First awarded in 1975 to Fred Lynn, “The 10th Player Award” is given annually to the member of the Red Sox who has gone “above and beyond” and “most exceeded expectations.”
The "Negative 10th Player” is no different. He exceeds expectations, overwhelms fans and provides the unexpected all season – just in the wrong direction. With a bloated payroll, a slew of injuries, mysterious strains, pulls, broken middle fingers and a schizophrenic bullpen – the Red Sox were loaded this year with potential candidates.
Past winners of this fictional, non-existent-until-this-year award include Mike Torrez, Jack Clark, Matt Young, Larry Andersen (in honor of Jeff Bagwell), Matt Clement, Eric Gagne, Julio Lugo and – in the Lifetime Achievement Category – J.D. Drew.
Following months of sub-par play – we narrowed it down to 5 finalists in 2011 – Drew, John Lackey, Carl Crawford, Dice-K and general managerTheo Epstein. After more than 3,000 votes – you have spoken. The winner in a landslide is - with roughly 50 percent of the vote - John Lackey.
Lackey’s $82.5 million dollar contract made him an easy target from the start. The good news – Lackey (12-12, 6.49 ERA) finally broke the 100-strikeout barrier after 26 starts. His glove-slapping reactions and snarky looks don’t help. His road to 2011 redemption hit a few more potholes Monday night at Fenway against the Orioles as he gave up 8 runs and 11 hits in just 4 1/3 innings.
Here’s what you had to say via the message boards, e-mail and Facebook during the campaign. (Comments have been edited for space and content.)
In casting his vote for Lackey, MJKJRMRYAZ (message board) posted: “With due respect to what Lackey has dealt with this year, he was a signing I never understood from the beginning. He never pitched well in Boston or against the other AL East teams…”
Added Robert T. , of Freedom, Pa., via e-mail: “Without a doubt (Lackey) is the biggest bum to come to Boston since Torrez. Crawford and Drew are mega-disappointments but they do occasionally get a big hit or make a big play in the field. Lackey is just a big, strutting, loudmouthed, obnoxious Texan who HAS to be the luckiest guy in the world given his contract. I’d trade him for Lugo and throw in the (money) to make up the difference.”
Another Lackey supporter, David C. , of Glen Cove, N.Y. e-mailed: “Lackey, at this point, shouldn't make the playoff roster - assuming Erik Bedard comes back. There isn't a worse pitcher in the league… Lackey wishes he was as good as (A.J.) Burnett…I understand if (Lackey) has personal issues to worry about, but he is this bad, if it affects him this much, he should not be starting.”
Janet W. (Facebook) offered: “I gotta go with Shell-Lackey. Makes me want to stock up on a Costco size case of antacids...”
dbmedia (message board) summed up the campaign like this: “Drew? No, he is a rock in RF, plays hard, doesn't whine…Crawford? No, all you have to do is watch the You Tube video of him training in the offseason, the man wants to be very good very badly…Dice-K? Maybe, but Sox brass and management never did figure out how to handle the kid …Theo? Nope, he doesn't wear a uniform, pitch, bat or throw. All he can do is study, negotiate, research and then go ask John Henry for the money… Lackey? I was on his side until I continually see him "diss" his own teammates on the playing field when they make an error or just miss making a highlight-reel play. He has got to be the most unpopular guy in the clubhouse, which is OK to be, if you have an ERA of 3.”
Drew a “rock”? Did I miss something?
Crawford’s underachievement was magnified by a $144 million, 7-year deal deal. When the Red Sox had their fat-and-happy lead a few weeks ago, Crawford’s lack of meaningful contribution went virtually unnoticed. Now, he’s being noticed. And he drew some passionate support.
John T. of Chelmsford, who said he's been a Red Sox season ticket holder for 15 years, e-mailed: “We knew what we had with Dice-K and Drew at the start of the year. Without a doubt Crawford is the biggest bust of the year...Theo really screwed up on this one. C.C. makes Lackey look like an ace. There has been no part of his game that has met our expectations. He should give the money back ... Not only has C.C. not hit, he has been awful in the outfield and he has been a non-factor on the basepaths when he's on first and we need someone in scoring position, He's chatting with the opposition first basemen about his stock portfolio. The guy can't even hit in the two hole. We had such expectations for his speed and defense, he's a shadow of the player he was in Tampa Bay.”
Steve V. (Facebook) gave Crawford the nod as well, posting: " ...Watching him play in Tampa (showed) that he's a medium-market team (player)… We're stuck with him so hopefully, he turns it around in the playoffs or most likely, next season.”
Drew’s broken middle finger remains a fitting tribute in many respects.
Jim G., of Hatfield, Pa., offered this impassioned plea for the beleaguered right fielder via e-mail: “Crawford and Lackey haven't been here long enough and Dice-K certainly didn't live up to his expectations ... Drew came here as a 5-tool player that was supposed to be a 25-HR, 100-RBI a year guy. What we got was a soft, average player ... Putting the stats and salary aside for a second. What really bothers me about this guy is his softness ... Countless "tweaks" and "aches" have sidelined this paper-tiger …This guy has been a bum since the day he arrived...”
Jim H. (Facebook) also went with Drew: “I believe we have seen the last of Drew, and he will not be missed.”
Meanwhile, Theo signed all our other finalists, not to mention Bobby Jenks.
That point was not lost on goob123 (message board), who posted: “Lackey, Crawford, Dice-K, Drew, Jenks? When was his last good FA signing? ... This is on Theo ... totally overrated GM.”
atnikos (message board) also went with Theo: “ Lackey type year … Who brought him and signed him? That's why Theo should win ... another one of his free agent signings that's a bust ...”
Finally, e-mailer BGD560SL of Naples, Fla., split his ballot: “It’s a tie … Crawford and Epstein. (During his days with the Tampa Bay Rays) C.C. was … an intriguing player; very athletic; a plus defensive guy; great speed; with an ability to spray the ball to all fields. But he was never a power guy at the plate, nor was he the guy counted on the get the game’s key hit (and) he was never asked to play in a pressure-cooker … Does any of the above warrant one of the highest salaries in baseball? Of course not! ...Who is responsible for this? None other than that brilliant young general manager - Theo Epstein. Such an impressive recognition of negativity!”
“Such an impressive recognition of negativity.”
We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.
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