Thursday was emotional day for both Chicago teams. On the South Side, the White Sox became the first American League team to clinch a postseason spot ending a 12-year playoff drought. On the North Side, Jon Lester threw what might be his final game at Wrigley Field as a Cub.
Now, before Spring Training, I was higher on the White Sox than I had any right to be, and I would have been shocked if they were the first AL team to clinch. It wasn’t hard to imagine Luis Robert producing right away, Lucas Giolito being excellent again, and Tim Anderson keeping things going. Those three things would have gone a long way toward sneaking into a Wild Card spot, but possibly winning the division and having the best run differential in the AL should have been out of the question.
Of course, extreme circumstances made this possible. Just about any team can look like the best team in baseball over a 60-game stretch. That doesn’t mean that what the White Sox have accomplished so far is cheapened in anyway. Every other team had the same opportunity to take advantage of the shortened season, and the White Sox have simply played better.
While the White Sox look forward, the Cubs are looking back on six years of greatness from Jon Lester. If Thursday was indeed his final game at Wrigley Field as a Cub, Lester will finish his Cubs career with 13.3 bWAR over 6 seasons which included two All-Star appearances, and a World Series title. In that 2016 season, Lester had a 171 ERA+ over 202 2⁄3 innings and was a major part of the title run as he was awarded NLCS MVP honors. That postseason began with him outdueling Johnny Cueto as he went eight innings and only allowed five hits.
It’s not a guarantee that Lester’s time with the Cubs is at an end. The team could theoretically pick up his $25 million option for 2021, but that price seems a bit steep even without considering that Tom Ricketts is signing the checks. There’s also the possibility of Lester re-signing with the team under new terms, so it might not be goodbye just quite yet. If it is, he had a hell of a time in Chicago.
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