John Lackey’s Monday night didn’t start well against the Milwaukee Brewers.
After getting Jonathan Villar to ground out to start the game, he surrendered a double to Eric Thames, then a 2-run home run to Ryan Braun to find himself in an early hole. Jett Bandy followed with a solo home run in the 2nd inning, and then Thames continued his recent home run binge with his 6th homer in 5 days — an opposite field shot that barely cleared the basket in left field.
It was that home run on a slider that was on the outer half of the plate — albeit a little too high to be truly effective — that Lackey was asked about during the postgame press conference. The Chicago Tribune has a video of two of his answers regarding Thames, with the second one potentially raising some eyebrows.
Here’s the transcribed quote:
“You watch film on recent stuff and try to figure out a way, you know, to get him out. But I mean, really even the homer hit the other way, I mean, you don't see that happen here very often. That's kinda one of those things that makes you scratch your head.”
Without the video, the comment seems innocuous enough on the surface. He’s talking about a guy who’s swinging a ridiculously hot bat right now, and he’s maybe a little frustrated that what he thought was a good pitch was deposited into the bleachers.
With the video, though, you can see Lackey give a subtle wink and a smile as he says “makes you scratch your head.”
To be fair to Lackey, we don’t get any more context after that quote. The Trib’s video cuts off almost immediately at the end of the sentence, so it’s hard to tell if he’s just cracking a joke or if he’s fairly serious. It’s apparently become A Thing on Chicago sports talk radio today, though, with the implication being that something fishy must be going on, since Thames is now on the same team as Braun.
For what it’s worth, USA Today’s most recent piece on Thames leads with the fact that he was tested immediately following Monday night’s game:
Eric Thames walks into the loud Milwaukee Brewers clubhouse after his historical evening, starts to strip off his uniform, when a stranger approaches him at his locker.
It was a representative from Major League Baseball's drug-testing program.
They didn't want his bat, the one he used to tie a franchise record by homering in his fifth consecutive game.
Only his urine.
“Random, right?’’ Thames says, laughing. “Guess it comes with the territory, right?’’
Thames won’t stay this supernova-level hot all year, but if he continues to produce like a sudden All-Star, the questions will inevitably start coming up more frequently. We’ll see what the first test results show. Until then, it would be nice if we all could avoid the usual Internet routine of trying to tear down a good story.