Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox officially signed John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million dollar deal in December of 2009. Lackey was largely considered the best free agent pitcher on the market that offseason, and adding his arm to a rotation that already included Jon Lester and Josh Beckett made Boston a serious contender for best rotation in the league.
Lackey was coming off a few very solid seasons for the Angels, however things didn’t exactly go as planned right away in Boston. He was really just mediocre in his first season in a Sox uniform going 14-11 and a 4.40 ERA. Then in 2011, in the midst of a mega collapse that would see the Sox get knocked out of the playoffs in the final weeks of season, Lackey would find himself amongst the players in the “chicken and beer” controversy which the fans said symbolized Boston’s nonchalant attitude. Lackey would go on to miss all of 2012 after having Tommy John surgery in the offseason.
After those three seasons, it would be logical to step back and ask how Lackey finds himself on this list. Well, everyone loves a good story of redemption, and that’s just what happened in 2013. Lackey returned as the number two starter behind Lester and provided a steady, reliable arm with veteran leadership that helped lead the Sox to become World Series champs. In many fans’ eyes, his contribution to a world champion team erased all of the ill will that had snowballed over the prior few seasons.
Lackey was solid in 2014 as well, but in the final year of his deal with the Sox tumbling to last place, the team decided to part ways at the trade deadline in a deal that sent Lackey to St. Louis. Still, that 2013 tam that caught lightning in a bottle was a lovable bunch, and John Lackey was a big reason for their success. You can’t argue with champions.
Next: Mike Napoli