John Lester announced retirement after 16 seasons, three World Championships
Baseball

John Lester announced retirement after 16 seasons, three World Championships

Three-time world champion and 200-game winner John Lester is retiring after a 16-year career.

Leicester, 38, told ESPN that his body couldn’t handle the rigors of a major league season anymore. He started 30 or more times 12 during his career and 28 during his final season split between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.

His resume includes five All-Star appearances and 2.51 after the ERA season.

“It kind of takes its course,” Lister said. “It just got more and more difficult for me physically. The little things that popped up over the year turned into bigger things that hamper your performance.

“I’d like to think I’m halfway decent self-assessment. I don’t want someone else telling me I can’t do that anymore. I want to be able to hand my shirt over and say, ‘Thank you, it was fun.'” This is perhaps the biggest deciding factor.”

Leicester leave a legacy of post-season success. He won two world titles with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 and 2013 and a third circuit with the Chicago Cubs in 2016, helping to break a 108-year drought. Additional playoff appearances in 2008, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018 made him a key player in October, and those memories will shine through most for Leicester.

“I remember the nervousness I felt before the fourth match of the 2007 World Championships,” he said. “I remember standing on the hill in Game 5 against St.Louis in 2013, in a series tie, and [paper] A plane was thrown from the upper deck landing just behind the pile. I still remember looking at it.

“Then Game 7 upset in 2016 [when the Cubs won in extra innings]. “

At the height of his life, the 6-foot-4 Lester dominated a bad cutter and terrifying presence on the hill, which included his patented appearance: a glove resting just below his chin as he stared at signs from the catcher.

“The cutter is what set me off,” said Mark Teixeira, who with Evan Longoria has hit Leicester more times than anyone else. “He would come out and see me dive over the board, and then he would come with the cutter.”

“The reason he was such a bulldog was because he didn’t give up. He wasn’t afraid to walk with the guys. He knew how to put together a lineup.”

Leicester is one of only nine left-handers with 200 wins, a 0.600 win percentage and a career ERA of less than 4.00. Six of the other eight are in the Hall of Fame, while one, CC Sabathia, is ineligible yet.

Off the field, Leicester was known as the teammate who united the club.

said David Ross, Cubs manager, who was Leicester’s personal catcher during the bowler’s first two years in Chicago.

Leicester signed a $155 million free agent contract with Cubs in 2015. The decision to sign with the last-place team wasn’t easy.

“He took the opportunity for us when he paved the way for everything that came,” said Jed Hoyer, the general manager at the time. “Obviously he only came here for one reason, and everyone knows that.”

Leicester described signing with the Cubs as “the biggest decision we’ve ever made in my professional career,” although he struggled in his first weeks in Chicago, with a 6.23 ERA in April 2015.

“When you get in, you’re expected to be the guy who’s going to attend the world championships,” he said. “I felt it early in 2015. I was trying to win the world championship in the first month of the season. Russian [David Ross] He pulled me aside and basically told me to be myself. You don’t need to do anything more than I did. Just relax and realize the playing field. “

The following month, his ERA dropped to 1.76, and Leicester’s career took off in Chicago. An online poll of Chicago fans called him the greatest free agent in the city’s history — not least because Leicester served as a recruitment tool to bring other stars to the Cubs.

Former Big League player John Lackey, who signed with Chicago in 2016, said: “The reason I went there was because I knew they had a chance of winning a championship because John Leicester went there. He changed that organization, but that was a sign that they were serious. in the world of baseball. And that has put them on the map for seasoned players.”

In his sophomore year in Chicago, Leicester went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA and was named the National League Championship MVP. He made three World Championship appearances against Cleveland, including his comfortable appearance in Game 7, en route to his third World Championship ring.

It was the start of a great post-season extension. From 2016 to 2018, Leicester accumulated 1.93 ERA in 10 playoff matches.

“He worked harder than anyone else I’ve been around before,” Ross said. “When it was time to work, he was going to work. When it was time to play, he was making sure everyone had a good time. This is probably the biggest compliment I can give him.”

Leicester began his career with the Red Sox in 2002 and made his league debut in June 2006.

Late that season, backache sent Lester to hospital, where he was eventually diagnosed with anaplastic large T-cell lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy but was able to return to the team midway through 2007.

“I was on Triple-A on a rehab assignment in Pawtucket after cancer,” Lester said. “My parents were there and they were leaving that day or the next day to go home, and I told them they had to change their flight and I said, ‘I’m going to start the next night in Cleveland.'”

“This is one of the most important moments of my career. Seeing their faces was so amazing. Once I was back in baseball, I tried not to take anything for granted and I really appreciate being around the players.”

The experience led to the creation of Leicester’s charity, NVRQT, short for “Never Quit,” which helps raise funds for children’s cancer research. He will continue with the Foundation in retirement.

Lester’s time in Boston made an impression on him.

“It makes you grow up really fast, and it’s such a wonderful, wonderful place for me,” Lester said. “It made me more accountable than I would have been elsewhere.”

Leicester threw a 5⅔ closing innings against the Colorado Rockies in Game 4 to take the 2007 World Championship title. At the 2013 World Championship, Leicester went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA against St. Louis.

“Anytime he had the ball, it was a different feeling as a teammate,” said former teammate Dustin Pedroia. “The strength, the way he works, the desire to win. He had great things, but his best talent was that he found a way to win. It’s something you can’t teach, you can’t train. He’s a special player who has that. There’s not much.”

Leicester were traded with Auckland in 2014 and started a wild card playoff, which Team A eventually lost, before signing with the Cubs this off-season.

“I don’t want someone else telling me I can’t do that anymore. I want to be able to hand my shirt over and say, ‘Thank you, it was fun.’ That’s probably the biggest deciding factor.”

John Lister, on his decision to retire

After the 2020 season in Chicago, Leicester signed with the Nationals. He tackled the Cardinals on the trade deadline, going 4-1 with St. Louis while winning his 200th and final game in late September.

Playing with Waino [Adam Wainwright] and my hands [Yadier Molina] “It was great,” Lester said. It was a great experience to play for that organization. You learn to understand why they are so successful every year.”

The Cardinal secured a great berth, giving Leicester one last chance after the season ended. But by the end of the season, especially after the COVID-19 quarantine in 2020, Leicester knew it was time to go.

“The part that has helped me to be OK with this is the quarantine,” Lester said. “I was at home, at a time of the year I wasn’t normally home. That opened my eyes…when work outweighs joy, it’s time to re-evaluate where you are.”

Lester said he might consider TV work and didn’t rule out coming to Cubs’ spring training to teach young shooters — but full-time training isn’t in the cards. He said he will miss many aspects of the game but knows he’s made one commitment he made to himself.

Leicester said: “I’ve never wanted the fans to leave a match and ask, was that effort there?” “I think I’ve always given it to her.”

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