Joon Lee is a staff writer for our SB Nation Red Sox site Over The Monster. To tell you a little bit about his backgrounnd, he's been writing for OTM for the last year. He's interned for three summers at the Boston Herald, where he helped cover the Red Sox and Patriots among other intern duties. This past summer, he interned at WEEI.com, where he focused on Red Sox coverage with Rob Bradford and Alex Speier and covered most home games from May through August. He's currently a sophomore at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and you can find him on Twitter at @iamjoonlee, and here is his SB Nation author profile.
Although he considers himself an impartial Red Sox writer now, he grew up a big Red Sox fan living just outside of Boston and a 25-minute walk to Fenway Park. Jon Lester’s been among his favorite pitchers to watch since he was a rookie in 2006, and he remembers watching his major league debut June 10, 2006 at Fenway, so he says seeing Lester sign this big contract with the Cubs kind of feels like his childhood is ending.
Joon sent this view of Jon Lester from a Boston point of view, to share with all of you on this day.
Jon Lester represents what any organization wants their top prospects to become. He's what Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein wants Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler to become. Lester is the physical embodiment of a prospect fulfilling his full potential, something that's far from a given. Fate tested Lester from the beginning, when in August 2006, he learned he would have to start the toughest fight of his life after being diagnosed with cancer. Aged just 22, Lester was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a highly treatable form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that spread quickly. Lester underwent treatment and made his triumphant return on July 23, 2007, throwing six innings against the Cleveland Indians, allowing two runs, striking out six and walking three. Making a successful return to the big leagues from cancer wasn't enough for Lester. The Red Sox felt the same way. They decided to give him the biggest stage of his career, a start in the potential clinching game of the 2007 World Series. In the cold, brisk air of Colorado, Lester stood on the mound at Coors Field, a little over a year from the date of his cancer diagnosis, pitching in the World Series with a chance to permanently write his place in baseball history as the winning pitcher in the final game of a title run. Against all odds, Lester pitched admirably, throwing 5⅔ innings, allowing three hits and three walks while punching out three Rockies to help the Red Sox win the World Series. For many, that could have been the end of the fairy tale story. For Lester, someone who was never satisfied with what he's already done, there was more to come. Over the course of time, Lester matured and slowly became one of the top pitchers in baseball. There were times when Lester struggled and became too reliant on his cutter (his 2013 season stands out like the proverbial sore thumb), but even through the highs and lows, Lester stood as one of the lone consistent presences in the Red Sox clubhouse. Following the departure of Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford California bound, Lester finally had the platform in the Red Sox clubhouse to become the ace, the leader of the clubhouse. It was a situation that he took full advantage of. Even when the team went through the Bobby Valentine fiasco as his future on the team became more fuzzy than ever before, Lester remained confident that he could help lead the team to a championship. That drive culminated in the 2013 World Series, when Lester put together one of the most dominating World Series performances in postseason history, when he allowed only one run in 15⅓ innings pitched while striking out 15 batters and walking just one. Lester had reached the peak of baseball success again. While he had reached the pinnacle once before six years prior as a 23-year-old kid earning the clinching win in the World Series after having undergone cancer treatment, this time, he was not just a part of the puzzle. Lester was the final piece. He was, arguably, the reason why his team won the World Series. The growth that Lester underwent from top prospect with the proclivity of letting a bad call get to him to bonafide postseason ace and bulldog is astonishing. The numbers indicate that Lester is a very good pitcher, perhaps not one with the track record to demand one of the top contracts in baseball, but a top flight pitcher nevertheless. Lester's regular season performance, however, is not the reason he signed a contract making him one of the top paid pitchers in all of baseball. Whenever there were more eyes fixated on Lester, he seemingly found a way to step up his game to a whole other level. Even in Lester's last days with the Red Sox, there were few players in the clubhouse that players, team officials and members of the media respected more than Lester. He was accountable, confident, loyal and genuine. He was everything one would want in a baseball player off the field. Starting at the moment he was drafted in the second round (57th overall) in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft to the day that he was traded to the Oakland Athletics, Lester became the player that everyone wanted in the biggest moment, when the lights shined brightest and the pressure was highest. Lester is the type of player that brings organizations closer towards that next step. Lester represents the type of player that parents tell their kids and their kid's kids about. Lester is the type of player that raises World Series trophies.
To add some final thoughts to Joon's final paragraph, Jon Lester is the kind of pitcher -- kind of player, actually -- that we've always dreamed about having in a Cubs uniform. A quiet leader, a top performer, someone at the top of his game and not only with World Series experience, but being the guy who went out there and won the title for his team. I daresay the Cubs have never had anyone quite like this -- at least not in over 100 years, when the Cubs were winning World Series titles with leaders like Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, Mordecai Brown, Ed Reulbach and Orval Overall.
May we see him in a Fall Classic in blue pinstripes soon.