Sunday, December 4, 2011

4 comments John Lackey's Career-Threatening Elbow Surgery is a Good Thing?

Sportswriters run out of story ideas at times. There's no doubt about that. Sometimes what results from this is an article that probably isn't well-thought out. Sportswriters also like to take a contrarian point of view on topics in order to make the audience "think" or challenge the traditional point of view. JemeHill is famous for creating a false argument no one is really furthering and then writing a contrarian article based on that. (Example: "Dwight Howard is the best center in NBA history")

Today, Johnette Howard explains why John Lackey's Tommy John surgery is actually a good thing. See, because Lackey is having Tommy John surgery he gets a "do-over" in Boston. I guess Howard's belief is the Red Sox faithful will look at Lackey on the mound during the 2013 season and forget all about how he has struggled during his time in Boston. I just don't see how elbow surgery followed by 9-12 months of rehab can be considered a good thing and it isn't like Red Sox fans will forget Lackey has struggled during his time in Boston. When he comes back to pitch in 2013, he may get a round of applause, but he will still have to pitch effectively.

Someone needed to tell Red Sox pitcher John Lackey how lucky he is even before he got out of that hospital gown he was wearing this week.

(Doctor) "Johnette, I have a bad news. You have two blocked arteries. We have to perform open heart surgery on you as early as next week."

(Johnette Howard gets up and starts cheering) "Fan-fucking-tastic! This is the best news all day. I'm so lucky to get a chance to do my entire life over after I recover."

(Doctor) "I'm not sure you understand. People will still remember you and you will have the exact same life. So it really isn't a do-over---"

(Johnette Howard) "Do you know how lucky I am? I get a do-over. I wrote a terrible article a few weeks ago and now I have a chance to make people forget that and come back a new woman...if I even choose to come back as a woman. Perhaps I will be a dog or a wealthy socialite from the Midwest, it's really too early to make that decision. I have six months to rest and then everyone will forget how badly I have written at times in the past. Also, no one will talk anymore about that time I punched a baby at an awards banquet."

(Doctor) "I read that article. It was bad. Please remember this is a risky procedure and you may never been the same after the surgery. You will have to monitor what you eat and how---"

(Johnette Howard begins cutting on chest with a scalpel in order to begin the procedure right now. She starts singing "If I Could Turn Back Time")

(Doctor) "We weren't scheduling the procedure for another week, so you don't need to do that right now. It's very non-sterile and frankly I am disgusted...mostly by your song choice. People are going to remember you punched a baby and people are going to remember that bad article. You have a new lease on life, but the surgery will not make you a better writer and you will still work for ESPN."

(Johnette Howard) "You're such a kidder! Is there a way you can teach me Spanish while I am in surgery? I'd love to come back knowing Spanish. I wonder if I will even come back as a human or maybe a tree or perhaps a butterfly? Now, do I have control over what I come back as, or is that purely up to the fates?"

(Doctor now giving up) "We'll bring you back as a human. A human with an extremely keen sense of smell that can solve crimes by imagining what happened at the crime scene, even when you aren't in the same vicinity as the crime committed. Then you can write about this and be a successful wealthy woman."

(Johnette Howard) "Really? I'm so thankful I get this life-threatening procedure done. What a break for me. Who can I thank for becoming a bilingual psychic crime solver with a keen sense of smell?"

(Doctor) "Thank the Cheez-Its lining your arteries."

Can you imagine if Bill Buckner had another chance to get his glove around that damn ground ball in 1986, or if the long drive to left by Aaron (Freaking) Boone that sent the Yankees to the 2003 World Series had curled foul instead and Tim Wakefield was able to throw another pitch? What if Carl Crawford had reached that sinking liner on the last play of Boston's 2011 season instead of stumbling around in left field as if he were on roller skates, making yet another epic Red Sox collapse complete?

Mostly, can you imagine if another sports team other than the Red Sox had terrible individual plays happen to them. What would the world look like if the Red Sox weren't the only team with bad luck?

