John Lackey, Carl Crawford Symbols of Red Sox’ Recent Issues With Free-Agent Signings

TJohn Lackey, Carl Crawford Symbols of Red Sox' Recent Issues With Free-Agent Signingshe problems with Carl Crawford and John Lackey are two-fold.

Both will go down as symbols of the 2011 Red Sox in the sense that neither lived up to expectations, or even came close. They also represent one specific issue that the organization, and every fan for that matter, has identified as one that needs to be addressed.

"When speaking about things that aren't exactly the way we want them to be in this organization, our decision-making process on expensive free agents, big-ticket free agents, has not been satisfactory," general manager Theo Epstein said in his annual end-of-the-season news conference with manager Terry Francona. "Not at all."

Crawford was signed in the offseason to a seven-year, $142 million contract, but fell woefully short of living up to such standards in his first season. He hit a career-low .255 with a measly .289 on-base percentage, also a new low. The burner stole just 18 bases and looked nothing like the 2010 Gold Glove Award winner when in the field.

Lackey, signed two offseasons ago to a five-year, $82.5 million deal, was far less serviceable, establishing historically poor numbers and drawing loads of attention for some awkward and intense rants with the media.

They are added to a list of marginally successful free agents (at best) that have come in under Epstein's watch, but they are perhaps the two most notable, expected to be lynchpins of a team for the ages but instead a big part of what dragged the club down.

Because of their salaries, Crawford and Lackey probably aren't going anywhere. There's speculation that Lackey will be shipped somewhere along with many, many millions of dollars to help out his new team with the payments. That's easier said than done, especially if the ownership looks at the wasted dollars on prior free agents and the millions locked up in several other players for years to come and decides it doesn't want to eat any more money.

That's where the organization has to swallow hard, and work even harder to get these guys back to where they are consistent contributors to the cause. Epstein began detailing that process with Lackey.

"As far as rehabilitating John Lackey, I think it's a big priority for obvious reasons and we have to attack it from a physical perspective, see if there's things we can do with him physically to put himself in a better position to have success on the mound," Epstein said. "We have to attack it from a fundamental standpoint. There are obviously things we can do differently with him fundamentally to get his stuff and his command back to where it was, and then from a mental standpoint."

As for Lackey's notable body language, which so often seems to show up teammates, that's something that will be difficult to change, even if the club wanted to.

"I don't think you can put in a guy's contract that he's going to make a certain amount of money he can't roll his eyes," Francona said. "I don't think guys in the clubhouse have a problem with Lack, nor do I. I think we certainly wish it would have gone better on the mound. But I've never had a problem with Lack at all."

Epstein added that Lackey's eye-rolling and demonstrative nature is something the organization will "continue to work on."

Crawford’s issues are not as severe, for he's such an athletically gifted player whose season was not a downright disaster, even if it was not good. There is plenty of time for him to turn the signing into a positive.

Finding that formula will also be high on the list this winter.

"As with Lackey I think getting Carl back to what he's been previously in his career is a requisite for us this winter," Epstein said. "We've spent a lot of time thinking about it and we're going to spend more time thinking about it and we'll get together with him and put our heads together and see what can be done."

"Again, I think he has taken, as we mentioned with Beckett after one of his off years, he has taken responsibility for it, which I think it's the first step. When I'm truly troubled about a player long term, who I know is still talented, is when that player denies that there's an issue. He says, "I had a good year" and won't look in the mirror, and Carl has taken full and very public responsibility for having a very disappointing year, and he did. I think that's the first step, and then the next step is, well, what are you going to do about it? We're not going to abandon him. We're gonna work with him if it takes all off-season or if it takes backing away and then addressing it later on in the off-season. We'll do whatever it takes to get him back to being the player that he was. It's going to be very important for us going forward."

As is making sure of things before throwing a lot of money at a big-ticket name.

Picked For You