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  1. nice work here

    Comment by Eric — September 26, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  2. I don’t blame him extra for his wife’s illness. Yeah it’s traumatic but it looks like she’s going to live and she got her breats replaced I’m assuming. In my mind the cancer and the divorce are seperate issues.

    Yes you are supposed to stick through the marriage no matter what, and it doesn’t matter if you’re up to the task or not. That’s a strike against, but whatever, people get divorced all the time.

    Comment by Joeiq — September 26, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  3. By the way, I love the angle you take here. The statistical approach.

    Comment by Joeiq — September 26, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

  4. I’m not sure if analyzing Lackey’s personal life is completely appropriate, but apart from that, good and interesting article. I wholeheartedly agree that every relationship and marriage is different, and that we have no right to criticize Lackey for his personal decisions. For all we know, their relationship was harmful for his wife’s emotional health, and the divorce is actually a blessing in disguise for her.

    I think the last few paragraphs are spot-on as well. Teams need to realize what kind of emotional state their players are in and seek counseling for them if they need it. Just because they are being paid millions doesn’t mean they are happy (in fact, I would almost argue that it makes one less happy after a point). And as much as we dislike bringing “intangibles” into the equation here at FanGraphs, the fact of the matter is that a player’s head is an important part of their game, and if they aren’t in the right mindset, no amount of physical ability will be able to overcome that.

    Comment by Matt — September 26, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

  5. Agree that the Sox should’ve done more.
    For a nice pick-me-up, and a strong challenge to any husbands out there…here’s a man who was a seminary president, had tons of “good work” to do, but left it all to care for his wife who had Alzheimer’s. That’s commitment.

    Comment by Don G — September 26, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  6. Question: If John Lackey played on any other team but the Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies or Mets would anyone care that he is getting divorced? If Lackey was playing for the Twins, would national writers,the so called “World Wide Leader” and in this case a website dedicated to statistical analysis devote anytime to this story.

    Answer: Most assuredly NO!

    Focusing on these stories only further illustrates the notion that in the Baseball world it is the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies and than everyone else.

    C’mon Fangraphs I thought you were better than that.

    Comment by Brent — September 26, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  7. I had the opposite thought about the Sox. The easy thing to do would have been to demote him, or put him on the 60 day DL. Instead they stuck by him, which was baseball-stupid, but humane.

    I also have the opposite opinion about the divorce, too. He could have waited till she was in remission to file divorce papers – they could have done a separation first, or something less drastic. Instead this seems cruel, especially in light of one small fact you left out: He has a nice prenup agreement.
    Who knows how she’ll pay her medical bills, now?

    Comment by mettle — September 26, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

  8. Congratulations. I would bet this article is more thought out and thoughtful than 99% of the articles being written on this subject. When people get divorced it is rarely the result of one thing. Usually there have been many problems for a long time.

    Athletes also probably have a higher rate of divorce. They have more opportunities to cheat and spend more time away from home than most men.

    Comment by MikeS — September 26, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

  9. How do we know the Red Sox haven’t been sending him to a team-sponsored psychiatrist? Or that they offered and he instead refused? There are a lot of people who actively prefer to get through their problems by sticking to their tried and true routine. The Red Sox are notoriously one of the most tight-lipped organizations in professional sports, and I don’t think you or anyone outside the organization knows what kind of help was given or offered to Lackey by the team.

    If anyone is the villain, it’s hackish news sites like TMZ that post personal things about celebrities and then assail them publicly.

    Comment by Michael Scarn — September 26, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

  10. You lost me with the post-facto criticism of the Red Sox’s actions, or what you perceive as their lack thereof. We don’t know what they did internally; what if they did hire a shrink, who then suggested the course of action they ended up taking? We’re allowing the results of their efforts — continued poor (and unlucky, it should be noted) pitching — to retrospectively form our idea of the process that went into it. If they had sat him for the rest of the season, and he came back next year and still sucked, it would be just as easy, and justified, to criticize that course of action as well. It is impossible to identify the “correct” course of action with as much information as the involved parties had, not to mention with the miniscule amount of information we as observers have.

    I too laud the Royals (and Reds) for their efforts in dealing with mental health issues, and also hope the industry continues to do better in this regard. But applying any kind of wide brush to the methods utilized by individual teams in individual cases is foolhardy and anti-epistemological. We have no evidence the Red Sox didn’t do the best they could in this situation, or that Lackey would have had a better time of it professionally or personally had they done anything differently. Studying statistics as we do has done quite a bit to illuminate those things we can know, but more importantly it’s made us all aware of those areas in which our access to information is scant and frustratingly inconclusive. You stepped into one of those areas here, IMO.