Also, these are individual plays, not entire seasons. So it isn't like Lackey made a play that lost a game. He wasn't very good for an entire season. John Lackey's surgery isn't a good thing because he will come back from the surgery still getting paid a lot and will have to work hard to rehab from the surgery. Maybe it is a good thing for Red Sox fans they don't have to see Lackey pitch in 2012, but I don't see how this is good for Lackey. What would be happy is if Lackey pitched most of the 2011 year with a minor elbow injury which caused his struggles and got it fixed in the offseason. That's not the case. Now he's just the underachieving pitcher who needs major arm surgery.

You think any of them wouldn't welcome the unexpected do-over that Lackey is about to get?

None of them would want Tommy John surgery.

Major surgery rarely seems like a welcome thing for anybody. But Lackey was a pariah and in danger of getting the ax in Boston until he had to go under the knife.

So does Johnette really think when Lackey comes back he isn't going to be a pariah and won't be criticized if his performance is bad? If Lackey had played well without elbow surgery he would no longer be a pariah in Boston. Either way, he has to pitch well. Also, Lackey was in danger of getting the ax, meaning getting traded, but now he has little trade value until it is seen how he pitches after the surgery. So Lackey is stuck on a team with fans that hate him and the Red Sox have to wait a year to trade Lackey and what trade value he had has been diminished. I'm not sure how this is good for Lackey.

Now, everything people thought they knew about him last season might need to be recast, or at least challenged after what we learned on Friday.

If anything, this is a good thing for the Boston Red Sox, not John Lackey. The Red Sox now have Lackey's 2015 option triggered for the league minimum. So for Lackey, he gets to miss a year and make everyone cool down from his poor performance in 2011, but he also gets to work for the league minimum in 2015 as a 36 year old. Yay!

Until then, Lackey had been derided as a big-money bust, a chronic complainer, a combative contrarian and worse.

So assuming everyone cools down and forgives Lackey after he misses an entire year, what happens if he comes back and still doesn't pitch well? Maybe I am underestimating the ability of Red Sox fans to forgive and forget how poorly Lackey pitched over the last two years, especially considering he had an elbow problem down the stretch of the 2011 season. I don't claim to be a genius, but it seems to me many of the problems Lackey would have had in 2012 will be delayed until 2013. Maybe all will be forgotten at that point.

Lester eventually confirmed that on nights they didn't pitch, he, Lackey and Beckett sometimes sat in the Red Sox clubhouse drinking "rally beers" and/or occasionally sent a clubhouse boy off to Kenmore Square for Popeye's chicken during the season as games were going on -- even as the Red Sox were folding in September.

Because everyone knows fried chicken is a contributor to a negative performance on the field.

But, Lester added, that doesn't necessarily make them "bad people."

Yeah, well, try telling that to the folks who wanted all three of them run out of town. Try telling that to Curt Schilling, the former Red Sox postseason hero who scolded the pitching trio for their lousy performances down the stretch, and blamed it on their failure to stay in top shape.

We can all trust Curt Schilling's own overly-opinionated hypocriscy on this issue since he admitted he played for the Red Sox while overweight. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of hypocrisy athletes speak out of their mouths at times. If anyone can criticize Lester, Lackey, and Beckett for playing out of shape, that person is not Curt Schilling. Because he did the exact same damn thing while with the Red Sox.

So it is also hilarious to me the balls Curt Schilling has to criticize the Red Sox under Francona for a lack of structure when he took advantage of that lack of structure to gain a few pounds. Of course the Red Sox didn't happen to collapse down the stretch while Schlling was out of shape, so nobody gave a shit and nobody remembers Schilling admitting he was out of shape while Francona was the manager.

(On second though, since the general public has a memory that lasts about two weeks, maybe Lackey could come back in 2013 and no one will remember his 2010 and 2011 performances)

Lackey seemed the most likely player to go in the offseason purge that's already seen Francona resign in disgust and Theo Epstein leave to run the Chicago Cubs.

But now the Red Sox get to keep Lackey and get to add one season missed at the age of 32 while he is making $15+ million, in exchange for a season of Lackey making $500,000 at the age of 36. Lackey probably won't get another chance to be a free agent until he is 37. It's a win/win!

But Cherington's announcement that Lackey needed surgery recasts at least some of all that, doesn't it?

