All is quiet in Boston, today. The MLB postseason did not grace the city with its presence, this year. The only thing that the Boston Red Sox and their loyal followers can do is watch as former starting pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey do battle on the mound, as the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals begin their playoff series.
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The question for Red Sox fans, who are at all interested in playoffs that don’t include their team, is a matter of which pitcher whom they wish to see win this matchup.
Would it be Lester? After being traded to the Oakland Athletics last season with the promise of giving him a huge salary increase if he re-signed, Lester opted to sign with his former Red Sox boss Theo Epstein and the Cubs, instead. The three-time All-Star said goodbye to the team that drafted him to make his home in Chicago for six years and $155 million. All that the Red Sox got in return is Yoenis Cespedes whom they traded quickly for Rick Porcello, who posted a 9-15 record and a 4.92 ERA, this season. Lester posted a record of 11-12 with a 3.34 ERA.
Would Red Sox Nation cheer for Lackey? He was openly critical of the Red Sox for trading him, after he felt that he gave it his all for Boston only to then be traded for young starter Joe Kelly and first baseman Allen Craig. Now, Craig barely resembles what he once was in St. Louis while Kelly has only started looking like his potential after a horrendous beginning to his campaigns in front of the Fenway faithful. Lackey, on the other hand, went 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA, the lowest ERA he’s ever had in his 14-year career.
Sep 22, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher John Lackey (41) celebrates after getting the third out against the Cincinnati Reds during the seventh inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Lester won two World Series rings with the Red Sox. Lackey won one, but won three important games in the postseason for Boston, including shutting out a powerful Detroit Tigers lineup in 6.2 innings in the 2013 American League Championship Series. In that same year, Lester won both of his World Series starts, giving up a single run on a combined nine hits, one walk, and 15 strikeouts in 15.1 innings.
Both men were instrumental in winning the 2013 championship, but the history between Lester and the Red Sox is overwhelming. Between his battle with cancer, his friendship with current Red Sox manager John Farrell, his charity work in the city of Boston, let alone nine years of his career spent with the organization, Red Sox Nation had much more emotional investment with Lester than with Lackey, whom at one point looked like a bust before he resurrected his career from the ashes of injuries.
That emotion could be all the more reason for Boston to be angry with Lester moving to Chicago, but not likely. Lester’s often been viewed as one of Boston’s own. And, it’s not like he pulled a Johnny Damon or Jacoby Ellsbury and signed with the evil empire known as the New York Yankees. Lester signed with another team that has seemed cursed. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908.
Leaving the Steve Bartman controversy alone, the Cubs fans have suffered much heartache. Even the infamous Bill Buckner play against the New York Mets had a connection between the Cubs and the Red Sox. Buckner was wearing a batting glove from his former team underneath his first baseman’s glove that fateful night, where it seemed Red Sox fans would never forgive him for botching the World Series that would have ended their own curse.
Red Sox fans forgave Buckner. Can they not forgive Lester and the Cubs, too?
After all, it’s not like the Cardinals have been struggling, themselves. The Cards have won 11 World Series Championships in the Cubs’ spanning draught, including two recent ones in 2006 and 2011. The Cards seem to be in the playoffs every year, making the postseason commonplace in St. Louis. Where’s the angst? The jealousy? The resentment? The utter agony that Red Sox Nation and the Cubs’ fans have known all too well over the last century?
Cards fans can’t even begin to imagine the horror, which will make some Red Sox fans lean toward blessing the Cubs, including Lester, for success. Then again, the Boston Bruins and New England Patriots have already started playing and the Celtics are soon to follow. Maybe, there is no question of who they cheer for because they found something else to watch.
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