At a time of little information concerning Major League Baseball, Jon Lester made headlines this week by announcing his retirement from the business after a 200-win career and terrific playoff run.
Lester transcended numbers during his professional career. A recent arrival in the Major Leagues, he had to fight cancer, a condition he overcame to win a game in the 2007 World Series, when he got his first ring with the Red Sox.
From that moment on, he was synonymous with perseverance, recognized for being a fierce competitor and an excellent teammate. Perhaps more importantly, the lefty wanted the ball in the games that really counted, as evidenced by his 2.51 ERA over 150 postseason innings.
Lester broke into stardom in 2008 at age 24, establishing himself as the ace of the Boston team’s rotation. In 2013, he teamed up with David Ortiz to lead the Red Sox to another championship. On that occasion, he went 4-1, 1.56 in the playoffs and had two dominant World Series wins.
The following year, team management made him an offer that didn’t match Lester’s caliber, putting the left-handed pitcher on the road to free agency. During the 2014 season he was traded to the Oakland Athletics, helping that franchise reach the American League Wild Card game.
In the offseason, he accepted an offer from the Chicago Cubs, validating with his presence the rebuilding that executive Theo Epstein had undertaken.
In 2016, he went 19-5, 2.44 to finish second in the race for the NL Cy Young Award. His performance was decisive in leading the Cubs to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
On that occasion, he went 3-1, 2.02 in post-season games, a decisive contribution to the Cubbies’ first championship since 1908. There his legacy was sealed as one of the most important pitchers of recent generations in the playoffs. .
Finishing his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2021, he notched victory 200 on September 20 of last year.
Lester isn’t necessarily a line for the Hall of Fame, but his durability and excellence in October will generate debate. We will miss seeing him compete.