It now looks like Lackey might have actually been gutting out the 2011 season with a bum elbow, unbeknownst to everyone else.

So let me get this straight:

If Lackey eats fried chicken and drinks beer in the clubhouse, pitches poorly and the Red Sox collapse down the stretch...but does so while needing major elbow surgery, then this means he is a warrior and all is forgiven?

If Lackey eats fried chicken and drinks beer in the clubhouse, pitches poorly and the Red Sox collapse down the stretch...but is completely healthy, then this means he is a lazy, fat asshole who needs to earn his contract?

So while I understand the idea a player who pitches poorly through an injury is a warrior, the result is the same with the Red Sox missing the playoffs. Lackey still ate fried chicken and drank beer in the clubhouse, which is independent of any injury he suffered, and pitched terribly on the mound. It just turns out he simply did this with an elbow injury. It's admirable, but the same idiots crucifying him for drinking beer and eating fried chicken would then have to forgive him because he was hurt?

Sometimes the reasoning of the world confuses me. The very thing Lackey was (stupidly) criticized for doing, eating fried chicken and drinking beer, is separate from his pitching poorly anyway. The potential reason Lackey pitched terribly was he had an elbow injury, but those who argue his clubhouse eating habits in-game reflected poorly on his dedication to the game will now assume he was dedicated because he pitched injured. I think I'm confused now.

So was Lackey a good teammate, or a bad one? Is he a lousy pitcher and a whiner who can't handle the crucible the Red Sox play in, or a man whose 2011 performance can be explained away by personal problems that none of us would wish on anybody and a barking elbow he might have pushed to the breaking point because he knew the team was in a pennant race?

We just have to wait over a year and Lackey has to go through major elbow surgery before this is resolved. I still fail to see how this is a positive thing.

That means he won't be back on Opening Day to face the music like Crawford will for his own subpar 2011 season.

Which is a good thing apparently.

But he won't have to wait decades to see if he can make peace with the Red Sox faithful like Buckner did, either.

Shut up about having to "make peace" with the Red Sox faithful as if Lackey perpetrated some terrible crime on the entire city. He had a bad year and hasn't "earned" his contract yet. He's been an underachiever like every franchise ends up having at some point or another. Simply because he had a bad year for the Red Sox doesn't mean he has to "make piece" with the fans or his underachieving affected the fans personally in some fashion.

Lackey didn't just get Tommy John surgery the other day.

He gets a mulligan.

Not really. He still has to pitch well for the Red Sox in 2013, as well as he loses a year of his career, and while gaining another year with the Red Sox at the league minimum. This isn't really a mulligan for Lackey anymore than he is essentially giving people time to cool off and delaying his next start until the 2013. He also gets to rehab for 9-12 months from major elbow surgery. I just can't call having major elbow surgery a "mulligan."

He gets the sort of gift second chance most people would do anything not to blow.

It's not really a second chance. It's a major injury which will involve months of rehab and then eventually Lackey will try to prove he can play up to the standard Red Sox fans expect him to play up to. I think proving he can pitch well would have been easier without elbow surgery and in no way should this be considered a second chance.


rich said...

You know what's stupid about this article?

People were pissed at how much he was making and how poorly he pitched. Are they magically going to forget that they're now paying him an incredibly high salary to now do nothing?

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, yes. Apparently everyone will forget. They do get him for another year now at the league veteran minimum, so there's that. So now instead of him paying overpaid and underperforming, he will be overpaid and underperforming and coming off major surgery.

Ericb said...

I don't understand, why is eating fried chicken during a game so terrible(especially when you're not even playing in the game)? I mean, when you're a pitcher in the American League it's not like you have to have the agility and/or stamina of a running back or a wide receiver. I've seen that baseball is the one sport where sporting a gut doesn't aways result in bad play.

Bengoodfella said...

Eric, I'm not sure. It is the perception you don't care about the team I guess. For a starter, I don't see it as an especially big deal. I think it was just an excuse to be used and a way to blame someone for the Red Sox decline down the stretch. Maybe some people think it means the players eating fried chicken didn't care?

Some football players can have a gut too. Offensive and defensive linemen especially. Guts aren't always bad.