The pre-Washington Nationals, Jon Lester, was a man of intrigue. A five time All-Star, three time World Champion, and NLCS MVP. The left hander seemed like a perfect fit as the fifth starter in any rotation. Ultimately, Washington spent $5M to get him in theirs.
After three starts, Lester looked like the pitcher the Nationals signed him to be. He had an ERA just above two and a FIP just over three. Then he got shelled in back to back starts, against a mediocre Chicago Cubs team and a terrible Baltimore Orioles team.
In his next five starts he gave up two runs or fewer each time out, and pitched at least five innings, thrice. Again, he looked like the pitcher the Nationals signed him to be.
Save for the seven shutout innings he tossed against the Miami Marlins (Lester also had two hits and a home run this game), the rest of his starts with Washington were forgettable.
Jon Lester didn’t do much in his brief time with the Washington Nationals, though stop in DC will be remembered.
In wanting a guy like Lester on your team, at this stage in his career, is more for the mystique than the results you are going to get. You hope you can squeeze some productivity out of that left arm, and benefit from his big game experience. In the moment, sure, we’d have liked for Lester to be an effective pitcher, and we were angered when he was not. After the fact, we are happy to have been a part of his HOF career. Odds are he is a Hall of Famer.
Lester is one of only nine modern left-handers with 200 wins, a .600 winning percentage and a career ERA under 4.00. Six of the other eight are in the Hall of Fame, while one, CC Sabathia, isn’t eligible yet.
The Nationals name will appear on his HOF plaque. Even if he spent less than one season with the team. Do you remember Ivan Rodriguez’s contributions to the Nationals? Mentoring Wilson Ramos was probably the most prolific part of his time in DC. Yet, right there on a list of teams he played for reads, Washington N.L.
Jon Lester was a member of the Nationals for six months. I wrote six pieces about him during that time, some more critical than others. I even compared him to a lamp someone was going to leave on the curb (and the St. Louis Cardinals came by and picked it up). With hindsight being 20/20, the Nationals would have been better off not signing Lester. Now that the games have been played, and the final outcomes a distancing memory, I’m still glad they did.
The top priority is to win the World Series every year. If that can’t be accomplished, fans want to be able to watch a good product on the field. If they can’t get that, why not enjoy watching a past his prime, future Hall of Famer. He may not have been credited with a lot of wins during his stay with the Nationals (three, officially), though his mystique gave the fans something to hope for. From anticipation and expectations, to what could have beens and missed opportunities.
He may not have earned hardware with the Nationals, but one of these days when you stroll through Cooperstown, you’ll see Washington N.L., on Jon Lester’s HOF plaque.