Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Sentimentality of the Jon Lester Trade

©Kayla Chadwick 2012
In pure rational baseball terms, I don't hate the Jon Lester [and Jonny Gomes] for Yoenis Cespedes [and a draft pick] trade. Cespedes is a solid player, Lester's contract extension talks weren't going well, and it's certainly still possible that Lester returns to Boston as a free agent.

But I'm not a baseball fan because I'm rational - and I'm certainly not a Red Sox fan because I'm rational. I fell for this sport and this team in the same head-over-heels, giddy, out of control way that you fall for a first love. Sure, the fact that I was born and raised in New Hampshire made the Sox an obvious choice, but how could you not fall for the classic beauty of Fenway Park? For the fun-loving antics and absolute domination of Pedro Martinez, who dazzled Red Sox fans in his heyday?

Jon Lester didn't come onto the scene until I was already a diehard, but I fell in love with him just the same. Everyone knows Lester's amazing story: touted prospect is diagnosed with cancer, makes a miraculous recovery and returns to the game in time to win the clinching game of the 2007 World Series. Oh, and the very next season he threw a no-hitter, the eighteenth in franchise history.

Lester is a favorite among fans, teammates, and managers. The looks on Lester's and Terry Francona's faces as the two embraced following Lester's no-hitter never fails to make me tear up.

Even when Lester was part of the infamous Beer and Chicken Incident of 2011, he was one of the only players involved to come forward, admit it was wrong, and work to move past it. He's grown from the rookie who looked up to Josh Beckett to a player John Farrell can point to as an example when pitchers come up through the system. The student has become the teacher.

Sure, Lester has had poor games, and even the odd mediocre season - but he's a good lefthanded pitcher who can be absolutely dominating under the right circumstances. He typically takes responsibility for his mistakes, and gives his teammates ample credit for their contributions to his successes. 

Lester is a fan favorite - and for good reason. He'll certainly help the A's down the stretch, and give Red Sox fans a good reason to watch the playoffs, even though the Sox are all but mathematically eliminated.

Even though the Lester trade makes good baseball sense, it's hard to see him go. He's yet another piece of the 2007 team gone, a home grown player with a story worthy of a blockbuster film, headed to the west coast in the blink of an eye. Sure, he might be back by next Opening Day - but it's just as likely that we'll never see him in a Red Sox uniform again.

Somehow, Lester is more than a baseball player to me (and, I suspect, to many of you). I hope he's successful going forward, that he wins a lot of games down the stretch, and most of all, that he comes home to us over this offseason.

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