Jon Lester announces retirement after 16 seasons and three World Series titles

Three-time World Series champion and 200-game winner Jon Lester is retiring after a 16-year career in the majors.

Lester, 38, told ESPN that his body is no longer prepared for the rigors of a major league season. He made 30 or more starts 12 times during his career and 28 during his final season split between the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals.

His resume includes five All-Star appearances and a 2.51 postseason ERA.

“Things have run their course,” Lester said. “It’s getting harder and harder for me physically. The little things that came up throughout the year turned into bigger things that hinder your performance.

“I’d like to think I’m a fairly decent self-rater. I don’t want anyone else to tell me I can’t do this anymore. I want to be able to hand over my shirt and say, ‘Thanks, that was fun.’ That’s probably the biggest deciding factor. “

Lester leaves behind a legacy of postseason 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 a fixture for October.

Those memories will shine brighter for Lester.

“I remember feeling nervous 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 plane [de papel] It was launched from the upper deck landing just behind the mound. I still remember looking at that.

“And then the turmoil of Game 7 in 2016 [cuando los Cachorros ganaron en entradas extras]”.

In his prime, the 6-foot-4 Lester dominated with a nasty cut fastball and an intimidating presence on the mound, which included his patented appearance – the glove resting just below his chin as he looked in for signs of the receiver.

“The cut fastball is what neutralized me,” said Mark Teixeira, who along with Evan Longoria have the distinction of striking out more times than anyone else (22) against Lester. “He would throw out and see me throwing myself over the plate, then he would throw on the cut fastball.”

“The reason he was a bulldog was that he didn’t give up. And he wasn’t afraid to walk the guys. He knew how to pitch the lineup.”

Lester is one of only nine modern lefties with 200 wins, a .600 winning percentage and a lifetime 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 field, Lester was known as the teammate who brought the dressing room together.

“If you’re building a baseball player, in terms of how they treat other people, what their goals are, how you want them to compete and perform on and off the field, he’s the model,” Cubs manager David Ross said. , who was Lester’s personal receiver for the pitcher’s first two years in Chicago.

Lester signed a $ 155 million free agency contract with the Cubs in 2015. The decision to sign with a team in last place was not an easy one.

“He took a chance on us when he set the stage for everything that came along,” then-general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Clearly, I was only coming here for one reason, and everyone knew it.”

Lester said signing with the Cubs is “the most important decision we’ve made in my professional career,” although he struggled in his first weeks in Chicago, posting a 6.23 ERA in April 2015.

“Right now, you are expected to be the man to bring the World Series,” he said. “I felt that in early 2015. I was trying to win the World Series in the first month of the season. Rossy [David Ross] He pushed me aside and basically told me to be myself. ‘You don’t need to do anything other than what you have done. Just relax and shoot. “

The following month, his ERA dropped to 1.76 and Lester’s Chicago career took off. An online poll of Chicago fans named him the best free agent hire in city history, mostly because Lester served as a recruiting tool to bring in other stars to the Cubs.

“The reason I went there is because I knew they had a chance to win a championship because Jon Lester got there,” said former Major League Baseball player John Lackey, who signed with Chicago in 2016. “He changed that organization, but that changed. it was a sign to the baseball world that they were serious. That put them on the map for veterans. “

In his second 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 his third World Series ring.

“I don’t want anyone else to tell me I can’t do this anymore. I want to be able to hand over my shirt and say, ‘Thanks, that was fun.’ That’s probably the biggest deciding factor.”

Jon Lester, on his decision to retire

It was the start of a remarkable postseason streak. 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 came time to work, he went to work. When it came time to play, he made sure everyone had a good time. That’s probably the biggest compliment I could give him.”

Lester began his career with the Red Sox in 2002 and made his major league debut in June 2006.

Later that season, back pain sent Lester to the hospital, where he was finally diagnosed with anaplastic large T-cell lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy, but was able to return to the team in mid-2007.

“He was at Triple-A on a rehab assignment in 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 their flight and I said, ‘I’m going to open next night in Cleveland.’

“That’s one of the best moments of my career. Seeing their faces was great. Once I got back to baseball, I tried not to take anything for granted and I really appreciated being around the guys.”

The experience 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 in his retirement.

Lester’s time in Boston impressed him.

“It makes you grow up really fast, and it’s an amazing, amazing place for me,” Lester said. “It made me more responsible than if I were anywhere else.”

Lester pitched 5⅔ scoreless innings against the Colorado Rockies in Game 4 to clinch the 2007 World Series title. In the 2013 World Series, Lester was 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 great things, but his best gift was that he found a way to win. That is something you cannot teach, you cannot train. He is a special player who has that. . There are not many”.

Lester was traded to Oakland in 2014 and started a wild-card game, which the Athletics ultimately lost, before signing with the Cubs that offseason.

After the 2020 season in Chicago, Lester signed with the Nationals. Traded to the Cardinals at the trade deadline, he was 4-1 with St. Louis while winning the last game of his career, 200, in late September.

“Play with Waino [Adam Wainwright] y yadi [Yadier Molina] It was incredible, “said Lester.” It was a great experience playing for that organization. You learn to understand why they are so successful every year. “

The Cardinals earned a wild card spot, allowing Lester one last postseason chance. But at the end of the season, particularly after a COVID-19 quarantine in 2020, Lester knew it was time to go.

“The part that helped me get along with this was the quarantine,” Lester said. “I was home, at a time of year when I normally wasn’t. That opened my eyes … When work outweighs joy, then it’s time to reassess where you are.”

Lester said he might consider working on television and didn’t rule out coming to Cubs spring training to mentor young pitchers, but being a full-time coach is not in the cards. He said he will miss many aspects of the game, but he knows he fulfilled a commitment he made to himself.

“I never wanted fans to leave a game and ask, ‘Did you do your best there?'” Lester said. “I think I always did.”

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