Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Yeah, but" didn't apply

I railed against the proposed Lester-Santana trade during the off-season. I believed the Red Sox would be giving up too much to get the vaunted (former) Twin ace.

I preached patience with Lester's early struggles. According to medical personnel, it can take up to two years to get back to full strength after cancer treatments...if at all. We're still less than two years removed from even the diagnosis and Lester absolutely dominated the Kansas City Royals in his start, throwing a no-hitter (with a little bit of help from Jacoby Ellsbury - one of the other key components in the trade package with the Twins).

Some people will look at the fact that it was against the Royals and say "yeah, but...," but that would be wrong. Sure, one to nine, they're not a dominant hitting team, but one to seven they have only one player hitting below .260, Jose Guillen (.241 after Lester's start), and he's currently seventh in the American League in RBI production. Lester also had to pitch to the leader in batting average (.331), Mark Grudzielanek three times on his way to the offensive shut-down. The Royals currently have the fifth best batting average in the American League - better than presumed offensive powerhouses like the Yankees and Tigers.

There is no "yeah, but..." here. Just a dominating performance against a decent offensive team.

I'm still not saying that Lester is necessarily going to become Johann Santana, but I still don't think Santana was worth trading Lester.

A few quick notes about the start - Lester is just one of three pitchers to win the deciding game of the World Series and the following year throw a no-no. It's him, Sandy Koufax and then back in 1915 Rube Foster did it for the Red Sox. That's not just good company - that's rare company.

Think about that for a second - Lester, Koufax, and Foster. Not Tom Glavine, not Pedro Martinez, not Roger Clemens, not Bob Gibson, Bob Lemon, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Don Larsen, Cy Young, nor Steve Carlton. A who's who of Hall-of-Famers didn't do what Lester did - and Lester has done it with the extra degree of difficulty of doing it while recovering from cancer.

Jason Varitek has now been behind the plate for four no-hitters, and it could have been six had Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling not shaken the Sox catcher off in the ninth inning of games in which they came close. I bring this up because Varitek is nearing the end of his career - he might have four seasons left after this as catchers at his age can deteriorate quickly.

His offensive numbers are solid, but not Hall worthy. But has any catcher been better at calling a game? Has any other catcher been behind the plate for four no hitters? Maybe, but I haven't found him.


Dave said...

Tek is the only catcher ever to call four no-hitters. I know Berra has three and so do a couple of others.

So at this point Tek is just putting distance between himself and everyone else. With the arms we have and that are coming up, I don't think one or two more are out of the question over the next few years. Especially since these kids don't wave him off.

sugarshane024 said...

Hats off to Jon Lester. He's come back from cancer to win a World Series clincher and throw a no-hitter. He's baseball's version of Lance Armstrong who came back from cancer to win 976 straight Tours de France.

Unlike you, I was all for the Sox trading Lester, even before he was thrown in the Santana mix. I've never been a fan of him as a pitcher because of his lack of control and high pitch counts. He has certainly changed my outlook with this one start. Not only can I see him succeeding for years with the Sox, Lester is probably the most courageous person that I've ever heard of. He is a modern-day hero.