Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

A Defense of John Lackey

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Ok. I didn’t tell the truth. This is less of a defense of John Lackey and more of an indictment of the fans who blindly criticize the 34-year old right hander. Things have gotten a bit silly.


John Lackey is the best active starting pitcher on the Boston Red Sox.

And it’s not particularly close.

Despite his performance on the mound, it is not uncommon to hear fans railing against Lackey, still infuriated by what they saw on the diamond from him in 2010 and especially in 2011. This isn’t a rational sort of argument like “man, Jon Lester needs to stop nibbling and just attack the strike zone.” Nope. Not at all. It’s personal. There are more than a few Red Sox fans who legitimately want Lackey to fail.

These arguments are almost always presented in similar fashions. Basically, Lackey is a bum who is a terrible at baseball. Lackey shows up his teammates on the field. Lackey is a bad human being.

I can’t pretend like Lackey has pitched well for this team. He signed a five-year deal with the Red Sox after the 2009 season and has been both a disappointment and a disaster. The disappointment came in 2010 when he was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA. Glossing over his stats that season, it’s reasonable to say that Lackey was a bit unlucky, but he still tossed 215 innings. When it was all said and done, Lackey was essentially a league-average pitcher in 2010 (99 ERA+). The disaster came a year later when Lackey — who was pitching with a badly injured elbow — was downright awful. He posted a 6.41 ERA, walked 3.2 batters per nine innings, and was a grossly below league-average pitcher (67 ERA+). Tommy John surgery and a year away from competing has made a world of difference. In 2013, he’s started 14 games and sports a stingy 2.81 ERA–good for sixth in the American League. His fastball reaches 95 MPH and sits at 93. His walks per nine is at 1.9. Lackey is healthy and good at baseball.

Lackey can be demonstrative on the mound. He will occasionally throw up his hands after a ball is misplayed or a call goes against him. But guess what? His teammates love him. He’s known for taking young pitchers under his wing and is a positive influence in the clubhouse, no matter what detractors may think.

I’m not going to delve deep into why critics of Lackey consider him to be an intrinsically bad dude. It’s not my business. But I would challenge you to think about difficult times in your life. Now imagine those trying times being played out in the public eye. It can’t be fun.

If you’re someone who simply doesn’t like Lackey, I offer a second challenge: Judge him not by what has occurred during his first two years in Boston but rather what he is doing on the field right now.

I think you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised

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13 thoughts on “A Defense of John Lackey

  1. 100% agree. Well said. I confess to be a former Lackey disliker. I hated the trade and hated it even more based on his performance. But you have to be blind not to see the transition. He has had a total makeover. I give him huge credit for getting his body in fabulous shape as well as his mind. He has been on good behavior and appears to have realized how his life will be easier if he just smiles and answers the questions. He is who he is — Let’s give the guy a break! On July 2 when he made that fabulous start against the Padres, I was so happy for him when he got a huge supportive ovation from the fans who formerly booed him. He didn’t appear to care but you know he did. He is only human. Good for you, John. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks for reading, Colleen! I agree with what you said. He’s put in the effort — so should fans.

  3. Vickie on said:

    I will confess to desperately wanting Lackey to succeed. I was a hater at the time, but clearly we didn’t have all the information, because he had Tommy John Surgery. I am so happy that he is now pitching well I can barely stand it. Every game he goes out there he gives us a chance to win.

    • I agree, Vickie. He’s pitching well. That’s all I’m concerned with. It’s frustrating to see how many fans are willing to bring in players’ personal lives.

  4. Quite a lot of boloney….if he were in a Yankee uniform everyone would be tearing at the bit to jump on him for his actions on the mound. He’s a big baby every time a call does not go his way. Just waiting for him to stomp his foot and have a tantrum! The only reason people are putting up with him is b/c he’s not in a Yankee uniform! Anyway, the Yankees would not put up with the baby-like behavior! What a whiner he is….give him some cheese to go with all the whine!

  5. Certainly Lackey’s teammates on my rotisserie team have nothing but good things to say about him.

  6. Maybe it’s the Lackey haters that got him to get in the best shape of his life. Now that he did the work, maybe you can forgive him. But to dismiss his first years and believing he gave all is a bit much. Big difference between forgiving and dismissing.

  7. Dan,

    Excellent post. The site looks great, too.

    Has Lackey been a bad pitcher for Boston prior to this season? Absolutely. But, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a more accountable player. Ever. When he sucks, he’s always said so, and he’s always been accessible to the media.

    Did I expect this renaissance? Absolutely not, but I’m glad it’s happened for him and this team.

    Keep up the good work.

    Best wishes,

    P.M. Bonfiglio
    New England Baseball News

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