Jon Lester and David Ross became close, first during their time together with the Boston Red Sox and then as teammates with the Chicago Cubs.
Naturally, they have some stories.
Ross, now manager of the Cubs, took a trip down memory lane in an ESPN.com piece published Wednesday in wake of Lester’s retirement. The former catcher recalled an on-field argument the two had in 2014, the same season the Boston Red Sox traded Lester to the Oakland Athletics.
“My favorite one came against Oakland (in 2014),” Ross told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, describing the yelling match. “He had struck out 12 in seven innings. Then he walked the leadoff man in the eighth on four noncompetitive pitches.
“I walked out to the mound and started screaming at him, ‘Are you done?! If you’re done, I’ll let (Red Sox manager John) Farrell know.’ And he’s yelling, ‘We’re not done.’ Then he punched out the next three and ended up striking out 15 on the day.”
The incident speaks to the relationship Ross and Lester developed as the former more or less became the latter’s personal backstop. And it also speaks to the competitive drive that made Lester such a bulldog on the mound throughout his 16-year Major League Baseball career.
It’ll be fascinating to see whether Lester ends up in the Hall of Fame, as his résumé includes 200 career regular-season wins, five All-Star selections, three World Series titles (two with Boston, one with Chicago) and impressive playoff numbers. But his legacy was shaped as much by his work ethic, dependability and leadership as his performance between the lines.
“If you’re building a baseball player, as far as how they treat other people, what their goals are, how you want them to compete and act on and off the field, he’s the model,” Ross told Rogers.
Lester spent parts of nine seasons with the Red Sox to begin his career. After a quick stop in Oakland, he signed with the Cubs and spent six seasons in Chicago, before finishing his career with a 2021 campaign split between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.
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