    Comment by Diesel — September 26, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

  11. Joeiq,

    I’m not taking a swipe at you, but just for general educational purposes, breast reconstruction surgery is a long, painful, difficult, process. Our best outcomes still leave considerable disfigurement. They are multistage surgeries. Some of them require removing skin and muscle from the abdomen or actually carving out the lattisimus muscle and the skin covering it and tunneling it under the armpit to place over the pectoralis muscle. The blood supply to these flaps often fail and the tissue dies. Placing implants is also not easy. It usually requires multiple surgeries, painful expansion of tissue, and is often complicated by infection. It is not slick like a typical boob job because the anatomy is no longer normal. I was surprised, myself, how difficult it was for breast reconstruction. But after I stood witness to so much struggle, pain, and devastating failures, I understand it’s not a trivial thing.

    Comment by CardinalRules — September 26, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

  12. I agree completely, that -if anyone- is the villain, it’s the Red Sox. If is the key word, because as Michael Scarn (haha :P) noted, we don’t know what they tried to do. But it’s indisputable that they kept sending him out there to pitch instead of giving him time off like Grienke got, so that’s something. I feel for John and his ex-wife; while I can’t believe that his struggles are wholly connected to his personal life, I think it’s something Red Sox should have at least considered more fully, and tried to deal with. Plus, if they had given him time on the DL for these issues, Boston might have been able/willing to get more than one starting arm at the deadline, thus really helping them in this final push.

    Comment by Sam — September 26, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  13. TMZ is certainly shit, but they’re just giving people what they want.

    Comment by Notrotographs — September 26, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

  14. Kinda sounds like this should be two articles?? One on the validity or morality of Lackey’s entirely too public problems, which I can’t say makes much sense to be writing on Fangraphs. The other being the slightly delved into idea that the MLB is not doing its best to maintain the mental health of their players, at least at a level that they are at with a player’s physical health. Would have liked to heard more about that and less about why or why not he is or should be divorcing, which is none of our damn business

    Comment by Kyle — September 26, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

  15. Yeah, this isn’t one of those Carlos Pena is actually a decent player things…

    What he did was just awful and you shouldn’t defend it. Who cares about the stress?

    Would you be writing this if Dave Cameron’s wife left him?

    I hope he gets slaughtered in court–it’s not like he deserved the money, anyway.

    Comment by Michael F — September 26, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

  16. Pass

    Comment by CircleChange11 — September 26, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

  17. If a baseball player says, “Everything in my life sucks right now,” I think that’s a rather serious quote that I’d expect to make headlines no matter who said it. If Lackey was on the Twins, sure, I wouldn’t expect this story to be such a big of a deal. But that doesn’t mean that no one would talk about it. Besides, if you spin it like TMZ did, then many more people – like we are, and Hardball Talk, ESPN, etc. – would talk about it.

    Comment by Bryz — September 26, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

  18. Lackey did go on the DL shortly after his “everything in my life sucks right now” quote. It was for his “elbow”, but I think everyone saw it as a mental break.

    Comment by Sean — September 26, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

  19. Just cuz someone has cancer, doesn’t mean they’re not a skanky ho-bag.

    Comment by shthar — September 26, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

  20. It seems trivial to me when the alternative is death. Then again, I haven’t experienced breast cancer first hand, but it seems like someone who has stared death in the face would feel like I do.

    Comment by BlackOps — September 26, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

  21. I was also surprised by the depth and the topic. I thought it was going to be “till death do us part” about a fan and his team, at what point do you consider your team dead and non-adulterous fanhood of another team is permitted?

    Comment by gdc — September 26, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

  22. Just cuz there’s anonymity, doesn’t mean being a jackass is acceptable.

    Comment by Notrotographs — September 26, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  23. Last year, Pablo Sandoval had a poor season while also going through a divorce and it was barely publicized at all. Of course, I don’t think that divorce had the cancer/illness element to it, nor did it have TMZ coverage. He was also quite overweight.

    That being said, these guys are PROFESSIONALS. They should not be letting their personal issues affect their job performance.

