Jon Lester, three-time World Series champion and winner of 200 matches, retires after 16 years of career.
Lester, 38, told ESPN his body was simply no longer ready for the rigors of a major league season. He’s made 30 or more starts 12 times in his career and 28 in his final season, split between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.
His resume includes five all-star appearances and a 2.51 ERA in the playoffs.
“It’s kind of run its course,” Lester said. “It’s getting harder and harder for me physically. The little things that happen throughout the year have turned into bigger things that hurt your performance.
“I’d like to think I’m a half-decent self-assessor. I don’t want someone else telling me I can’t do this anymore. I want to be able to put my jersey back on and say, ‘Thank you, c ‘was funny.’ This is probably the most important deciding factor. “
Lester leaves a legacy of playoff success. He won two World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 and 2013 and a third ring with the Chicago Cubs in 2016, helping to break a 108-year title drought. Additional playoff appearances in 2008, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018 made him an October game.
These memories will shine the most for Lester.
“I remember the feeling of nervousness I had before Game 4 of the World Series in 2007,” he said. “I remember standing on the mound in Game 5 against St. Louis in 2013, in a tied series, and a [paper] the aircraft was thrown from the upper deck which landed just behind the mound. I still remember watching this.
“And then the turmoil of Game 7 in 2016 [when the Cubs won in extra innings]. “
In his prime, the 6-foot-4-inch Lester dominated with a nasty cutter and an intimidating presence on the mound, which included his patented look: a glove resting just under his chin as he watched for signs of the catcher.
“The cutter is what neutralized me,” said Mark Teixeira, who, along with Evan Longoria, has the distinction of hitting more times than anyone (22) against Lester. “He would go out and see me dive over the plate, then he would come in with the cutter.”
“The reason he was such a bulldog was that he hadn’t given in. And he wasn’t afraid to walk guys. He knew how to present the roster.”
Lester is one of nine modern lefties with 200 wins, a 0.600 winning percentage and a career ERA of less than 4.00. Six of the other eight are in the Hall of Fame, while one, CC Sabathia, is not yet eligible.
Off the pitch, Lester was known as the teammate that brought the clubhouse together.
“If you train a baseball player, in how he treats other people, his goals, the way you want him to compete and act on and off the field, that’s the role model,” he said. said Cubs manager David Ross, who was Lester’s personal catcher for the pitcher’s first two years in Chicago.
Lester signed a $ 155 million free agent contract with the Cubs in 2015. The decision to sign with a bottom-up team was not an easy one.
“He took his chances with us when he set the stage for everything that happened,” then general manager Jed Hoyer said. “He was clearly only coming here for one reason, and everyone knew that.”
Lester called signing with the Cubs “the biggest decision we’ve ever made in my professional career,” although he struggled during his first few weeks in Chicago, with a 6.23 ERA in Chicago. April 2015.
“When you come in you are supposed to be the guy to bring the World Series,” he said. “I felt it in early 2015. I was trying to win the World Series in the first month of the season. Rossy [David Ross] pulled me aside and basically told me to be myself. “You don’t need to do more than you did. Relax and launch. ‘”
The following month, his ERA fell to 1.76 and Lester’s Chicago career took off. An online Chicago fan survey named him the greatest free agent in the city’s history, not least because Lester served as a recruiting tool to bring other stars to the Cubs.
“The reason I went there was I knew they had a chance to win a championship because Jon Lester went there,” said former big league John Lackey, who signed with Chicago in 2016. “He changed that organization, but that was a signal to the baseball world, they were serious. It put them on the veteran card.”
In his sophomore year at Chicago, Lester was 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA and was named co-MVP of the National League Championship Series. He pitched three times in the World Series against Cleveland, including a relief appearance in Game 7, en route to a World Series third ring.
“I don’t want someone else to tell me I can’t do this anymore. I want to be able to put my jersey back on and say, ‘Thank you, that was fun.’ This is probably the most important deciding factor. ”
Jon Lester, on his decision to retire
It was the start of a remarkable playoff series. From 2016 to 2018, Lester compiled a 1.93 ERA in 10 playoff appearances.
“He worked harder than anyone I’ve ever been with,” Ross said. “When it was time for work he was going to work. When it was time to play he was going to make sure everyone had a good time. That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give him.”
Lester began his career with the Red Sox in 2002 and made his big-league debut in June 2006.
At the end of the season, back pain sent Lester to hospital, where he was eventually diagnosed with anaplastic large T-cell lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy but was able to return to the team in mid-2007.
“I was in triple A as part of a rehabilitation mission to Pawtucket after cancer,” Lester said. “My parents were there and they were leaving that day or the next day to go home, and I told them they had to change flights and I said, ‘I’m going to Cleveland the next night.’
“It was one of the best times of my career. Seeing their faces was pretty cool. Once I got back to baseball I tried to take nothing for granted and really enjoyed being with it. guys.”
The experiment led to the creation of Lester’s charity, NVRQT, short for “Never Quit,” which helps raise funds for pediatric cancer research. He will continue with the foundation when he retires.
Lester’s stay in Boston marked him.
“It makes you grow up really fast and it’s a great, awesome place for me,” Lester said. “It made me more responsible than if I was somewhere else.”
Lester threw a 5⅔ shutout against the Colorado Rockies in Game 4 to claim the 2007 World Series title. In the 2013 World Series, Lester went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA against St. Louis. .
“Every time he had the ball it was a different feeling as a teammate,” said former teammate Dustin Pedroia. “The power, the way he worked, the will to win. He had some great stuff, but his best gift was finding a way to win. It’s something you can’t teach, you can’t. not coach. He’s a special player who has that. There aren’t many.
Lester was traded to Oakland in 2014 and started a wildcard playoff game, which the A’s ultimately lost, before signing with the Cubs in the offseason.
After the 2020 season in Chicago, Lester signed with the Nationals. Sold to the Cardinals by the trade deadline, he went 4-1 with St. Louis while winning his 200th and final game in late September.
“Playing with Waino [Adam Wainwright] and Yadi [Yadier Molina] was awesome, ”Lester said. “It was a cool experience playing for this organization. You get to understand why they are so successful every year. “
The Cardinals secured a wild card spot, giving Lester one final playoff opportunity. But at the end of the season, especially after a COVID-19 quarantine in 2020, Lester knew it was time to go.
“The part that got me okay with that was my 40s,” Lester said. “I was at home, at a time of the year when I wasn’t normally home. It opened my eyes.… When work wins over joy, then it’s time to reassess where you are. “
Lester said he might consider working on television and hasn’t ruled out coming to Cubs spring training to mentor young pitchers – but full-time training is not in the cards. He has said that he will miss many aspects of the game, but knows he has kept a commitment he made to himself.
“I never wanted fans to leave a game and ask, ‘Was the effort there? “” said Lester. “I think I always gave it away.”