One of the most unpopular players the Boston Red Sox have had over the last few years has been starting pitchers John Lackey. There seemed to be a number of reasons for this. First of all, he hadn’t had the best performances out on the mound in a Red Sox uniform. Secondly, he signed a huge contract and many fans thought that he was overpaid. Lastly, it just seemed like he didn’t endear himself to anyone outside of his teammates.
Times have changed drastically for Lackey. The theme for this year’s Red Sox seems to be redemption, and Lackey is the poster child.
In 2011, Lackey had simply one of the worst seasons ever for a starting pitcher in Red Sox history. It was discovered later on that he was pitching with an elbow that needed Tommy John surgery, and he would miss the entire 2012 season as a result. Yet, he was still being vilified for being in the clubhouse with the team even though he was on the disabled list.
Most players would have been considered to be good teammates and loyal for doing that. Yet because it was Lackey, fans could not understand why he was there and that he must be a bad influence. You know, the devil’s spawn — that sort of thing. The funny thing is his teammates absolutely love him and have always been very loyal towards him. You never hear a teammate say anything bad about Lackey. That has to account for a lot about the man.
Lackey came into Spring Training looking almost like a new man. You couldn’t help but notice how much weight he lost and continued to keep off. He also seemed a lot more at ease and relaxed with the tough Boston media, instead of the guarded and snippy approach he used in his first few years.
He has become an absolutely dominant fifth starter and has had some electric performances going right up to this week in the ALCS when he matched Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers pitch for pitch. It has gotten to the point where when Lackey leaves a game at Fenway Park, he gets a standing ovation. In a season of comebacks for the Red Sox, this might be the greatest comeback story on the team.