Thursday, February 18, 2010



By Coral Marshall - AngelsWin.com Columnist

Many Angels fans were distressed by John Lackey’s decision to leave the club and join the rival Boston Red Sox. To be fair, who wouldn’t be? Lackey helped lead the club to its first-ever World Series victory with a win in Game 7 of the 2002 series. He has been an All-Star and, perhaps most importantly, despite injuries the ace of the staff has averaged 15 victories a year since 2002.

So, what fans wouldn’t be excited to sign the gem of the 2009-2010 free agent pitching market? A proven postseason winner? The pride and joy of the team that eliminated them from the playoffs?

Red Sox fans, that’s who.

On a recent trip to Boston, I had one question on my mind: “How excited are Red Sox fans to have John Lackey join their team?” And what was the answer? It was overwhelming, unenthusiasticly, “not very excited.”

How could they not be excited? These were real Red Sox fans, with a real passion for baseball. When pressed further about their lack of anticipation for Lackey’s arrival they gave a varied few responses.

Jeff, a waiter at Cheers (the bar on which the TV show was based), couldn’t seem more aloof in regard to the signing. When asked why he wasn’t excited, he asked me a very pointed question in response: “Why should I be?” To be honest, Jeff has a point — with two World Series Championships in the past decade after an 86-year drought, what more can Red Sox fans expect? Moreover, with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka (coupled with an East Coast media bias) already in the fold, where does Lackey fit in to the Red Sox starting rotation, let alone the hearts of Red Sox fans? Certainly not as the ace he was with the Angels.

Frank, the concierge at the Boston Park Plaza, was equally pessimistic. While he was giving me directions to Fenway Park, this lifelong Red Sox fan explained why he was “not really” excited to see Lackey join the staff. His reason was more thought out than Jeff’s, as he told the story of his first baseball game, during the 1975 World Series. It seemed that Frank was simply jaded to the coming and going of players after having had his heart ripped out during that Fall Classic against the Cincinnati Reds. Again, who could blame him? It seems likely that having witnessed loss after loss for so many years it would be difficult to get too excited over any one individual — let alone a pitcher.

And so it seemed that the two divergent views on why Lackey was not an excellent acquisition come from the same source — a cynicism of the game of baseball, in a town where baseball is the main focus; a cynical viewpoint toward winning in the case of Jeff and a cynical viewpoint toward losing in the case of Frank.

Steve, a tour guide at Fenway Park and Sox employee for 10 years, managed to merge the two viewpoints, as he stated that while he is not all that eager for Lackey to join the team he does think the club will “win it all again.” To this Angels fans have one response: "Not if we can help it."

While the Red Sox may have taken our ace, I have a theory of my own as to why these fans cannot get excited about having Lackey join the team. No one, especially not Red Sox fans, likes a traitor. The lack of enthusiasm over Lackey shows that while $82 million is an awful lot of money, it cannot buy respect in Boston — and it was certainly cause to lose all respect for Lackey amongst Angels fans. May the lesson be learned, while Lackey may have more money — he may even win a World Series — he will never be as adored in Boston as he was during his tenure with the Angels.
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