The Boston Red Sox have shipped out to the Midwest for a few days to face the St. Louis Cardinals just days after the two teams swapped key players of their respective lineups, with starting pitcher John Lackey going to St. Louis in exchange for outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly.
Naturally, the trade — fresh in our minds less than a week removed — has overtaken what was the storyline of being the rematch of the 2013 World Series. In Boston particularly, as Lackey had pitched for the Red Sox since 2010.
Asked questions about his time in Boston, it was a good deal of cliches and politically correct answers. But when asked about his will to remain in Boston beyond 2014 and even pitch for the team at league-minimum in 2015, the big righty got testy.
“You guys are trying to stir stuff up,’’ Lackey said in response to a question asked by Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com. “I didn’t get that far ahead thinking about [pitching for league minimum in Boston].”
The presser before Tuesday’s 3-2 Red Sox loss gave off the vibe that Lackey didn’t want to stay in Boston. He didn’t give off the graciousness that Jon Lester or other former players have exuded when reflecting upon their time in a Red Sox uniform. Lackey seemed like a guy who was, well, happy to not be in Boston anymore.
It’s a reminder of what is an echoing sentiment about the Boston baseball experience — it’s not for everybody.
A signature MLB franchise in a town that is a signature baseball town, there aren’t many places better to win than Boston, just like the baseball experience in big northeast markets New York and Philadelphia. But like New York and Philly, as great a place as it is to win, it’s an even worse place to lose. A rabid fanbase and an even more rabid media make a bad 162 games feel like 162 years.
While Lackey will never be a poster boy for the premise that a Boston or New York isn’t for everyone the way Carl Crawford and Chuck Knoblauch are, he’s makes a strong case for it.
And Lackey shows both sides of it. He experienced the highest of highs with his performance in 2013. Lots was made of how he got into better shape and how great of a clubhouse guy he was. When he was terrible in 2011, pitching with no ligament in his elbow, much was made of his attitude on and off the field. He showed up teammates and was short with the media members. Lackey was the face of the infamous chicken and beer scandal in the wake of the 2011 September collapse.
It’s a narrative similar to fellow big, tough Texan Roger Clemens, who had high peaks and low valleys over his 13 seasons in Boston.
Lackey says he’s happy to be in St. Louis, where the fans are nicer and the media more forgiving. It’s similar scenery to Anaheim — the place he spent the first eight seasons of his major league career — except in a better baseball town with more historical significance.
The five-year, $82 million deal the Red Sox signed Lackey to in December 2009 wasn’t a disaster. No, it didn’t bring back the most desired return, but it wasn’t the worst baseball decision the team ever made. Tears weren’t shed by Lackey despite the memories he acknowledged making over the 4.5 years he spent with the team. We didn’t hear Lackey wax poetic about Boston the way Jonny Gomes did on Thursday and likely won’t hear it in the future.
Boston isn’t for everybody. And it didn’t seem to be for Lackey.