Jon Lester announced his retirement after 16 seasons in the big leagues Wednesday morning, ending a successful and accomplished career for the big left-hander.
Lester undoubtably goes down as a legend in both Boston and Chicago, but will he become one in Cooperstown some day? Perhaps.
Jon Lester, On the field
Lester will forever be looked at as one of, if not the best, free agent signings in Chicago Cubs history. On the field, he was the model of consistency and durability.
In his 16 seasons, Lester made 30 or more starts in 12 consecutive seasons. His 12 starts in the pandemic season of 2020 broke the streak. In addition, he pitched over 200 innings eight times, including five straight seasons from 2012-2016.
His 451 career starts are more than Roy Halladay and Pedro Martinez, just to name a few who are already in the Hall of Fame. That’s not to say he was better than the latter, but longevity and durability are the start to what makes a Hall of Fame career.
Lester finished with 2,488 career strikeouts, more than Halladay, Catfish Hunter, Juan Marichal, and Jack Morris who each pitched 15 or more seasons in the big leagues.
He won three World Series titles, two with Boston and obviously the drought-ending title with the Cubs. Big Jon was selected as an All-Star five times, and finished in the top five of Cy Young award voting three times, including second in 2016. He pitched a no-hitter with the Red Sox shortly after returning from cancer treatment. Lester was a winner that rose above every bit of adversity thrown at him.
Lester pitched in the postseason nine times. His career 3.66 ERA is one of the highest comparatively to starters in the Hall, but Lester was most dominant when it mattered most, posting a 2.51 ERA in 26 career postseason games.
When you look at the advanced statistics, Lester doesn’t have numbers that stick out, but his 3.78 FIP is lower than Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine. In addition, his career 8.13 K/9 is fifth best among all starting pitchers already in the Hall of Fame. Only Martinez, Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, and Nolan Ryan have a higher number. His 46.2 career fWAR is also 53rd among 80 Hall of Fame starters.
Unless the voters make their votes based on making throws to first base, there is no doubt Lester at least makes a quality case to be enshrined in Cooperstown one day.
Jon Lester Off The Field
Off the field, he was a true professional and a great person in the community. His NVRQT campaign, a non-profit organization, helps raise awareness and funds for children’s cancer research.
Let’s not forget the 4,838 Miller Lites he bought Cubs fans supporting four bars on Division Street at the end of 2020. Leaving the 34 percent tip was the icing on the cake for a great cause during what is still a trying time.
Red Sox or Cubs?
To me, Lester is unlikely to be enshrined on the first ballot when his time comes in five years. However, when he does, it will be interesting to see which team he is inducted with. Lester was at the peak of his career at the end of his tenure in Boston and half season in Oakland. He went on to post five more quality seasons with the Cubs before age began to catch up with him in 2020. He won more championships with the Red Sox, but the one with the Cubs will be talked about for years to come.
If it was up to me, he’d be inducted with a Cubs uniform on, but the case can be made for Boston. All in all, as long as he gets in is what truly matters and to me it’s not even a question. Jon Lester belongs in Cooperstown.
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