“Everything in My Life Sucks Right Now.”

It can be easy to forget that major-league baseball players are also human beings.  We watch them every night on television, read numerous articles about them on a daily basis, and treat them like commodities when discussing roster moves with fellow fans. We pay large sums of money for something as silly as their autograph, and we adorn our backs with their names and numbers. Many of these players we’ve idolized since childhood and put on a pedestal; they don’t seem to exist on the same plane as us everyday fans, but are something higher and greater.

But when you stop to think about it, this is a load of bollocks: ball players are regular people just like the rest of us. In fact, their lives aren’t necessarily all that great. Sure, they get loads of money if they reach the majors, but there are lots of costs to pursuing professional baseball as a career. Many of them aren’t as well educated, as they have to put so much time into baseball and are normally drafted before finishing college (and sometimes, before even starting college). Baseball is their career and life, but that means they have to kick around in the minors, spend half of their year traveling from place to place and living in hotels, and become mini-celebrities whether they want to or not. Ball players are watched by thousands of people while performing their job, and their success or failure is talked about and dissected by even more people. And if you want to have a family, talk about a stressful life; from mid-February to early October every year you become a vagabond and get to see your wife and kids infrequently. Being a baseball player ain’t all sunshine and lollipops, that’s for sure.

So when I heard John Lackey’s now infamous quote Thursday — “Everything in my life sucks right now” — my heart went out to him. Here’s a person whose world is crumbling all around him. Not only is he failing at his job at an epic level, but he’s had personal issues crop up over the last year: his wife is battling breast cancer at the moment, and the couple suffered a miscarriage only a little more than a year ago. And for all we know, Lackey could have even more on his plate; these are just the details of Lackey’s personal life that have been made public.

This is probably the most obvious statement in the world, but Red Sox — if you’re out there, you need to give Lackey a break. As someone that’s worked closely with cancer families, you simply can’t underestimate the stress that cancer can have on a family.

I doubt there’s one person out there reading this article that hasn’t had someone in their family or among their close friends affected by cancer. Sadly, in the day and age we live in, it’s becoming increasingly commonplace for people to come down with a form of cancer. But even though we’re becoming slowly desensitized to cancer, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an incredibly scary thing to hear that someone you love has been diagnosed. Even if the prognosis is good and they catch it early — which it sounds like the case is with Lackey’s wife — those three words (“You have cancer”) can throw your entire world into chaos.

It’s difficult for people to understand unless you’ve been through it yourself, but having someone in your family diagnosed with cancer (or any serious disease, to be honest) instantly changes everything. All of a sudden, you don’t exist in the normal day-to-day world you did before; your priorities are thrown on their head and everything is focused in and around the cancer. It’s almost like you’re stepping out of your life and into an entirely different mindset; while before you may have been focused on career goals and saving up money for that larger house or big screen television, now all you can see is beating the disease. Budgets get changed, your life gets dictated by the chemo schedule, and you simply do what you need to do to get through the next day, the next week, the next month.

While this can be stressful enough in a normal household, I can only imagine what it’s like for a major leaguer. Lackey is traveling around the country on a weekly basis, and considering his wife is being treated in California, who knows how often he gets to see her. Each of us has developed coping skills throughout life that help us get through stressful times, but even these will only get us so far without support…and judging from Lackey’s comments after his last start, it sounds as though he’s at or near his breaking point.

Because here’s the thing: even though it doesn’t feel like it to him, there are positive things in Lackey’s life right now. I don’t know his wife’s diagnosis or prognosis – so things may be worse than we know — it was originally reported that her cancer was caught early, which is always a good sign. And while being a major leaguer means he’s forced to be away from his wife right now, it’s also provided him with a huge comfort: a guaranteed $15.5 million salary for this year. He also probably has a good health insurance policy, so between that and his salary, he can guarantee that his wife is getting the best possible care and treatment. Unlike so many other families having to deal with cancer, he doesn’t have to worry about medical expenses. He doesn’t have to worry about not being insured when diagnosed. He doesn’t have to worry about losing his salary because his boss fires him. He doesn’t have to contemplate selling his house to make medical expenses. Money and job security are almost always the largest stresses that affect cancer families, and those are two areas Lackey doesn’t need to worry about.

Please don’t take that statement as a criticism of Lackey – I’m not trying to suggest he has it “easier” than other cancer families and that he’s being a wimp, as his life as a major leaguer adds in so many unique stressors. All I’m saying is that Lackey has some reasons to look up and be thankful; it’s just he can’t see those right now since his coping skills seem to be stretched to their breaking point. He needs time away to destress — to spend some time with his wife and escape out of the public eye for a stretch of time. The time away may or may not help his performance, but regardless, some things are more important than baseball.

Cancer can have the odd effect of turning people into optimists, as it’s too easy to look on the negatives so you find your gaze constantly fixed on the small, daily things you have to be thankful for. John Lackey isn’t at that point yet, and I hope the Red Sox offer him all the support and understanding they can in order to help him through.

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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

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everdiso
Member
everdiso

If he wasn’t such a dick, maybe more people would care.

big fat (ugly and prickish) baby

My echo and bunnymen
Guest
My echo and bunnymen

Yeah, I’m not a fan of the man. But that steps aside when it becomes focused on someone I harbor no ill will towards, his wife.

Baron Samedi
Member
Baron Samedi

Criticisms of Lackey and his attitude can be made without maligning his wife. Many professional athletes have had to cope with adversity without lashing out at the media and other competitors.

everdiso
Member
everdiso

Lackey’s not the only major leaguer to have a loved one suffer serious illness or tragedy. I know many of us have suffered through loved ones getting sick or suffering tragedy – except most of us don’t have an $82m contract to fall back on, and actually need to continue performing our jobs well.