    Comment by Braves Fan — September 26, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  24. Anyone who is paid to do something and expected to do that job in a specialized manner is considered a “professional”. Would you argue that anyone else (regardless of the intense public pressure to perform they may or may not face) that lets personal issues affect their job performance is not acting in a rational manner?

    Comment by Jason — September 26, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

  25. And even if they do, I can’t see criticizing a team for declining to excuse them from the work they’re being paid to do either way. Not only are we unaware of what resources they made available to him, we don’t know (or have any reason to suspect otherwise) if John wanted a break. It seems entirely likely to me that when asked, he insisted that they let him keep pitching, that it was one of the few things in his life he was good at and could control and he needed to keep doing it.

    Turned out badly, but that by itself isn’t any reason to blame … anyone, really. But if you must, it falls on Lackey first and foremost.

    Comment by Welp — September 26, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

  26. He didn’t argue Lackey was acting irrationally, so why would you ask him that question?

    Most professionals don’t have guaranteed multimillion dollar contracts that will payout either way. We balance our priorities according to those conditions. It’s a bit different here.

    Even if we don’t expect professionals to be ABLE to stop personal issues from affecting their performance, I think the notion that they ought to do everything they can to prevent that is agreeable. I assume Lackey has done that.

    Comment by Welp — September 26, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

  27. Welp,

    The implication that they shouldn’t allow it to happen is what I mean by acting irrationally. That’s my mistake for not being clear. I agree with you in saying they should try everything they can to keep it from affecting their work, but asserting that it *shouldn’t* happen seems a bit demanding of anyone.

    Regardless of the pay involved, I would assume that something as devastating as a cancer diagnosis or a divorce would have some effect on any professional. It’s true that everyone handles things differently, but I would also assume that it would affect everyone to some degree.

    Comment by Jason — September 26, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

  28. Again, I was not clear, I meant that someone allowing personal issues to affect them when it’s assumed that they have tried to stop it from happening is is some way an irrational behavior is kind of odd.

    Sorry about that.

    Comment by Jason — September 26, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

  29. The personal marriage stuff is seedy but none of my business. It would be different if there had been a law violated. It’s between them.
    As to Lackey as a pitcher and teammate… this year… he sucks.

    Comment by algionfriddo — September 26, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

  30. I don’t know what is worse here, FG trolling to become the TMZ of the basement elite or too many replies voicing approval.

    Fucking ridiculous. Posts like this are sure to earn the respect of fans seeking the meaning of this new WAR stat being mentioned in awards talk.

    BTW, to be as much a dick as you all: No tatas, no deal.

    Comment by Sultan of Schwwingg — September 26, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

  31. This was the perfect way to handle the Lackey story. I almost skipped the post when I saw the topic, but you covered it respectfully and intelligently. The big picture was the right strategy to take. Very well done.

    Comment by mikecarlucci — September 26, 2011 @ 8:18 pm

  32. This article gave me a boner. Any takers?

    Comment by Shawn — September 26, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

  33. To BlackOps:
    It is obvious you have never had cancer nor would I believe anyone close to you ever has been diagnosed with the disease. There is nothing trivial about getting the types of reconstructive surgeries required to get a body back to normal functioning we all take for granted. How insensitive to call this trivial. Get back to me after you have dealt with getting tumors removed from your body, chemotherapy, and then getting chunks of your body removed from one site and moved to another. Numerous surgeries, hospital stays, years of your life taken from you, and possible complications PLEASE tell me if you still think it is so trivial.
    I hope you were just not thinking when you wrote this post and I pray you never have to go through anything like this in your life.

    P.S. I am sure John Lackey’s wife will be better off in the long run because he must not have loved her or he does not have the strength to stay and deal when things get hard….Boston should just accept they wasted tons of money on this guy and just cut him now-let him go back to LAA or wherever else he wants to go he has dragged this team down all year and is not a team player.

    Comment by Jamie799 — September 26, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

  34. Lame.

    Comment by JDanger — September 26, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

  35. BlackOps,

    I don’t know if you really intended to reply to me. My point was only that “and she got her breats replaced I’m assuming” doesn’t rightfully capture the difficult process of breast reconstruction. It’s not like you just take the old ones out and pop a new set in. Obviously the most important outcome is cancer-free survival. I just wanted to help the readership who did not understand the process know that it’s not a, “We chopped the cancer out, gave her a new rack, now she’s good-to-go” situation. I honestly was just as naive until I spent some time with breast cancer surgery and reconstruction.

