Unwrapping the Jon Lester present this morning left me feeling like the kid from “A Christmas Story” — you know, the movie that TBS plays on a loop for 24 hours around the holidays.
Ralphie gets the present he wanted the most, a Red Ryder BB gun. As he unwraps it, he looks like a bubbling volcano of joy. But he tries to keep it cool as his dad explains to him how to use it. That crazy-making tumult of irrational emotion and rational thought is where I sit today. Let’s take a look inside the mind of a crazy Cubs fan:
Rational: I’m not completely surprised by Lester choosing the Cubs. I had bought into Theo Epstein’s plan to start building from the ground up — assemble a core of young talent and then spend money to fill in the missing pieces. A frontline starter was a gaping hole, so the Cubs loosened the purse strings to fill it. Epstein is just following the plan he established from Day 1.
— Wrigley Blog (@WrigleyBlog) December 10, 2014
Emotional: Ha! Take that doubters. Suck it. I told you Epstein would spend money, but he wasn’t going to do it like Hendry — throwing money at the many holes in the Cubs operation. Sure, now you’ll all get on the bandwagon. Where were you when Theo and Co. were making shrewd move after shrewd move to build a sustainable contender? You were bitching about losing Samardzija, that’s where.
Rational: Cubs fans should definitely temper expectations. Lester is a huge addition. Miguel Montero is an upgrade at catcher. They landed arguably the best manager in baseball in Joe Maddon. But the Cubs are still a very young team that will experience some growing pains. Can Javier Baez make consistent contact? Can Jake Arrieta duplicate his breakout season? Can Jason Hammel bounce back from his debacle in Oakland? There is reason for optimism, but we need to chill.
Extremely difficult decision for me and my family but we love the outcome and couldn't be more excited to join the Cubs organization! #NVRQT
— Jon Lester (@JLester31) December 10, 2014
Emotional: Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win! Get used to it because we’re going to hear that a lot this year. Vegas made the Cubs one of the favorites to win it all next year, and those guys know what they’re doing. Right? Right? Kris Bryant is gonna tear it up. Jorge Soler is the man. And Theo’s not even done making this team better. I’m not saying the Cubs win the World Series this year … but I’m saying the Cubs could win the World Series this year! Will a doctor give you a prescription for Valium to battle unbridled optimism?
Rational: Lester had the best ERA, WHIP, FIP, SO/BB, you name it, year of his career. I’m always wary of guys who get paid coming off a career year, especially when that season is like eight years into a career. It’s unrealistic to assume that he improves upon those numbers. And it was just a couple of years ago that he went 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA. If he plays to his career averages, Lester is still an ace, but he’s not Clayton Kershaw. The Cubs still have question marks in the rotation, though Theo takes a realistic view of the roster and makes moves accordingly.
Emotional: Can you imagine how good Lester can be in the NL after spending almost all of his career in the AL East? Ha. Ha. I pity the fools who think he’s not one of the true studs in the game. And postseason, don’t get me started. The Cubs just have to get to the playoffs and they’ll trot out a No. 1 starter who has the third best postseason ERA OF ALL TIME. All time. That’s a long time.
Rational: The Cubs will be greatly improved. No doubt about it. The Cubs did play over-.500 ball for the last few months of the season last year, and that was without a Lester and with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo missing chunks with injuries. The bullpen was solid. The offense started clicking. Arrieta and fellow starter Kyle Hendricks were revelations. The Cubbies should be right in the mix to win the Central, and as we saw last year with Kansas City, once you get into the playoffs these days anything is possible. Realistically, though isn’t 2016 a better bet to really contend? The youngsters will have another year under their belts. Theo gets to see what holes remain this year and really fine tune.
Emotional: Wait till next year? Forget it. This year is next year! (yells and fires Red Ryder BB gun into the air).
You can reach me at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.