Wednesday, January 13, 2010

John Lackey: Playing to Win

When I was in high school, my field hockey coach had a saying for every occasion, which my teammates and I jokingly termed "Keeley-isms." They were just little quotes that could inspire or motivate, but they've stuck with me. There was one in particular that we would hear at halftime, and it kept us working at 110% throughout the second half: "Play to win. Don't play not to lose."

On the surface, it might seem like it comes to the same thing: if you've won, you haven't lost, and if you haven't lost, you've won. However, the mindset is completely different: if it's field hockey, being up by six goals at the halfway mark can make you complacent (typical field hockey scores are 1-0, 2-1, etc.), but the idea of playing to win keeps you pushing for that extra goal, it keeps you hustling back on defense, and it keeps you doing everything you can to beat the other team. In baseball, of course, there's no clock. The game isn't over until the last batter is out, and so playing to win is of the utmost importance. Baseball teams routinely come from behind to win, scoring as many as twelve runs (1911 Tigers and 1925 Athletics) to seize victory.

So why bring this up now? Well, as I was perusing today's baseball stories I stumbled across a profile about John Lackey written by the estimable Amalie Benjamin, with the following quote from Lackey's former manager, Mike Scioscia:

“John is not afraid to fail. He’s not going out there afraid to lose."

Benjamin goes on to capture the extreme confidence and high expectations that Lackey has for himself:

"[He] elicits a 'Never’ from his former manager when asked if Lackey ever has felt he was ready to be taken out of a game. [He's] the guy who is unyielding as a pitcher, unwilling to give an inch from the confidence that he can and should always win."

In short, Lackey is the guy playing to win. Every day. And because he is a pitcher in the American League, all he can do is take th
e ball, holding on to it as long as possible. Lackey is not playing for a no-decision; he's playing for that W, every time. Lackey joins Jon Lester and Josh Beckett in a rotation that always wants the ball, and never plays "not to win." I know some of you weren't the biggest Lackey fans while he was playing out in Anaheim, and you may have questioned Theo's decision to bring him to Boston, but he sounds like a great guy to have on your team. I know Amalie Benjamin wouldn't write a profile bashing the Sox's highest profile acquisition, but she's really sold me on Lackey. If he has half the character she describes in her piece (fierce competitor, great clubhouse personality, community guy), I'm thrilled to have him.

So is it time for baseball, yet?

On a semi-related note, don't these two look similar? Do the Angels actively TRY to acquire weird-looking players?

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