Hey Lackey, want a beer? Seems like you’ll be having some time to kill.
In a press conference Tuesday, new General Manager Ben Cherington announced that before the 2011 season could even conclude, Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey will likely miss the entire 2012 campaign due to Tommy John surgery.
If you’re keeping count at home, that is the third pitcher this year (Daisuke Matsuzaka and Rich Hill) for the Red Sox to require the surgery, which has an average of one year to recover time.
For a team who just completed the largest September collapse in major league history, many would say that team chemistry just was not there, and it looked like personal goals and concerns strongly outweighed that of the team as a whole. The department the Sox struggled most with this year was their lack of starting pitching, more accurately their “Lackey-ng” of a starting pitcher.
All jokes aside, this was not exactly the John Lackey the Red Sox expected when they forked over $82.5 million to sign him going into the 2010 season. And despite a deceiving successful start to the beginning of the 2010 campaign, John’s numbers are not anything to be proud of. After a 10-5 record in the first half of 2010, Lackey struggled after the All-Star break and finished the year with a 14-11 record.
2011 seemed to be much more defining. In a season full of controversy, a short DL stint, off-the-field issues, video games, fried chicken and beer, Lackey posted a mediocre 12-12 record with a 6.41 ERA, the highest ever for a Red Sox SP with more than 150 innings thrown.
And now, he is out for the foreseeable future. So why is this great news for Sox fans?
Well, for the Fenway Faithful, the obvious answer is probably along the lines of, “We just got better from addition by subtraction, throw in a college prospect and I am sure he could keep his ERA around 7 as well." And as a Boston fan myself, I would agree. I don’t believe we lost much, if anything.
This is going to test the top assistant-turned-GM Ben Cherington. Ben was just hired into one of the most scrutinized jobs in sports today by becoming a figurehead for the Boston Red Sox. Cherington however, rather than simply managing failed talent (Francona), is the one selecting the talent with the opportunity to fail. High risk, high reward.
With Lackey officially out for the year, Wakefield likely done in Boston and Matsuzaka shooting for a midseason return, one of Cherington’s top priorities will be finding organization and stability to an otherwise chaotic rotation.
Much like a new head coach coming into football and wanting to build a team his way, the injury has opened a spot for Cherington to place into the rotation a player he desires.
Now obviously, he could do this anyway. Cherington is no longer an assistant, he calls the shots now. I’m simply saying that he is able to avoid some controversy (Boston media is great with this) in the event that Lackey were healthy and turned in an amazing spring training. Now there is just one less difficult decision for the new GM to make in his rookie year.
While I am in hopes that Lackey can recover, I do believe that this is going to work out great for Cherington and the Sox. If the replacement for Lackey fails, the blame can simply lie on the excuse of the new GM implementing his gameplan. There is a new sheriff in town, and Theo’s moves are not the right pieces to the World Series puzzle for the Sox. If the replacement is a success, then Cherington already finds himself in good graces with Boston, as he appears to make improvements for the team.
This is great for Lackey, who in all honesty, may benefit more from this than anyone. You never wish injury on a player, but if anyone needed a year off from baseball, you’d have to imagine John would be on that list.
Lackey is going through a divorce, subject to scandal in the clubhouse, and pitched injured the entire year. Hopefully this is exactly what he needs to get his head back in the game. And who knows, maybe in 2013, he can come back as the pitcher the Sox expected him to be all along.