Dear John: Lackey Signing Is Betrayal To Red Sox Nation

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Dear John: Lackey Signing Is Betrayal To Red Sox Nation
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

“How are the Red Sox any better than the Yankees?” It’s a question I hear often when I walk the streets of Cleveland dressed in Boston paraphernalia.

Most of my fellow Indians fans see the two big-market clubs as equally evil; as long as they both buy our players and beat us in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter who is worse.

Knowing that trying to convert my peers to dual fandom would be futile, I usually respond by explaining to my questioner why the Red Sox are the lesser of two evils.

The Red Sox are rich, yes, but they don’t spend nearly as much as the Yankees (some years they even fall behind the Angels and Mets). They don’t spend excessively, and the few big contracts they do hand out are just supplements for the fruits of their consistently lucrative farm system.

Which is why I had to go back and read the news multiple times when it was announced that Boston had signed John Lackey to be sure I hadn’t misunderstood the words.

Heading into the off-season, the Red Sox had one of the best rotations in the game. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester combined for perhaps the best one-two punch in baseball. Clay Buchholz continues to show improvement, and at least two-dozen other teams would kill to have back-end starters as good Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Add to that the forthcoming emergence of Michael Bowden and Casey Kelly, and you’ve got a pitching staff worthy of the rest of the league’s envy. Even the Yankees have to be jealous of Boston’s depth.

So why did the Red Sox shell out $82.5 million to the top free agent pitcher on the market?

I didn’t expect the Red Sox to stand pat with respect to their rotation—I mean, come on —but I was expecting someone more in the mold of a low-risk, high-reward signee like Justin Duchscherer.

I understand why they wanted Lackey. Boston fans are antsy after the Red Sox’s quick exit in the 2009 ALDS, and Terry Francona requested another pitcher. And Lackey will look a lot better slotted behind Lester than would, say, Jason Marquis.

But that’s the problem. “Wanting” something isn’t reason enough to purchase something unnecessary.

Simply put, the Red Sox don’t need another ace.

The idea of picking up the best player available regardless of need is, well, Steinbrennerian.

The reason I—and millions of other baseball fans—hate the Yankees is their shameless, excessive spending. This Lackey deal makes the average Steinbrenner signing look reasonable.

Signing such an unnecessarily expensive player is a complete desertion of the smart-spending principles that led the team to such success this decade. Theo Epstein & Co. have lost the moral high ground.

It appears that, now that the Yankees have finally had their revenge, Larry Lucchino thinks he needs to fight fire with fire to defeat the “evil empire.”

I’m not going to renounce my Red Sox Nation citizenship, and this incident hasn’t softened my hatred for the Bronx Bombers. But I can’t help but feel betrayed.

The next time someone asks about my Boston cap, I’ll probably just shrug and walk away.

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