Merloni: Lackey’s Thoughts on Boston
|12.14.09 at 5:01 pm ET|
In 2005, I played in Anaheim and would, from time to time, share a few adult beverages with John Lackey. The topic of playing against the Red Sox came up on more than one occasion.
At that time in his career, Lackey admitted that pitching against the Sox, especially at Fenway, had become a “mental block” for him. He admitted that as much as it had to do with the Sox lineup, the idea of walking into Fenway Park was his biggest concern.
All of that changed in one night at Fenway. In 2008, right before the trade deadline, the Sox were a mess. Manny Ramirez had worn out his welcome and the Sox were so caught up in trying to get rid of their troubled left fielder that they forgot how to play winning baseball. It was July 29th, and Lackey was on the hill. He carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning before Dustin Pedroia broke it up with a hit; Kevin Youkilis then ended Lackey’s shutout bid with a two-run shot to left.
No no-hitter..no shutout, but Lackey accomplished a lot that night. That’s sometimes all it takes for a guy to “exorcise the demons.” After that night, Lackey no longer feared Fenway Park. It showed later that year in the ALDS. Game 4, win or go home, John Lackey threw seven innings, giving up seven hits and two earned runs in a no-decision.
Even though the Sox ended the Angels’ season that night, Lackey once again proved to himself that Fenway was just another park to him. In the conversations that I’ve had with him since that season, it’s been clear that he feels differently about pitching in Fenway than he did in 2005.
Now, with word that he’s closing in on a five-year deal with the Sox, it’s fair to ask: who would you rather have?
Before I go any further, let me say that I am a big fan of Josh Beckett. I love the way he gets after it on the mound. But I was taken aback when I started to compare Josh to Lackey. They are very similar.
Lackey has started the last two years on the D.L. to start the season, making his first starts of the season on May 14th and May 16th, respectively. Beckett has really struggled down the stretch the last two years. But let’s compare their last four years.
Josh Beckett (2006-2009)
65-34 (.657), 4.05 ERA, 122 GS, 792 IP, 723 K’s, 1.205 WHIP
John Lackey (2006-2009)
55-33 (.625), 3.50 ERA, 117 GS, 781.1 IP, 683 K’s, 1.243 WHIP
In 2007, Beckett (20-7, 3.27 ERA) was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. But when you look at what Lackey did that year (19-9, 3.01 ERA), you understand why some said the same thing about Lackey.
When it comes to consistency, it’s not that close. Lackey, over the last five years, hasn’t had an ERA over 3.83. Beckett has been a little more inconsistent. Both have some health issues, but when you take into consideration that Josh Beckett will be a free agent at year’s end, it makes you wonder if the Sox feel that moving forward with Lackey may be a better option. I’m not saying that Josh is on his way out, but it does give the Sox flexibilty when negotaitions heat up with Beckett.
The Sox still have some questions in regards to this lineup. A lot of people feel that Clay Buchholz, because of the addition of Lackey, will be the odd man out. Not so fast.
Let’s just say that the Sox wait until the trade deadline to try to acquire a big bat. If Clay throws like he did last year or better, I could see a scenario play out where Beckett could be on the trading block. That all depends on how the Sox feel the talks go with Josh and his agent on an extension. But If Buchholz is starting to become the pitcher the Sox have always felt he could become, why get rid of the guy that you have control over? Fans may have a problem with the timing of it, but if Jon Lester, Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Buchholz are all throwing well and all the Sox need is a big bat, don’t be too surprised if Beckett’s the odd man out.
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