John Lackey is quickly becoming my favorite player on the Boston Red Sox.
Last year, I hated Lackey with a passion. I was done with him. I couldn’t wait to see him pack his bags and leave town. I’d had enough of his shenanigans, which included an ERA over 6.00 in 2011 and an appearance with a beer-dispensing hat in the clubhouse in 2012 — a year in which he never pitched.
When the Red Sox made Lackey part of their plans for 2013, I thought it was a terrible idea. But Lackey has done everything to prove me wrong. He came into the season and clearly was no longer a fat waste of space. After an initial setback in his first start, Lackey has been nothing but reliable from that point on. His ERA is a respectable 3.14, and he’s striking out four times the amount of batters than he’s walking.
But the most valuable asset that Lackey has brought to the Red Sox this year is his attitude, which was in full display in last night’s win against the Tampa Bay Rays. His overall pitching performance was weak, as he gave up 10 hits and couldn’t make it through six innings. In the first inning, he gave up a leadoff home run to Matt Joyce. In the second inning, Joyce smashed a 3-0 pitch deep but foul, and Joyce flipped the bat as if he had hit a home run. This is when things got interesting.
Several members of the Rays started yelling at Lackey from the dugout. When Lackey faced Joyce again in the sixth inning, he nailed him in the back with a fastball that certainly appeared to be an intentional pitch. Lackey claims it wasn’t intentional, but I certainly give him props if it was. Joyce showed him up. Who exactly is Matt Joyce to show anyone up? And the Rays were itching for a fight that Lackey gave them. That’s how you show leadership in baseball.
Right on cue, both benches erupted, and we had another classic Red Sox-Rays rowdy-down. Although no punches were thrown and Lackey didn’t make it out of the inning, the message was sent. The Red Sox aren’t going to be pushed around this year, and if you want to act like an idiot, then expect a fastball to your back. As a Red Sox fan, I find this most welcoming and look forward to the next Lackey appearance against the Rays.