Watching as Daisuke worked his way through another awful performance last night, I found myself turning to the calendar for comfort. In two weeks, Daisuke Matsuzaka will be gone forever. He will not be a part of the Red Sox. Off the roster, off the payroll, just a dark memory to bury deep as we move on with our lives.
Of course, ever since The Trade, the theme of the season has been pretty well determined. Well, one of two themes, really, since Bobby Valentine's Three-Ring Circus of Awful can't be ignored. But as far as more long-term ramifications are concerned, this was about renewal. Getting out from underneath the bad contracts of years past, freeing the team from the sins of the previous regime and allowing them to blaze a new trail hopefully without quite so many albatross hindrances along the way.
The thing is, it really has been a constant for Red Sox teams. Always there's at least one guy, usually more, who we just want gone from the payroll. We've consistently looked towards the next year (well, before 2012 at least), saying "so and so's money comes off, so we should be able to improve with so and so." It's practically the Boston mantra.
We've had plenty along the way, but when it really comes down to it, three stand above the rest in terms of awfulness. These are guys who come with so few redeeming qualities that by the end of it you're almost rooting for them to just keep failing. It goes beyond just being bad at their job, they've inflicted themselves on you, and you don't want them having any redemption so they can go sign another contract and be viewed as anything but a joke. If you had to put up with their awful play for so many years, they'll have to put up with a ruined legacy for so many more.
These are not guys like J.D. Drew, who was really, really good in two of his five years here, and played decent ball despite going through a tough time at home in his debut season. This is not Mike Lowell who was so beloved and we had to watch deteriorate on the field, or Matt Clement who sadly had a promising career derailed by a fluke incident. It's not guys like Josh Beckett who was off-and-on or Carl Crawford who, perhaps like Beckett, got out of dodge before critical mass was reached (though he did hit Clement).
Daisuke Matsuzaka is one of those guys. It's the whole unbelievably frustrating package: disagreements with the organization over conditioning, the crazy hype-fest that surrounded him, his infuriating refusal to find the zone, the fact that even his one great season was hugely luck-based, that damn gyroball that isn't a thing, and that he always seems so intent on making each torturous start last as long as possible. That he is still being allowed to pitch right now is a problem not for baseball reasons, but because it's insensitive for ownership not to recognize that he is offensive to the viewership at this point.
Julio Lugo is another. From the fact that he seems to be a pretty unlikable guy off the field, to how completely easy he was to hate on it, at no point did Lugo's contract ever make sense. It was on the small side looking back (though that speaks more to the ridiculous direction contracts have gone in than anything else), but there was not a single Sox fan who wasn't disgusted by every single one of the $36 million sent his way. When the Sox managed to unload him so that they could just pay him to stay away, it was like V-Day in Boston.
The final one could change with time, but right now John Lackey is looking like he's going to be right up there with the other two. There's not many who like Lackey given his abrasive personality, and while good performances could easily make up for that, Lackey's been just awful. He's headed into year four of his contract, and so far the Sox have gotten an average start from a guy who was supposed to be great, a historically awful 2011, and now zip from Lackey in 2012 as he recovers from Tommy John Surgery.
Now, that procedure has worked some crazy magic in the past, and the Sox will probably get an almost free year of Lackey in 2016 assuming that contract option based on Lackey missing time with a pre-existing elbow injury does in fact vest. He still has time to make this work, shockingly enough, but he has to get on it in a hurry, and right now I'm pretty sure nobody deserves the benefit of the doubt less than Lackey does.
So, Sox fans, looking past the fact that Lackey's still here as best you can, which of these three takes the cake? Going beyond just the math of it, if you could go back and undo the misery endured based on one of these three, which would you choose to spare yourself?