    Comment by CardinalRules — September 26, 2011 @ 10:58 pm

  36. Bullshit. Nobody would care. Baseball is the Yanks, Sox, and Phillies. Any “successful” east coast team (in parenthesis because with the huge financial advantage they have they should be better) is going to get a lot more coverage.

    Not too many people cared about Greinke with the Royals. There are tons of other players that go through problems that no one cares about.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — September 26, 2011 @ 10:59 pm

  37. This article is ridiculously stupid. You could have just made the obvious point that we don’t know the situation so we should reserve all judgment. Instead you do some BS statistical analysis of divorces; you’re doing exactly the type of thing you criticize being done in the media (obsessing over a topic completely irrelevant to us and that is none of our business).

    Comment by John — September 26, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

  38. I was tempted to call this article tacky, but honestly if it were brought up on Howard Stern or the more outlandish baseball sites than I’d just find it interesting. That being said, really random article for FG.

    Can we get a statistical analyst on Anna Benson?

    Comment by Franco — September 26, 2011 @ 11:25 pm

  39. Dear John Lackey,

    I hope the bad shit you’re going through works out for you, because you’re a human being.

    Having said that, I think you’re a twerp and a shithead and a bum. Go jump in a lake. I hate you.


    A (possibly typical) Red Sox fan.

    Comment by Justin Bailey — September 26, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

  40. I agree with your hypothesis that all this added stress in Lackey’s life (between personal and his pitching) probably led to a greater chance for divorce and that we shouldn’t delve into personal matters for pro-athletes because it can be extremely complicated.

    However, you state some misleading facts in your article to prove your point with regard to divorce statistics. A quick glance at the links you provide shows that some of your assertions may be incorrect. You state that Breast Cancer is the 6th most likely cancerous diagnosis to end in divorce which is true, but you fail to mention that marriages are 8% less likely to end in divorce than marriages with no cancer at all. Only four different types of cancer in women according to the link actually result in higher divorce rates.

    In the other article (oxfordjournal one) it does state that women diagnosed with systematic cancer and brain tumors are at higher risk, but it specifically singles out breast-cancer later on in mentioning that divorce rates have not increased in these patients.

    Comment by Rob — September 26, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

  41. Sorry for the run-on sentences and grammatical errors. Typed it up too quickly

    Comment by Rob — September 26, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

  42. I thumbs-downed the comment…but mostly for the phrasing and less for the sentiment. Would Krista have married John if he was just another guy? Did John marry Krista primarily because of her physical appearance? My guess is that there were several thousand guys who took interest in Krista during her lifetime. She chose the baseball star. The baseball star is used to thousands of women idolizing him. Did John do the honorable thing? Absolutely not. But I doubt his moral constitution played much of a role in her decision to marry him. My assessment is that she chose to marry someone for his status, he chose to marry someone for her physical appearance. Right and wrong is nearly impossible to assign in a marital dispute. In my opinion, the basis for their marriage was thin. It is unsurprising that a small turbulence would cause it to collapse, let alone, the tsunami of breast cancer.

    Comment by CardinalRules — September 27, 2011 @ 12:05 am

  43. Wow- high profile teams with deep pockets, enormous fanbases and realistic playoff aspirations get written about more than low profile teams with empty wallets, limited fanbases and no hope of winning? I wonderz whyz that iz?

    Comment by mkd — September 27, 2011 @ 12:47 am

  44. i guess im just not sure why its surprising or a bad thing that more successful and more popular teams have more stories on them? i mean in what aspect of life is the inferior, less popular thing discussed more than the superior, more popular thing?

    i dont get the complaint…?

    Comment by Slugger27 — September 27, 2011 @ 1:49 am

  45. John Edwards was the worst person in the world for basically doing the same thing, except the Sox are better at crushing the negative PR than the Edwards camp or anyone in the Democratic party at any level. Basically, he’s an asshole. There’s nothing in his past that suggests that he’s a good guy like say a Prince FIelder, Ryan Howard, Mariano Rivera, or anyone like that. Why does this guy get a pass? He’s an asshole for leaving his wife at this time, I’ve gone through friends that had cancer. They get difficult to deal with at times, but they’re my friends and I’m not leaving them when they need me. I’ve basically lived the base scenario that 50/50 was based on. I have no sympathy for people that do this.

