'Bad' teammate? No, just old-school Lackey

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- John Lackey wasn’t biting when asked about the comments made by Rays manager Joe Maddon, who accused Lackey of intentionally throwing at Matt Joyce in the sixth inning Monday night. Joyce had homered to lead off the Rays' first, then dropped his bat with an Ortiz-like flourish after hooking a long foul on a 3-and-0 pitch.

“I saw some of it when I was in the weight room," he said. “I don’t have a [response]. He’s got to stick up for his guys."

Lackey was asked if he was surprised that Maddon said he acted like a "bad teammate" by hitting Joyce, putting his teammates in danger of retaliation. "I got nothing for you, man," he said. "I’m not going to drag it on."

Asked if he thought it could linger, Lackey said: "I don’t know. I can’t tell you. It’s the big leagues, man. Grown men playing out there. Things happen."

Did Lackey throw at Joyce? Of course he did. But contrary to being a bad teammate, Lackey did it exactly the way a big-league pitcher should, putting it right between the numbers. That’s how it would have been handled in bygone times -- go ahead and take a huge cut at a 3-and-0 pitch, big boy, drop your bat like a latter-day George [Bleeping] Ruth, but be prepared to duck on a subsequent at-bat.

That frontier justice might seem antiquated to many, and baseball’s unique brand of protocol suspect, but if Lackey was offended by how Joyce handled himself in that at-bat, then his response was clearly within the bounds of acceptable conduct. No head-hunting, no intent to injure, just a don’t-mess-with-Texas kind of pitch.

Lackey said he saw no reason to seek out Maddon; the Rays manager, meanwhile, told reporters that while his view of the play hadn’t changed, he didn’t want it to ruin his longtime friendship with Lackey and intended to seek out the Sox pitcher.