Starting Pitcher Jon Lester announced his retirement today after a 16-year career with the Red Sox, A's, Cubs, Nationals, and Cardinals.
I could go down the path of how butchering Jon Lester's contract led to the trading of a generational talent like Mookie Betts.
But I'm not going to do that.
I'm writing this blog to respect one of the best postseason pitchers of the 21st century. While his 9-7 record might not turn heads, Lester had a 2.51 ERA in 154.0 postseason innings. He was 2016 NLCS en route to the Cubs first World Series title since 1908 and would've won 2013 World Series MVP with his 2-0, 0.59 ERA performance if it weren't for David Ortiz hitting .688 and being the Red Sox entire offense.
Jon Lester was a five-time All-Star and won 3 World Series (2007 & 2013 with the Red Sox and 2016 with the Cubs). He was the Cy Young runner-up in 2016, had another two top-five finishes (4th in 2010 & 2014) and a 9th place finish in 2018. Perhaps his most impressive feat was hitting four career home runs after starting his career 0-66.
Lester accomplished all this after his career and life were in jeopardy after a cancer diagnosis in 2006.
After beating cancer, Lester returned in 2007 (I was at his second start back in Tampa) and notably pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings in the clinching 4th game of the 2007 World Series for his first career postseason win.
The following year, he threw a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals, which gave youngish Red Sox fans (like me) the impression that we're going to get one of these every year.
I could keep reciting stats, but Jon Lester's impact was felt much deeper than the box score. As a cancer survivor, he worked with the Jimmy Fund and started his charity NVRQT (short for "never quit"), founded in 2011 for childhood cancer research and support. On a much less important but still noble note, he was the only member of the infamous Chicken and Beer Red Sox to own up and apologize.
Of course, we all know that the Red Sox total botch job of his contract led to cheaping out on generational talent. Still, Jon Lester was able to win the hearts of both Boston and Chicago fans with his big game pitching and genuine hashtag goodness of the diamond. He spent 50K on beer for Cubs fans and did plenty of other great things behind the scenes. Jon Lester was everything you wanted in a top of the rotation guy. He competed his ass off every fifth day and, in a v eerie coincidence, had the exact same winning percentage (.631%) and ERA (3.64) with both the Red Sox and Cubs.
It's a shame he had to bounce around with the Nats and Cardinals in 2021, but everybody will remember Jon as one of the best pitchers two of the game's premier franchises ever had. Congratulations on a fantastic career, fuck John Henry forever!