Don’t get suckered by his “poor me” schtick – this is a guy who’s become an expert in passing the buck and never accepting responsibility for his poor performance.

LexDiamonds
Guest
LexDiamonds

Fuck the heck, dude?

How does his contract have anything to do with his wife having breast cancer?

$82,000,000 /= immortality.

everdiso
Member
everdiso

you’re right. Lackey’s the ONLY player in baseball to face any personal difficulties involving loved ones, and therefore deserves to get a pass for failing to perform (while on one of the biggest contracts in baseball to boot), and deserves a pass for being one of the biggest pricks in baseball.

my bad.

My echo and bunnymen
Guest
My echo and bunnymen

Maybe y’all don’t understand the point of the article and the fact that his past actions don’t matter and we should just let him handle his business while not bringing him down further?

Baron Samedi
Member
Baron Samedi

Lackey had some pretty unkind things to say about John McDonald.

everdiso
Member
everdiso

Lackey: “Everybody’s had success with him in the past. You can’t give hits to him when you’ve got other guys in the lineup that can hurt you.”

what McDonald should have replied: “Everybody has success against Lackey. I’m not surprised I had a big night against him, and I’d be embarassed if I hadn’t been able to hit him as hard as everyone else does.”

Sam
Guest
Sam

Most of those comments were really Lackey blaming himself. It was badly done for sure, but I don’t think he meant the comments as a way to piss off McDonald, but were instead about him. He’s clearly beating himself up about his performance, but he’s got too much pride to admit he’s been making mistakes. I’m not defending him, just saying that I don’t think the comments were meant to be malicious. Instead he’s just being pushed past his breaking point, and that’s his own way of criticizing himself.

mattymatty2000
Guest

I don’t know if you can be banned from commenting at Fan Graphs or not, but if you can, everdisco should for that comment. What a horrible thing to say, especially in response to the specific article. Just… wow.

zorob
Guest
zorob

here here

My echo and bunnymen
Guest
My echo and bunnymen

here here, ni.

doctorogres
Guest

People will have their reactions, and I don’t think that everdisco’s is invalid just because he’s insensitive (his later posts, the first one is pretty much trolling). These people make ridiculous amounts of money doing something they love, and the devil’s end of that bargain is that they undergo intense scrutiny in every aspect of their life, work and personal, and few people have sympathy for that sacrifice.

On the other hand, if you’re commenting on this blog you’re already tacitly supporting a field where the LOWEST an employee can be paid is over $400k. In a sense baseball is blue collar people paying to watch millionaires play a game of leisure. Being a fan means, to a certain degree, a willing suspension of disbelief with regard to salaries. It’s always a valid comment on any article about a major leaguer underperforming, but it also adds absolutely nothing to the conversation since as fans we’ve already accepted this bizarre where Victor Martinez is insulted by someone offering to pay him $20 million for 2 years of work.

Anyway, I don’t know why I was motivated to comment on this, because I really never comment on Fan Graphs articles. Maybe because I love your blog (Red Sox Beacon, check it out ya’ll). Maybe because in my heart of hearts I do agree with everdisco, that in the overall scheme of things a professional baseball player is doing pretty damn well and we can save our sympathy for people who are actually facing bankruptcy, homelessness, and unemployment in the face of a major illness. Maybe because something about Lackey’s off-hand comment, “Pretty much everything in my life sucks right now,” felt shockingly personal, the unvarnished truth. I really heard the human behind the sound bite.

Luckily, baseball is always going to be about baseball, precisely because such huge amounts of money are involved. No matter what the problem is, if Lackey is underperforming he’ll be put on the DL to get himself straightened out. And I hope he does, because cancer sucks and should lose.

johngomes
Member
johngomes

rumor has it theo epstein never watched an angels home game pass the third inning, he went to sleep. pass his bedtime. it was a bad signing and anyone who paid attention to lackey knew it.

Rob
Guest
Rob

I believe the word you are looking for is, “passed.”

Internet20
Member
Internet20

or, you know, “past.” smartypants.

Guy
Guest
Guy

It was a bad signing for sure, but that’s not what the article’s about.

Kirkwood
Member
Kirkwood

“rumor has it”

jeff
Guest
jeff

Excuse me, who are you and how do you know John Lackey? I think you’re the dick and probably uglier. Wow.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Cold hearted fuckwads

We shouldn feel empathy towords someone who is going through real tragedy because he makes a lot of money and can be a jerk sometimes?

Please go away.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

I’m confused. The name at the top of the comment says “everdiso”, but then he signs it “big fat (ugly and prickish) baby”…
Which one is his real name?

Small Sample Goodness
Guest
Small Sample Goodness

Congrats on the posting the worst comment in FG history.

Texas_Dawg
Member
Texas_Dawg

Troll hard, everdiso. Troll hard.

jaywrong
Member
jaywrong

everdiso,

based on what you’ve said, i really can’t argue with what you are saying.

in fact, since you already have being a prick down, i would like you to have 82 million dollars, and then have your wife get cancer and a miscarriage.

if you don’t have a wife, i hope it happens to someone you love or you yourself. afterall, you’ll have all that money to fall back on.

everdiso
Member
everdiso

You guys are all correct – I am a prick.

But sorry, you’re not allowed to call me out for it because I too have loved ones with cancer.

fredsbank
Guest
fredsbank

wow that has more minuses than any 2-3 generic articles combined get comments at all.

csawce
Guest
csawce

How often do you hear, “I would give it all up just too…”. I am sure you could put Lackey into that group.