    Comment by Omar — September 27, 2011 @ 3:50 am

  46. Yeah, I’m sure they had problems before the surgery and all that,but I can’t help but feel sick when I hear of something like this. As a man, Lackey should stick by his wife through this regardless of problems.
    It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where Elaine stays with her fake boyfriend through his opium withdrawal because it would look bad if she dumped him. If Elaine’s character has more scruples than you, you probably should re-evaluate your moral code.

    Comment by Bill — September 27, 2011 @ 6:35 am

  47. Have you seen John Lackey? I don’t think many women were idolozing him.

    Comment by Joe — September 27, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  48. Lackey has been a jerk on and off the field this year. Has anyone seen the way he acts if he thinks a teammate made a mistake. I would have loved for a sox fielder throw his hands up in disgust as Lackey allowed his tenth baserunner in five innings.

    Now, we find out he is divorcing his cancer-addled wife. What is that?

    I don’t buy into the argument that he has job pressure that could be adversely affecting his life. There are many walks of life that are just as pressure filled and they don’t come with a million dollar payday.

    Lackey is a bum, who has displayed that he will not be held accountable for anything that does not work out the way he wants it. Need proof? Watch a Lackey post-game press conference. Regardless of how bad his line was, he says he pitched pretty good.

    I won’t watch another Lackey start.

    Comment by Justin — September 27, 2011 @ 9:09 am

  49. I thought about this…I had a whole paragraph written up that lets the Sox off the hook, since really, we can never know what happens behind the scenes. Maybe they did try to get him help but he was a stubborn son of a gun.

    I left it out, though, because that’s still not entirely correct. When a player is injured, do they have any say on if they go on the DL and when they get to come back? No, and so I don’t feel like it’s unreasonable to suggest that they could have made Lackey’s “rehab” assignment from his DL stint contingent on them assessing his mental status and making sure he was enough together to go back out on the field…and then made it clear that they wanted to continue monitoring him throughout the season. It’s what you’d do for a normal injury, and I don’t think it should necessarily be treated any differently.

    Comment by Steve Slowinski — September 27, 2011 @ 9:48 am

  50. Appreciate the feedback, and I get what you’re saying. I don’t quite view it as a post-facto critique, though, because I came out and said at the time Lackey first imploded that the Sox should take some serious action to get him in a better frame of mind. They gave him a couple weeks off and maybe they did do some of the stuff mentioned, but I dunno…none of it screams due diligence to me. And considering MLB’s history with such things, I think it’s fair to raise it as a point and to keep it in people’s minds.

    Comment by Steve Slowinski — September 27, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  51. What more could they have done?

    You can’t DL a healthy player unless he is complicit. They can’t send him to the minors.

    Lackey doesn’t seem like the type to agree to a false DL.

    Comment by RC — September 27, 2011 @ 9:55 am

  52. DL’ing a perfectly healthy player against his will is just asking for a grievance.

    Comment by RC — September 27, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  53. Lackey is throwing a couple MPH slower than he ever has. I think his elbow legitimately is shredded.

    Comment by RC — September 27, 2011 @ 9:57 am

  54. There’s no such thing as “the honorable thing”. This is a relationship between two people going through a period of extreme stress. Sometimes that brings people together. More often, it drives them apart.

    The fact that their relationship isn’t working out, no matter the timing, doesn’t mean either one is a bad person. We have absolutely no idea whats going on here.

    Its entirely possible that shes a completely different person than she was when they got married. Its entirely possible shes cheating on him. Its entirely possible shes terrible to be around at this point.

    Comment by RC — September 27, 2011 @ 10:00 am

  55. “. As a man, Lackey should stick by his wife through this regardless of problems.”

    Absolute bullshit. You do not stay in an toxic marriage because of some “honor code”. Thats how people end up blowing their brains out.

    Comment by RC — September 27, 2011 @ 10:04 am

  56. Except, to me, teams have a duty to their players even moreso than a boss has a duty to look over their employees. Because of the money involved, team treat players with kid gloves, and make sure they get the best possible medical care…and they’re shut down and rehabbed if there’s any sign of an injury.

    I guess it’s a matter of perspective, because I don’t think mental health issues should be treated much differently. If a team doesn’t think a player is in the right frame of mind to be able to perform at their best, they shouldn’t leave the decision up to the player….they should shut them down and “rehab” them. I’m sure there’s lots of resistance to this sort of thing in the game, since it’s such a sports, masculine environment and many players probably don’t want to talk with a psychologist. But I don’t think that mean teams should cave in.

