When you’re playing against Jon Lester, you probably don’t like him. His teammates love him. He has three World Series rings, and he wants more. The Cubs were willing to let him go once his contract ran its course after six years. It cost the Cubs $10 million to part ways with him as they bought out the remaining option on his deal. The Washington Nationals pounced on him in what could be one of the best signings of 2021.
His value to that Cubs’ franchise changed baseball history in 2016 and years of bad luck. His 1-0 gem to start the 2016 NLDS against the San Francisco Giants changed the course of history. The Giants had that “even year” thing going with three World Series wins in 2010, 2012, and 2014. If Lester did not dominate that game one of the 2016 NLDS, the Cubs might have lost in that series and that World Series could have had another name on the rings.
Before his time with the Cubs, Lester was a second round draft pick of the Red Sox back in 2002. The Expos passed on Lester in the second round to choose Darrell Rasner, and that’s a story for another day. The Red Sox went on to win two World Series with Lester. But almost none of that happened because in 2006, Lester was diagnosed with a form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and his season ended as he went through chemotherapy treatments at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center near his boyhood home, and beat cancer! The rest is history as they say as he became a workhorse in the modern terms with 12 seasons of 31 or more starts.
When you think of baseball curses, Lester turned the fortunes for the two most beleaguered baseball towns in Wrigley and Fenway. Two places he would never have to pay for a drink again. But he would probably never accept a freebie from anyone as he is usually the guy picking up the tabs. As his former teammates would say, “Lester is paying.”
Today, Lester returns to Wrigley as a member of the Nats. With three starts this season for the Nats, he will set the stage in this four-game series. He will face a whole lot of his ex-teammates and face righty Adbert Alzolay who was his teammate for two years in Chicago.
Maybe Kyle Schwarber faced Alzolay in an intra-squad scrimmage, but the only Nats player with an MLB record against the Cubs’ righty is Josh Bell who tagged him for two hits — both home runs.
Yes, this is also a homecoming of sorts for Kyle Schwarber who was a star for that 2016 Cubs World Series team. The Cubs was the only team he knew before the Cubs non-tendered him in another cost-savings measure. Cubs fans are not like fans of other teams. They have seen more than a few players leave over money, and I doubt you can find many fans calling their owner “cheap” even though Thomas Ricketts and his family wealth exceed most families that own MLB teams. Neither Lester nor Schwarber wanted to leave, but they were both sent packing. Manager Dave Martinez and pitching coach Jim Hickey were on that staff too, and that just adds to the strong Cubs connection in this series.
The Cubs launched their own baseball channel, the Marquee Sports Network, in joint ownership with Sinclair to have 24/7 Cubs coverage. It is one more avenue for the Cubs to make more money as they vaulted to the Top-4 on Forbes list of most valuable MLB teams at $3.36 billion and almost double the crosstown White Sox who are valued at $1.68 billion.
These ex-Cubs in the Washington Nationals’ dugout have a job to do — and that is try to sweep this series for the Nats and get back to .500. Of course it all starts tonight with getting the Nats their Curly W in this game.
Washington Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs
Stadium: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois
1st Pitch: 7:40 pm EDT
TV: MASN, Marquee Sports Network, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)
Line-up subject to change (without notice):
1. Trea Turner – SS
2. Juan Soto – RF
3. Josh Bell – 1B
4. Kyle Schwarber – LF
5. Starlin Castro – 3B
6. Josh Harrison – 2B
7. Yan Gomes – C
8. Jon Lester – LHP
9. Victor Robles – CF