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Cubs

Six Years Ago, Jon Lester Gave Me Hope

No one truly believed in the Cubs rebuild until it was no longer a rebuild. The Jon Lester signing signaled that it was time for the North Siders to win.

The tweet below appeared on my timeline shortly after the Cubs beat the Indians on Wednesday night.

Just after midnight December 10th, 2014, I was laying in bed more excited than I had been in roughly seven years for Cubs baseball. We were all Miguel Montero, actually — absolutely enthused about anything to do with the Chicago Cubs.

On that date, the Cubs signed top free-agent pitcher Jon Lester. Lester was considered one of the top arms on the market along with Max Scherzer and ‘Big Game James’ Shields.

Speaking of Shields, let us never forget:

The Padres later traded James Shields to the White Sox for Fernando Tatis Jr. As much as I’d love to dive into that trade, I’m not here to trash the White Sox front office for potentially trading away the next great superstar.

The point is the Cubs could have signed Shields instead of Lester and I thank the baseball gods that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer avoided that idea like the plague.

Time has sure flown by in the last six seasons and even more quickly this season with the COVID-19 pandemic shortening the 2020 campaign. I still remember the day after the news broke about Lester choosing the Cubs.

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I was a student at Eastern Illinois University and loading my gym bag into a locker at the campus gym. I heard a handful of Cardinals fans being Cardinals fans.

In other words, the most annoying people that roam this planet. I remember quotes like, “Lester just wanted to get paid, he’s not going to help them win.” “There’s a L in Lester for a reason.”

Never forget, never forgive. Here’s the internet’s reaction to the Cubs signing Jon Lester the day after the news broke.

Man, this stuff fuels my soul. No one truly believed in the Cubs rebuild until it was no longer a rebuild. The Cubs won 97 games in 2015 and defeated the Cardinals in the NLDS, advancing the NLCS for the first time since 2003. The Cubs were for real the moment they signed Lester.

I was at Wrigley Field on Opening Day in 2015, which was Lester’s first start as a Cubs pitcher. The Cubs lost to the Cardinals 3-0. He gave up a run in each of his first two innings as a North Sider.

At the time, it was a disappointing Opening Day, but I felt like a new era was coming to Cubs baseball. I’ve cherished it ever since.

Lester not only helped bring a World Series to Chicago, but he also lived up to the hype of the top free-agent pitcher he was made out to be.

Over the course of his tenure, Lester sports a 3.61 ERA as one of the Cubs’ top-of-the-rotation arms. Lester finished with a WAR above 4.0 in back-to-back seasons in his first two years with the Cubs. He threw no less than 170 innings in each season outside of this weird 60-game sprint we’re currently watching. And most importantly, you knew you’d get 32 starts from Lester each season. He was never injury prone.

He was a workhorse. He was consistent. Even on his bad days, he found a way to try to help the Cubs win.

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Game five of the 2016 World Series was the Lester show in my eyes. His start propelled the Cubs with hope back to Cleveland. The Cubs trailed 3-1 in the series and needed anything to extend the series and avoid losing at Wrigley Field.

Lester did just that, shoving six innings of four-hit ball against an Indians lineup that had just scored seven runs the night before. The Cubs went on to win a nailbiting 3-2 thriller. The comeback of the ages was on. We know how it ended.

That’s just one of many incredible moments in Lester’s Cubs tenure, but his postgame interview after the 2017 NLDS against the Nationals is why Lester is my favorite Cubs pitcher of this era.

Big Jon. Lefthander. BDJ. I’m going to miss this man so much if his time in Chicago is finished after the 2020 season.

But if it is, thank you for the memories.


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