    Comment by Steve Slowinski — September 27, 2011 @ 10:05 am

  57. All I’ll say is that it is an interesting post, and we don’t know how long the Lackeys have been considering divorce. Maybe this was a long time coming, and they only stayed together this long to get through the cancer. We just don’t know, and frankly, it isn’t any of our business.

    I do wonder what a pro team should do in this case. Certainly things like this are very likely to affect anyone’s job performance, athlete or not. I would think that he could have taken a leave, but that would be different than the DL. I don’t know what their union contract calls for/allows in cases like this.

    Comment by mike wants wins — September 27, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  58. If you look at all the articles I highlighted, you’ll noticed that some of them contradict each other (or seem to) and the results are far from an easy thing to untangle. I spent a long time running through them all, and I chose to present the facts that I felt were a) the best researched, and b) held in agreement among the most places.

    For example, one site I found the rate of divorce as 20x higher when the wife was diagnosed as opposed to the husband. But I couldn’t find other places to back that up to such an extent, and I backed off that point in the article since the research seemed sketchy.

    So yeah, we can argue exactly how much breast cancer depresses the divorce rate, if at all, but after reading through it all, I presented the research that I thought was best well done on that subject. But I think I was pretty clear that overall, a cancer diagnosis depresses the divorce rate slightly, and breast cancer is one of the cancers with the highest divorce rates. Not necessarily above average still, but it’s on the higher end of the spectrum.

    Comment by Steve Slowinski — September 27, 2011 @ 10:15 am

  59. But again, we have no evidence that he has any mental health issues, or that hes even willing to take time off.

    I find it surprising that the 6+ ERA pitcher hasn’t been benched, and my best guess is that he told the Red Sox that pitching is helping me cope.

    Comment by RC — September 27, 2011 @ 10:16 am

  60. ok, the first reasonable comment so far.

    I’ll keep reading through…

    Comment by Mitch — September 27, 2011 @ 10:17 am

  61. Depends on your definition of “perfectly healthy”. Considering teams have put players on the DL for mental health reasons, I think the Sox could pretty conclusively make the case that Lackey was in no fit mental state for pitching.

    Comment by Steve Slowinski — September 27, 2011 @ 10:17 am

  62. Right, but how much of “breast cancer depressed the divorce rate” is solely based on the stigma of divorcing a wife with breast cancer, now that Breat Cancer has kind of become a feminist banner?

    Comment by RC — September 27, 2011 @ 10:18 am

  63. Great article. To bring things back to baseball, though, I think the reason the Sox keep trotting Lackey out there has much more to do with Francona’s “dance with the one that brung ya” attitude and also the way they handled John Smoltz a few years ago. It’s a very similar situation – if you watch the guy pitch, it’s obvious that he can’t command anything; yet, the peripheral stats suggest that he could maybe turn it around. Smoltz did (in the NL), but Lackey didn’t. That’s baseball.

    Comment by Adam W — September 27, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  64. I really fail to see where this article intended to go… or basically what it’s point was. It started off by suggesting that judging John Lackey (as a jerk) would be too easy but inappropriate b/c we don’t know the intimate details of their relationship and b/c statistics indicate that serious health problems like cancer add a lot of stress to marriages! No! How could that be?! What revelation!!

    I don’t know… I just can’t believe there’s a 2000 word article that broaches the subject but then let’s the offender off the hook because he ‘has a very stressful career’ and ‘cancer adds a lot of stress to a relationship’. I mean, to walk up to the edge and then say, “Do any of us know what it’s like to be a multi-million dollar athlete with a sick wife, huge job pressures, and a schedule that requires constant traveling? Maybe Lackey is a jerk, maybe not, but who are we to pass judgement?”

    I actually thought that sentence was said in complete satire, but it wasn’t! Unreal. What was the point of writing this piece if not to come flat out and declare Lackey a huge asshole?! Do you think it really necessary as a PSA to inform people that cancer puts a big strain on a marriage? Sheesh.

    Comment by Mitch — September 27, 2011 @ 10:39 am

  65. To put it into perspective, had it been the other way around and Lackey were diagnosed with some kind of career ending condition and shortly thereafter his wife left him, I doubt there would be anyone holding back from declaring his wife a heartless gold-digging biotch.

