John Lackey's terrible season for the Boston Red Sox just got a lot worse. His 6.14 ERA, -1.2 WAR, three starts out of 28 taken into the 8th inning, 203 hits in 160 innings, and 15 million dollar salary was bad enough. The numbers alone paint the picture of one of the biggest disasters to take a baseball field since these. Late Sunday night, Lackey's troubles went beyond the diamond to a whole new level. Gossip site TMZ reported he was divorcing his wife Krista, who just happens to be battling breast cancer at the moment.
Before TMZ posted the story, Lackey lashed out at the media after his Sunday start in an extra innings Red Sox win. He blamed "one of you in the media" for sending him a text about a personal situation before the game. Video of Lackey's incredibly awkward postgame press conference below...
With the news of Lackey's divorce, his popularity and likeability factor is already taking a massive hit, if it wasn't low enough to begin with. Any headline involving a separation or scandal with a cancer stricken wife is a death blow to your public image. Just ask this guy.
Does John Lackey have a point though? Can't he just be criticized solely on his crappiness as a pitcher and not his supposed crappiness as a human being...
The fact that Lackey's professional career (and perhaps his personal life) are crumbling in Boston is merely correlation and not causation. (Hey, I am putting all those statistics classes to some use after all!) News of his divorce didn't come from the Globe or Herald, but TMZ Sports. The only thing the Boston media has to do with it is being at his locker after the game. Barry Petchesky thoroughly debunked this myth yesterday at Deadspin.
The larger question is this - should Lackey's divorce even be in the news at all? Does he have a point to attack "one of you in the media" for unprofessionally texting him before Sunday's game? Ethically, perhaps the answer is yes. Who am I to make a judgment on John Lackey's character from reading a few paragraphs from a site like TMZ? Surely, nobody knows the whole story regarding Lackey's divorce and the reasoning therein. It's very easy to jump to conclusions when you read a story about a multimillion dollar pitcher filing for divorce from a woman with cancer. That sounds really, really, really bad at first glance.
But while it might not be fair to jump to conclusions in Lackey's case, in the reality of 2011 his divorce is going to be uncovered by somebody. That ugly headline is going to be made public. More and more is being uncovered about the personal lives of athletes. Lackey only has to ask Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Shaquille O'Neal, and many others about that experience. Hell, we have video of Tom Brady attempting to dance in Brazil and that made the rounds as news.
If TMZ didn't get a hold of the story, someone else would have. So while John Lackey can get upset over a text message and his divorce becoming public, he has to know that he's already fighting a losing battle. Even five years ago, perhaps this story would never see the light of day. Athletes everywhere are going to have to adjust to the vast number of outlets that are trying to further remove any veil of privacy. In the age of TMZ, Twitter, Youtube, Deadspin, and more investigative reporting elsewhere, being in the spotlight as a professional athlete is only intensifying. It may make athletes and even some fans uncomfortable, but it's the times we now reside in today.