When the Chicago Cubs inked Jon Lester to a $155 million deal, some questioned the front office. Two-plus years in and the gritty southpaw has proven his value and emerged as the clear-cut leader of the team.
With three World Series rings to his name, Jon Lester is no stranger to the big stage. After helping lead the Chicago Cubs to their first title in over a century, perhaps he’s already pitched on the biggest stage of his career. But watching the lefty take the mound each and every time his number is called, you’d never know it.
Even with a one-hour rain delay, Lester was at his best against the San Francisco Giants, tossing a complete game on less than 100 pitches. ESPN pointed out some of the most impressive facts after his dominant start. Two of these, in particular, stood out to me:
- No other pitcher in Major League Baseball threw a complete game without going to a three-ball count against a hitter. Last year, only one pitcher accomplished the feat the entire season.
- The last Cubs pitcher to accomplish the feat? Carlos Zambrano back in 2009.
The left-hander has been nothing short of brilliant on the mound at Wrigley Field over the last two or so years. In 2017, he owns a 1.80 ERA at home – as opposed to a 5.73 clip on the road.
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Opponents this year are batting .351 against Lester when the Cubs are on the road. In Chicago, however, Lester has his way with them. They’re batting a dismal .352 this year.
Even when Jake Arrieta dominated his way to a National League Cy Young Award two years ago, this team belonged to Lester. It was his fiery, competitive nature that made him so enticing to the Cubs. And it’s that same demeanor that’s made fans appreciate him so much.
The leader of the champs
With fans panicking over the team’s slow start, Lester continues to be a voice of reason. There’s no fear in his voice – nor would you expect there to be. He’s walked the walk his entire career, leading by example at every stop.
"“Now the hard part is you don’t get complacent,” Lester told CSN Chicago this spring. “I talk about these young guys — that’s where that helps. Even though you’ve accomplished things personally, you still want these guys to accomplish things."
With a 33-19 record and a sub-3.00 ERA in his Cubs’ tenure, you can’t ask much more of Lester. He works tirelessly to lead this team, even in its struggles. Chicago still enjoys a half-decade remaining on the veteran’s contract. The best part about it is simple: even if he tails off performance-wise, Jon Lester is one of the game’s strongest leaders.
The Cubs boast one of the youngest teams in all of Major League Baseball. But this much is sure. With Lester at the helm, there will never be any quit in this club. Losing won’t ever be acceptable and they will always be a threat to win.