can’t remember why I was home the day it was announced that the Red Sox signed him. It was December 2009 and I got to watch his press conference (along with Mike Cameron’s…man, remember when Mike Cameron was on the team?) and I pretty much decided I was throwing my support behind him. I wrote many supportive blog entries about him and I’m sure a few that weren’t so supportive. He seemed to be, at the very least, a good teammate, and sometimes that’s all you can expect from a player.
Whether because of his attitude or the attitude of the fans, sometimes colored largely by the attitude of the local sports writers, it wasn’t really ever easy for Lackey during his time here. He had off the field issues, he had health issues, he had PR issues…there were a whole lot of issues being tossed around his first three years in Boston. A lot of money got thrown his way during that time, which I’m sure annoyed many folks. I wasn’t one of them. Hell, it isn’t my money and, ultimately, as far as I’m concerned last year made Lackey worth every penny.
So it is fair to say Lackey was never embraced as fully around here as many other players whose stays were shorter and contributions fewer (have I mentioned Mike Cameron?***). Lackey seemed okay with that. He could be the bag guy if that’s what the fans wanted. It wasn’t until Game 6 of the 2013 World Series (for those with short memories, the game that clinched the series win) when he tipped his cap to the fans giving him an ovation as he left the field that everyone stood back and said “Okay, we’re all good!”
“It was nice,” Lackey said after Boston’s 6-1 win against St. Louis. “It was my appreciation back to them, thanks for understanding what I’ve gone through, I guess.”
So Lackey took buckets of money from the Red Sox and left having had Tommy John surgery and wearing a World Championship ring. I think we all did all right in this one.
I was a little sad when he was traded…something I didn’t really expect to feel…and I’ll miss him being on the Red Sox. Out of all the players traded over the last few weeks, it was strangest to me to see him in his new uniform. I can move on, but it’ll be with a heart a little bit heavy.
I hope he does well and I hope he’s happy. Life’s way to short to dwell on anything else.
*You’ll notice this post has nothing to do with Eric Wilbur. Much like this piece has nothing to do with John Lackey supposedly hating Boston, but that didn’t stop that ridiculous headline from being written in an attempt to slam Lackey for no reason except the fact that he handled being traded professionally.
**I actually can’t remember if we’ve ever met. I feel like there was a time/place where we did but since I can’t recall it there is a good chance it didn’t happen.
***I adore Mike Cameron. To this day, I love him. If I saw him on the street I would mug him for another hug****
****According to that last link, I at least saw John Lackey at fan appreciation day. Stay away from the Twinkies, kids. They’ll rot your brain and destroy your memory.