While the Boston Red Sox are surrounded by uncertainty right now, the one thing we know for sure (and this won't be very comforting to most of you) is that John Lackey is going to be in the Sox rotation next season.
There's no way around it. He's not going to get cut, not with all the money still owed to him. No GM is crazy enough to bring his 6+ ERA and his gigantic bag of antics to their squad -- regardless of how much money Henry is willing to eat in the deal. He's ours. Next year and beyond. The proverbial albatross around our necks. Our punishment for trying a little too hard, and a little too successfully, to emulate the Yankees.
We could look back at his 2011 season (Spoiler Alert: He was God-Awful), but that won't do anybody any good. It's time we turn the page and start looking ahead.
What I write next is going to shock you: I'm excited for the 2012 version of John Lackey. I know, I know. I've espoused nothing but Lackey hate all season long. I've laughed at, and shared the "We should send Seal Team 6 to the Lackey Compound Next" jokes. It doesn't get much more venomous than that.
But the way I look at it, John Lackey's offseason can only go one of two ways. With all the turmoil, anger and frustration in his life, he is either going to turn to baseball, whip his ass into shape and come to Spring Training with a laser-like focus. Or, and I'm not sure which of these I'd rather have, he's going to spend the summer on his ass, drinking himself into oblivion every night and turn into a real-life Kenny Powers. Let's face it, he's practically there now (follow this link and tell me you couldn't see Lackey saying every single one of those sentences). It's not a stretch to see him making the full transition.
As a Red Sox fan, I want the former. During the Tito-Theo press conference, they both addressed Lackey and essentially stated that they would leave "no stone unturned" (read: mental and physical) to try to get Lackey back to the pitcher he was. But he's got a few months before that happens. A few months where he's going to be on his own, left to deal with all the personal drama that surely played a role in his awful, historically bad, 2011 season.
That might not be the worst thing for him. Ideally, I see him settling his marriage and then renting a cabin in Siberia, getting away from everybody and everything, and reenacting the Rocky 4 training montage daily until he whips his ass into shape. While that's obviously a little absurd, what he needs is to just get away from the media and his "fans" and just have some John-time.
If he so chooses, and you have to think he has some baseball left in that arm, he could be THE comeback story of the 2012 season. 'John Lackey, pitching like a champ, leading the Red Sox back to the postseason' is a realistic storyline we could be looking at a year from now.
But to get there, he's going to have to be a little less Kenny Powers and a little more Rocky.