When John Lackey signed a 5-year $82.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox on December 15, 2009, few baseball aficionados thought after the first 2 years of that contract, Red Sox Nation would sooner serve J.D. Drew breakfast in his hospital bed, than utter the name John Lackey aloud in public. In fact, in just his second season in a Red Sox uniform, he managed to put up some of the worst numbers in franchise history. His 6.41 ERA was light years away from his league leading 2007 ERA of 3.01, when he was named to the AL All-Star Team, finished 3rd in the AL CYA, and posted a 19-9 record. Only a third of his 33 starts in 2011 were considered quality starts. His .308 BAA and 1.619 WHIP were like something out of a Stephen King novel. But just when you thought things couldn't get worse, Lackey's already plummeting stock took a major hit with the emergence of "Beer Gate" and stories of the "paunchy" Lackey, double fisting beers, and scarfing down fried chicken in the clubhouse during games, with partners in "crime," Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester. After missing the entire 2012 season, Lackey might be referred to as "The forgotten Man." However, because of "Beer Gate," John Lackey is anything BUT a forgotten man, and rightly or wrongly, no matter what the future may hold for him, he will always be associated with "Beer Gate," and remembered as one of the players who cost Terry Francona his job.
Regardless, Tommy John and a year later, a different John Lackey seems to be emerging. While keeping his Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. persona in check, the new and improved Lackey will tell you he is not seeking the atonement of Red Sox Nation, as much as he is seeking to prove to himself the recent past was just an injury plagued aberration. Quietly, he has put the past behind him, including his personal problems, and has whipped his 34 year old body into proper pitching shape. With the "evil" Josh Beckett banished to La La Land, and a newly motivated John Lester ,with noticeably less lard in the caboose area as well, lackey seems poised to join a rotation that also includes; the inconsistent savant, Clay Buccholz, sophomore Felix Doubront, and stand-up-comedian Ryan Dempster. Although he will most likely debut at or near the end of the rotation, the Sox are hoping for a healthy John Lackey to finish the season closer to the middle. Three words will go a long way if he is to accomplish this feat: location, location, location. Even though that is true of all pitchers, it's especially true of John Lackey, and nobody knows that better than he does. As a former ace and proven consistent winner, a now healthy John Lackey should regain some of the tools that propelled him to the top of the Angel's rotation. A spot he held onto for a number of years. It would be silly to expect him to return to ace status, but a middle of the rotation improvement should not be out of the question.
While no one should expect a love fest, it's not in his persona, and Red Sox Nation is just not in the mood. Lackey should regain some of the respect he enjoyed before signing with Boston. What a boost it would be to a much maligned staff seeking the same redemption as the former ace. John lackey your come back player of the year for 2013? It almost has to happen in order for this team to contend for a playoff spot in 2013. The American League overall, is vastly improved, with the American League East, becoming a stronger and much deeper division.