    Comment by Mitch — September 27, 2011 @ 10:44 am

  66. Its to be expected as income rises so should divorce, as divorce rates are merely a reflection of the social promotion of infertility. The latter is due to not only social selection (voluntary celibacy, accessibility to contraceptives), but is reinforced by hereditary factors that overtime lead to such a social promotion as the inevitable rise of the lower to middle class, due to differential reproduction, and will in a proportionate amount of cases have children whose services are in demand, alongside inheriting lesser fertility, as the two appear to be genetically linked (on average), whether its temperament or actual gamete capacity. So seeking an excuse to divorce one’s mate could be an adaptive trait if it is a response to low fertility.

    Comment by Rufio Magillicutty — September 27, 2011 @ 10:52 am

  67. The point is, this shouldn’t be a story period. It wouldn’t be a story if it were any team other than the east coast 4 regardless of how successful the team is at that time.

    Comment by Brent — September 27, 2011 @ 10:58 am

  68. I thought I was going to have an issue with picking apart Lackey’s personal life, too, but the article was so damn interesting that I had to read to the end, and by the end I think Steve renders Lackey as a human being, not just a celebrity under media/fan scrutiny.

    Good job, Steve.

    Comment by baumann — September 27, 2011 @ 11:05 am

  69. I think that FanGraphs would have talked about it no matter who it was, though the national media might not have.

    Comment by baumann — September 27, 2011 @ 11:07 am

  70. Again, we have no reason to believe that Lackey has any mental health issues.

    He’s getting divorced. Thats not a mental health problem. You’re trivializing mental health issues.

    Comment by RC — September 27, 2011 @ 11:12 am

  71. your implicit assumption with regard to fertility rates turns out to be your conclusion (it’s evolution, baby!). not logically strong.

    Comment by lamark — September 27, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  72. Ya, the articles do not give an overwhelming answer either way and definitely contradict each other to a certain degree. I just wanted to help other readers see that in case they did not look at some of the sources. As someone who had an immediate family member deal with cancer, it is an extremely trying and uneasy time. Like you pointed out in our article, we should reserve judgement on Lackey’s situation because it can be extremely stressfull for anyone, let alone someone is a heavily criticized athlete. I liked the article, and thought it was a nice change of pace from the usual baseball pieces we generally see.

    Comment by Rob — September 27, 2011 @ 11:37 am

  73. Are marriages where the spouse with cancer dies taken out of the equation? Because if not, those would be counted as “not divorce” and would affect the numbers. You’d have to figure in mortality based on type of cancer, determine the survival length in those mortatlity cases and come up with some arbitrary endpoint to which to bracket the non-cancer marriages. I’m guessing any divorce rate goes down if you qualify it with “within the next X years”.

    Hope that made sense.

    Comment by Slacker George — September 27, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  74. Hold on, the guy who electrocutes people in his pool is a better person than the guy who breaks up with his wife?

    Comment by RC — September 27, 2011 @ 12:13 pm

  75. Some people are built more solidly than others. The solid ones are as entitled to belittle the weak ones as the weak are to be weak.

    Comment by Someanalyst — September 27, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  76. Neither an assumption nor “not logically strong,” and all the evidence I need is for lamark to assert otherwise, since any conclusion lamark makes is silly

    Comment by Rufio Magillicutty — September 27, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  77. Since 1970 the middle class has been in freefall. Have the evolutionary underpinnings reversed? It could be entirely economic: people choose to have fewer children conciously, of course, but also semi-conciously, by foregoing reproduction during their most fertile years to advance economic agendas (school, work advancement, etc.). Average age for a US woman at 1st marriage is now >30.

    Your conclusion is valid: of course it is adaptive to avoid low fertility… the definition of adaptive involves allele transmission. Thing is, the conclusion does not require your assumption that fertility and economic productivity be linked (interesting though that would be).

    Comment by Someanalyst — September 27, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

  78. For men any selection pressure against fertility will be extremely unimpactiful because the biomechanical tradeoffs can be non-existent due to gamete abundance and being relieved of bearing a child in utero, but for females, fertility, since the dawn of civilization, has been inversely proportional to social class (on average), if a class hierarchy exist as a function of capital. Its almost as if some infertility factor is linked with some power of the mind or athletic prowess, perhaps offering an insight into the limits of biomechanical energy. Females are a luxury.

    You are right my assessment before was blatantly obvious, of course an inclination to seek other mates will be selected for, and it goes without saying it’ll be stronger with men, specifically upper-class men, not only as a response to parental uncertainty but the average reproductive value of the upper-class as compared to the lower-class.

    Don’t mistake this for any racism or misogyny, this is all to be expected as a by-product of differential reproduction.

