With years left in the tank, some already consider Jon Lester a fringe Hall of Fame candidate. His final years with the Chicago Cubs could decide his fate.
Jon Lester has had a very a successful career both on and off the baseball field. He has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the game during his career. He helped bring championship baseball to both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. But is he good enough to make in Cooperstown?
Life before the Chicago Cubs
Jon Lester made his major league debut on June 10, 2006 with the Red Sox against the Texas Rangers. He allowed three runs, pitching into the fifth in a no-decision effort. The 22-year-old southpaw soon faced a much stiffer enemy, though.
In August of that same year, Lester was diagnosed with a treatable form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma. He beat the disease and returned to the pitcher’s mound less than a year later. That’s when things really started moving for him.
One of the game’s best
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In nine seasons with the Red, Sox Lester compiled at 110-63 record, had a 3.46 ERA, was a two-time All-Sar and helped the Red Sox to two World Series rings.
His best season? A 19-win effort in 2010, in which he finished second in American League Cy Young voting. He turned in 208 innings, averaged a league-leading 9.7 strikeouts per nine and earned the first All-Star selection of his career.
On average, over nine years in Boston, the gritty left-hander gained a reputation as a big-game pitcher. His postseason performance in 2013 remains one of the best in recent memories. In the World Series against St. Louis, he made two starts, allowing just one run in 15 1/3 innings of work – good for a 0.59 ERA.
A cup of coffee with the A’s
The next season, though, Lester saw a change of scenery. On the day of the trade deadline, Boston and Oakland hooked up on a blockbuster deal. Lester and Jonny Gomes headed to the Athletics in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a draft pick.
He pitched well down the stretch for Oakland, putting up a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts. But with the A’s postseason life on the line in the Wild Card game, the Kansas City Royals ran rampant on Lester. When the dust settled, Lester was saddled with six earned runs, too many stolen bases to count and his A’s career drew to a close.
Exactly what the doctor ordered
After a long, drawn-out process in the winter of 2014, Lester finally signed a six-year deal worth $155 million with the Chicago Cubs.
Since signing on the dotted line, Jon Lester has just continued doing what he does. In his three-plus seasons in Chicago Lester 53-27 with an excellent 3.17 ERA. That includes a 10-2 record with a 2.18 ERA thus far in 2018. He’s likely headed to D.C. as an All-Star for the fifth time.
When it comes to accolades, he has had those too. He has been to one All-Star Game, was named a Co-MVP of 2016 National League Championship Series and helped lead the Cubs to their first World Series in 108 years in 2016. Oh, and he added another runner-up Cy Young performance in 2016.
Is he headed for the Hall?
Let’s see. Jon Lester has won three World Series rings, helped break the longest championship drought in sports history and is one of the game’s great postseason performers. He has had eight seasons of throwing at least 200 innings, and 11 seasons with double-digit wins.
On top of his production, Jon Lester is a great clubhouse veteran who understands his role. He has everything a team could ask for from an “ace” pitcher. Okay, maybe not everything, he can’t throw to the bases, but I think Lester fans have learned to deal with the yips.
Long story short, if he continues to produce this way he is headed for Cooperstown.