Jon Lester: A Man Broken
Two years removed from a fourth place finish in Cy Young voting.
One year removed from 15 wins and an All-Star nod.
He might be removed from the rotation.
Coming into the season with the highest winning percentage among active pitchers, Lester hasn't shown an ounce of himself in his year-28 season, typically known to be the prime of one's career.
Well, it turns out there are several theories floating around. Some that make sense; some that are a stretch but can't be ignored.
Here they are.
What happened to the Red Sox in September of 2011 is an anomaly.
The team came into the month with an 83-52 record; only to be knocked out of playoff contention on the last day of the season after going 7-20 in September.
As heavily-publicized as it has been, fried chicken and beer weren't at the root of the cause for the dismal showing on the diamond.
Poor play was.
And perhaps no other Sox player stunk up the joint more than Lester.
The southpaw had a 5.50 ERA in May, but was lights out in every other month before September. Lester sported a 2.40 ERA in April, June, July and August.
He then promptly broke the spirits of many Boston fans by allowing 19 runs in 31 2/3 innings pitched on his way to a 1-3 record and 5.40 ERA down the stretch.
There's plenty of chatter about how teams suffer from the hangover of winning a championship in the next season.
Just imagine what it'd be like to have this on his mind for an entire winter.
Somebody get this man some coconut water.
Even if Kevin Youkilis was the clubhouse snitch, a little separation between Lester and Beckett would be a good thing.
At this point in his career, Josh Beckett is resting on his laurels and seems to be content with being a no-good, washed-up, dirty rotten scoundrel.
That's the perception his actions and demeanor have led people to believe.
Regardless, having someone like that in the clubhouse, whether it be a player, manager, traveling secretary or buffet chef should be a deterrent for others.
But he and Lester are chums.
When Lester first saw significant time at the big-league level, Beckett was the perfect candidate to mold the wide-eyed 24-year-old into a dominant force on the mound.
Beckett was coming off a league-leading 20-7 season in which he paced his team to a World Series title, took home an ALCS MVP award and nabbed a second-place finish in AL Cy Young voting.
Who better to lead a promising, young pitcher on the right track?
Fast-forward to 2012 and both pitchers have nearly identical, terrible stats.
Beckett: 5-10, 5.19 ERA, 1.310 WHIP.
Lester: 6-10, 5.20 ERA, 1.374 WHIP.
Somehow, some way, Beckett is contributing to Lester's downfall.
Just look at them. Kelly Shoppach clearly does not want to be bullied. Way to go, Lackey.
Much like Beckett, John Lackey is not the kind of guy Lester's mother would like to see him bring home to Sunday dinner.
Lackey was at the forefront of the fried chicken and beer "scandal," and his influence continues to be felt in the clubhouse.
Mainly because, despite missing the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, he's still there.
Often players will choose to not travel with the team while rehabbing from significant injury.
Jacoby Ellsbury didn't do it.
Carl Crawford didn't do it.
But Lackey is.
One can only assume it's because he goes wherever his drinking buddies go.
He's a negative influence for sure.
Plus his ex-wife is a smoke show. Now that she's gone it had to have taken morale down a notch.
Ah, the yesteryears. Lester and Francona must both be longing for these days again.
Nearly all of the Red Sox players seem to have completely tuned out Bobby Valentine at this point.
To call Boston's play "uninspired" would be an understatement.
They even called for a meeting with ownership to discuss their displeasure with the first-year skipper.
Obviously, the players had no say in which manager was going to replace the player-friendly Terry Francona.
This is an understated reason as to why the team has performed so poorly, especially for the younger guys on the team.Francona has been the only big-league manager Lester had ever known prior to this season. He was at the helm when the lefty came up as a 22-year-old in 2006 and went 7-2.
It's also certain that Francona was a key outlet of support for Lester when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in September of that season.
To have someone of that magnitude taken away from him with no rhyme or reason has to be demoralizing.
Granted, he's supposed to perform to a standard of excellence because he's a professional, but it's a foregone conclusion that Lester doesn't have the same passion for playing under Valentine that he did for Francona.
At this rate, even Wally could coach these pitchers better than Bob McClure.
Again, much like Francona, John Farrell was the primary resource of support during his developmental years from 2007-10.
During that period under Farrell, Lester compiled a remarkable 54-23 record and 3.41 ERA.
Since the departure of the pitching coach, he's 21-19 with a 4.23 ERA.
After hitting a peak of 10.0 strikeouts per inning in 2009 and leading the league with 9.7 in 2010, Lester's numbers have dramatically dropped off at 8.5 in 2011 and 7.9 this season.
To be fair, Curt Young likely didn't screw up Lester last season, as much of Farrell's preachings were still in the minds of the pitching staff.
But this season with Bob McClure?
Give me a break.
Here's a breakdown of the Sox pitching staff stats from 2010 to now.
2010: 89-73, 4.20 ERA, 7.5 K/9
2011: 90-72, 4.20 ERA, 7.5 K/9
2012: 57-61, 4.33 ERA, 7.1 K/9
Do you think Jon Lester misses John Farrell?