Don’t call it a comeback.
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey didn’t have an ideal start to his Sox career after signing a lucrative five-year, $82.5 million contract before the 2010 season.
His performance in the 2010 season was lackluster to say the least. He managed to throw 200+ innings and win 14 games but had a less than desirable 4.40 ERA. Not exactly what Red Sox nation wanted out of their big offseason acquisition.
They would have gladly taken lackluster in 2011. Lackey had one of the worst full seasons by a starting pitcher in ages, compiling a miserable 6.41 ERA and 1.61 WHIP while looking fat and uninterested before his season was mercifully cut short by an elbow injury and proceeding Tommy John surgery.
The result was Lackey being less popular in Boston than Michael Vick in a puppy store.
Lackey sat out the entire miserable 2012 season, rehabbing his elbow while Red Sox fans seemed to forget about him and the $16+ million he was making while doing it.They understandably had other concerns on their mind during that particular 69-win season.
But Lackey came back this season looking slender and fit, his elbow fully healed, and with something to prove.
When he pitched well to start the season, optimism wasn’t on Lackey’s side. We all had a glass half-empty outlook on his season thinking that he would inevitably fail, once again stealing millions of dollars from the organization.
Yet, there was something different about Lackey, something you could visibly see during his starts this year. His fiery competitiveness that he exhibited in his years pitching for the Los Angeles Angels was evident again.
I don’t know if he had a spiritual uplifting, an intervention, or if his grandmother gave him a stern talking-to in the offseason, but Lackey is back.
The 34-year-old has been the Red Sox’ most consistent pitcher this year, posting a pristine 3.22 ERA and quality start after quality start.
I don’t know about other comeback player of the year candidates and their resumes, but honestly, I don’t care. To have the season Lackey had in 2011, sit out the 2012 season, and then have the season he’s having now as the most consistent starter on the first place Red Sox, that makes him the slam-dunk winner of the award in 2013.