I never bought into John Lackey's resurgence. He was the undisputed most hated athlete in Boston for two years from 2011-2012. After he changed his body and re-focused himself on baseball, he was one of the heroes of the 2013 Championship season. For the cherry on top, Lackey was the winning pitcher in the decisive game of the 2013 World Series.
Fans and media began scouring their memory banks to see if there had ever been a player in Boston sports who had such a dramatic turnaround. John Lackey had one of the worst seasons in major league baseball history in 2011. Remember that 6.41 ERA?
In 2013, Lackey dropped his ERA to 3.52. He had a 1.16 WHIP as opposed to the 1.62 WHIP he had in 2011. It still amazes me Lackey was allowed to start 28 games in 2011 with those kind of numbers. If his name was Joe Smith, he would have been in Pawtucket for most of that season.
You may have noticed I haven't mentioned anything about Lackey's stats in 2012. That's because he didn't throw a single pitch that entire season due to Tommy John surgery. He still got paid $15 million for that season, though. I don't remember hearing him complain about that.
That is only relevant now because Lackey has a vesting option in his contract-- which he agreed to -- for 2015 if Lackey suffers a significant elbow injury from 2010-2014. The vesting option is for the veteran minimum $500,000.
It's a tough pill to swallow for Lackey. Just like it was a tough pill to swallow for the Red Sox to pay Lackey $15 million for missing an entire season. It was also a tough pill to swallow for the Red Sox to pay Lackey almost $16 million for that abomination of a season in 2011.
FOXSports' Ken Rosenthal mentioned in a recent column that "righty John Lackey is not exactly certain to return." Rosenthal continues that Lackey has earned more than $108 million in his career, and "wouldn't have much incentive to play for relative pennies."
Let's set aside the comment about $500,000 (or, as Rosenthal notes, $265,000 after taxes) being "relative pennies." This is professional sports, after all. This isn't real life. If you want to give me $265,000 per year to write for you-- I am yours! I'll even clean your bathroom and do your dishes.
I've been eyeballing Lackey's vesting option for some time now. It is the only saving grace of having put up with two lost seasons by Lackey. Obviously Lackey forgets he got paid $30 million for two seasons-- one of which was one of the worst ever recorded by a MLB starting pitcher, and the other in which he didn't have to show up at the park once.
If Lackey was still a 5.00 ERA-type pitcher, he should be grateful to be getting paid anything in 2015. He should be grateful to just be in the major leagues.
To his credit, Lackey worked hard and came back in the best shape, physically, of his life. I still don't like his character. From most accounts, he is great in the clubhouse. His teammates love him. Of course, in 2011 they were loving him in the clubhouse for all the wrong reasons.
I still don't like him. Something about him just rubs me the wrong way. A story like this one just reinforces that belief.
Did Rosenthal come up with this speculation on his own? CBS Boston's Michael Hurley believes Lackey's camp leaked out this information. "It was undoubtedly fed to Rosenthal by Lackey or someone close to the pitcher."
So what do the Red Sox do? There are three options. They could tear up the remainder of the contract and give the 35-year-old a new multi-year extension. They could make Lackey play for the agreed upon contract (in which case he may sit out). Or they could trade him before the July 31 deadline.
By now, you should know my philosophy on this. You agreed to the contract. You honor it. It's one of the issues I have with David Ortiz always whining about his contract. When players play over expectations, they demand to renegotiate their contract. When they play poorly, do they offer to give money back?
If Lackey wants to sit out 2015 instead of getting paid "relative pennies" to play for the Red Sox, enjoy getting fat on the couch watching the games.
The last thing I would do is renegotiate his contract. If the Red Sox are out of the race at the end of July, I would listen to trade offers for him. If some team has some good young outfielders to offer me, I am listening.