Julia (of Julia’s Rants) has graciously reduced my sentence by one blog! Yeah, I am free! Well, I guess I will be after this blog! 😉
For my last Red Sox blog, I thought long and hard about what player I wanted to write about. I thought about David Ortiz since I think the man is personally responsible for the end of the Curse of the Bambino. He gave Manny Ramirez huge protection in the line up, and he instilled a ‘don’t quit’ attitude in the Red Sox clubhouse. For the life of me, I still don’t understand why the Minnesota Twins released Big Papi…or why Brian Cashman didn’t react quicker.
Cataffo/New York Daily News
I also thought about manager Terry Francona. For years, Red Sox managers were always guys that you loved to hate. Even though he later occupied the Yankees bench along side Joe Torre, I couldn’t stand Don Zimmer when he was the manager of the Red Sox. With Tito, the Red Sox finally had a manager who commands respect. I am hopeful that Joe Girardi will one day be the man that Tito is today.
Ultimately, I decided to go with the Man of the Hour. Fresh off the newly signed contract, Jon Lester seems to be the most appropriate current Boston player for my final Red Sox blog.
So, here goes my final blog as a temporary but involuntary member of the Red Sox Nation…
Future 20-Game Winner
I first became aware of Jonathan Tyler Lester in 2006. I had started to hear about the latest Red Sox pitching phenom early that year (he made his major league debut on June 10, 2006 at Fenway Park).
In his first game, Jon pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up 5 hits, 3 runs, and 4 walks. He also had 4 strikeouts. He received a no-decision, but the Red Sox lost the game to the Texas Rangers, 7-4.
Over the next couple of months, Jon pitched very well. He had racked up 7-2 record, with 4.76 ERA in 81 1/3 innings by late summer. But on August 27, 2006, he was scratched from a start in Oakland against the A’s. The reason listed was a sore back, and there were concerns it was related to an auto accident that had occurred earlier that month. He was placed on the DL, and sent back to Boston for further tests. On August 31st, it was reported that Jon had enlarged lymph nodes. A few days later, the doctors confirmed that he had a treatable form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
In December of that year, after a sixth round of chemotherapy, the doctors reported no evidence of visible cancer cells and declared that Jon was in remission. It will be a five year process before Jon can be declared cancer free, but it has been all good so far.
Jon was born in Tacoma, WA on January 7, 1984. He graduated from Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma. He was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year for Washington in 2000. He had the opportunity to go to college on a scholarship, but opted to sign with the Boston Red Sox after being selected in the second round of the 2002 draft (57th selection overall).
Following the cancer treatments of 2006, Jon’s velocity had returned by mid to late 2007. He returned to the majors in the summer and finished the year with a 4-0 mark, 4.57 ERA and 50 strikeouts.
In October, Jon started and won the deciding Game 4 of the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver. He pitched 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball, and only gave up 3 hits and 3 walks, and had 3 strikeouts.
Bill Greene/Boston Globe
As Jon moved to 2008, he had gained 25 pounds from the year before (almost all muscle) and looked to be in great physical condition.
On May 19th, with the temperature only 56 degrees, Jon and the Red Sox faced the Kansas City Royals, and he promptly threw a no-hitter. With 130 total pitches, to go with 9 strikeouts and 2 walks, Jon threw first pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced. The game was highlighted by a diving catch of a sinking liner in the 4th inning by Jacoby Ellsbury.
In July, Jon made his debut at Yankee Stadium. Unwilling to yield to the mystique and aura of the Stadium, he threw a complete game five-hit shutout.
Jon finished the successful 2008 campaign with a 16-6 record, 3.21 ERA, and had 152 strikeouts. He became the first Boston southpaw since Babe Ruth (1916) and Lefty Grove (1937) with as many as 15 wins, 30 starts, 200 innings, 150 strikeouts, and sub 3.50 ERA in a single season.
Yesterday, the Red Sox and Jon finalized the much anticipated 5 year contract for $30 million. The contract includes a club option for 2014. “Everyone is excited about it,” 2B Dustin Pedroia said. “You want to play for a long time with those guys you came up with. Jon is going to keep getting better and better. I’m sure by Year 5 of that deal he’s going to be an even better pitcher than he is right now.”
That doesn’t bode well for AL East opponents, including my beloved Yankees. It’s no wonder the Red Sox held Jon out of trade discussions involving the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Josh Beckett, and Johan Santana over the years.
I wish #31 the very best…well except when he makes the trip to the Bronx or the Bombers travel to Fenway. Jon is a champion competitor, a true ace, who plays the game the way it should be played. He deserves our respect, but clearly the pleasure of watching him pitch is all ours…
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
SO LONG RON SILVER…THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!
Granted, it’s not sports-related; however, I would like to acknowledge the passing of actor Ron Silver who died Sunday at the age of 62. He had been fighting esophageal cancer for the past couple of years.
Through the years, Ron has been involved in so many television and film roles dating back to The Mac Davis Show in the early 70’s. More recently, he had a recurring role on “The West Wing” as a slick strategist for the president.
He was a very good actor, he commanded your attention when he was on screen, and he’ll be sorely missed…
AND FINALLY, YANKEES NEWS…
Ah, let’s talk about the Yankees! I love it! Yankees, Yankees, Yankees…24/7 from here on out! Yeah!
- The Yankees routed the Philadelphia Phillies today, 12-0. Nick Swisher played first base, and had 3 RBI. Joba Chamberlain pitched three shutout innings of two-hit ball. He also had 3 strikeouts. Kei Igawa continues to pitch well, but I’d definitely take the ‘sell high’ approach with him (even if it means paying part of his contract to unload him).
- LP Zach Kroenke, 25, who was chosen by the Florida Marlins in December’s Rule 5 Draft, was returned to the Yankees on Monday. He has been assigned to AA Trenton. Sorry, Zach, but I am glad you had a miserable time in the Florida training camp. Welcome back…
- Both 2B Robinson Cano and P Damaso Marte received good news from the results of their respective MRI’s. Cano has bursitis of the right shoulder, and Mare has inflammation of the left shoulder. So, both should be back in action before long…
- Good luck to former Yankees C Pudge Rodriguez who has signed a one-year deal with the Houston Astros.
- In a non-Yankees note of interest to most likely only me, Denver Broncos QB Jay Cutler had a very acrimonious meeting with new head coach Josh McDaniels over the weekend, and has demanded to be traded. The Vikings deny interest, but the Minnesota papers seem to follow every step of the action between Cutler and the Broncos with great detail. I personally think Jay would look pretty good in purple and gold…
It is great to be back in Yankeeville! Hopefully, my guys won’t let me down next month when the Great Showdown II with Julia of Julia’s Rants takes place (the weekend series between the Yankees and Red Sox on April 24th through 26th).
With all sincerity, I do want to thank Julia for the incredible sportsmanship and good humor that she displayed during our first showdown. I know, without a doubt, that it would have been no different had she lost. We are very privileged to have her as one of our leading bloggers, and she continues to work harder than anyone I know at making MLB Blogs an incredible experience for everyone.
But with that, I will still say…Go Yankees! J