    Comment by Rufio Magillicutty — September 27, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

  79. Wasn’t aware of your criticism at the time, so I’ll withdraw that portion of my critique. But while I actually share your unease with the publicly cavalier method the Sox handled Lackey’s very public meltdown, I also have to admit that I’m operating from a position of extremely incomplete information. Considering how many educated, experienced mental health professionals disagree about even the most basic-seeming components of treatment for depression and traumas, I feel extra cautious as a layman making pointed critiques about individual cases. Due diligence is still an extremely subjective concept, even if it at times we feel we can safely identify it.

    Nevertheless, I love that we’re having a debate about mental health issues in this context, and will join you in hoping that we see a continued development of sophistication in the ways teams deal with them.

    Comment by Diesel — September 27, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

  80. RC: what’s BS is walking out on someone when they are at their most vulnerable and needy. Obviously there’s a lot going on that the public isn’t privy to in this case but in marriage there is a lot of “better or worse” that goes on and just bailing when things get hot is pretty lame. I’ll bet you’re not married.

    Comment by Mitch — September 27, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  81. How do you know the Red Sox didn’t assess his mental health status after his DL stint? How do you know the team didn’t continue to assess his health during the season? Aren’t you engaging in the same sort of conjecture with the Red Sox that you are so critical of when directed at Lackey?

    Also, your comparison to a physical injury is problematic. Physical injuries have manifestations and impacts that are more often than not measurable. A player returning from a broken leg such as Kendrys Morales is put through all sort of physical tests on and off the field that tell management to what extent he is recovered. That sort of precision is often not possible with mental illness.

    Comment by rotofan — September 27, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  82. It sounds to me that we should lay off Lackey because we don’t know all the details.


    But it’s okay to blame the Red Sox even though we don’t know all the details?

    It doesn’t make much sense to me. Maybe he was so tired of his home life that he insisted on being with the team. Maybe he had already decided to divorce his wife and wanted an excuse to not be with her. Maybe he didn’t want to be with her, but either lacked the guts to confront her. Maybe he thought his anger, or her anger, would fade if they were apart. Sometimes the best thing a fighting couple can do is to get a little space.

    I kind of think we’d need to know at least a few of the details before passing judgement. Maybe Lackey begged for time off and Theo said no. Maybe Theo begged Lackey to stay home and he refused.

    Comment by Joey B — September 27, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

  83. I hate to interfere with a good character assassination, but how do we know Lackey and his wife weren’t heading for divorce before the cancer diagnosis?

    Isn’t it possible that the marriage was endangered and they remained together until the worst of the cancer treatment was completed.

    I can’t really speak for Lackey or his wife or as an authority on the situation, but not even cancer is going repair a ruined marriage of refill an empty heart.


    Being a professional baseball player pretty much results in a neglectful husband and absent father, simply due to the time away from the family and the amount of attention that baseball requires. That’s been well documented over the years.


    Personally, I don’t think this topic is in the realm of Fangraphs. Granted that’s my preference and not really all that weighty.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — September 28, 2011 @ 9:50 am

  84. for several reasons you cited and many more that haven’t been covered, you are correct that this discussion has no relevance to F/G whatsoever.

    Comment by Mitch — September 28, 2011 @ 10:03 am

  85. Just wanted to say — I really liked/appreciated this article. As a Sox fan, I’ve had a terrible time watching him pitch for my team, and am filled with a desire for violence every time he hangs a breaking ball up in the zone and then swears at Francona when he gets pulled. And oh, the post-game excuses…

    That being said, I can’t stand his getting eviscerated for his personal life. No one knows the back story between him and his wife, and it’s clearly been an awful year for him both professionally and personally. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have that happen while having to face thousands of fans, sportswriters, and TMZ/talk radio daily. While I’m sure getting paid millions of dollars is nice, it really can’t change what he’s going through.

    Again — I can’t stand him as a baseball player. However, I don’t know him as a person, and I hypothesize that zero of the people who are publicly ripping him do. I hope he gets some help this offseason.

    Comment by Lewis — September 28, 2011 @ 10:51 am

  86. Don’t you think that the fact there is a prenup in place makes it an easier decision for John Lackey to divorce his ill wife? Hopefully the judge in the case will make sure she’s provided for and Lackey can’t walk away leaving her with nothing. This is an example of why prenups are wrong.

    Comment by B Aronson — September 28, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

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