September 26, 2011
After watching video of the Boston Red Sox pitcher awkwardly chastise media about a rogue text message on Sunday night, that certainly looks like the case. If Lackey didn't know all about the extra baggage that comes with signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal in Boston, he certainly does now.
As we now know, Lackey's anger presumably came from TMZ's report that he has filed for divorce from his cancer-stricken wife. It's a headline that we can't fully interpret without more information, but that really doesn't matter because it's a headline that Lackey can't possibly win — no matter what the story really turns out to be.
I can say this for certain, however: The look on Lackey's face during that media session — that same open-mouthed look of confusion and befuddlement we see from him after almost every failed start — said that he couldn't believe his divorce was being made into a public issue. That's naive on his part, of course, because that filterless microscope is part of the deal when you sign up to play for one of the most visible sports teams on the planet. If Lackey thought he could post one of the worst seasons in history for an annual $16 million paycheck in Boston and not get hung out to dry, he's got another thing coming.
Is that inspection of his personal life fair? Probably not, though it's a reality in today's media culture. The fact that he's struggling with the Red Sox also matters. Do you really think he'd be getting the Newt Gingrich treatment if he were still with the Angels and posting above-average seasons? It's more likely that news of his divorce would be one of those under-the-breath unmentionables, the type you don't talk about in polite company.
Finally, let's not overlook the fact that Lackey's public persona — or lack thereof — isn't doing him any favors as the "guy kicks sick wife to the curb" storyline meshes perfectly with the poor perception that many people have of him. Does TMZ load that headline — and do as many people ask "Why is this news?" — if Lackey's default image isn't that of a defiant and loutish bull exiting a just-wrecked china shop?
Look, it's such a multi-sided situation with so many different people, emotions and factors that you wonder how Lackey is possibly going to deal with all the pressure and scrutiny over the remaining three years on his contract.
But right now John Lackey — fully transformed from a World Series Game 7 winner who had carved out a nice career into one of baseball's biggest goats — looks like a living example of another old saying.
"Be careful what you wish for."