“When I think back about those days, well all I can do is sit and smile…” – John Mellencamp, Cherry Bomb
Jon Lester earned his 200th career win last night as the red-hot Cardinals dumped the Brewers 5-2 to keep their slim hopes of winning the NL Central alive. St. Louis has gone 28-17 since the trade deadline and earned their 80th win of the season with their ninth straight victory. They’re buoyed by a group of ageless veteran starters that includes former Cub Lester (37), Adam Wainwright (40), and J.A. Happ (38).
The good news is that Lester won’t earn that milestone win against the Cubs, though most of his former teammates are gone anyway. I thought it would have been nice for Lester to get it at Wrigley Field since he didn’t get much of a sendoff due to attendance restrictions last season. For all the hard-working lefty did with the Cubs, a standing ovation from a few hundred fans watching from the Wrigley rooftops was hardly worthy. Lester changed the team’s culture and gave the Cubs legitimacy, maybe even as much as Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon.
Lester won 77 games in six seasons with Chicago and in hindsight, I think we all would have rather seen him remain instead of the not-so-triumphant return of Jake Arrieta. If Big Jon had his druthers, he would have finished his career with the Cubs and would have loved nothing more than to earn No. 200 wearing the royal blue pinstripes. It’s not easy on the eyes to see him wearing Cardinal red and it felt morally wrong, if not nearly reprehensible, to cheer him on yesterday evening. May God have mercy on our souls.
Still, 200 wins is an impressive feat (no matter what other writers may say) and one that will get rarer because baseball has become more of a bullpen game in recent years. It’s a testament to talent, durability, playing on good teams, and, of course, a little luck. During a nine-season stretch from 2008-16, Lester complied a 3.34 ERA over 1,859.1 innings, fifth-most in baseball. He won 135 games during that stretch and anchored staffs in Boston (2013) and Chicago (2016) that won the World Series.
With 13 games left in their season, the Cardinals’ magic number to clinch a postseason berth as the second Wild Card is down to 10. The odds will be heavily against Lester given the strengths of each of this year’s playoff teams, but he just may have a shot at earning a fourth ring if St. Louis clinches (he won a clinching Game 4 in the 2007 World Series with the Red Sox). The sad part is, that should have happened here in Chicago.
All that being said, we can now resume hating the Cardinals even if it means cheering for the Brewers.
Cubs News & Notes
- Third baseman Patrick Wisdom endured quite a tough stretch before finally breaking the club record for home runs by a rookie.
- Wisdom’s home run rate puts him in rarified company.
- Only five MLB players have hit 27 home runs in 355 plate appearances or fewer, a list that includes Giancarlo Stanton and Mark McGwire.
- CI’s Greg Huss has this week’s farm report, which includes some stellar performances by Brennen Davis and Christopher Morel.
- Speaking of the kids, Davis and rookie league second baseman James Triantos made Jonathan Mayo’s Prospect Team of the Week.
- Chicago jam band Umphrey’s McGee has partnered with the Marquee Network to provide original music for Cubs telecasts.
- If you’re not familiar with the band, check out the song “Anchor Drops.” Chicagoans will be very familiar with the band’s choice to end the song.
Odds & Sods
Braves slugger Adam Duvall on his career-long 483-foot homer last night: “That’s probably all I’ve got.”
483 FEET FOR ADAM DUVALL 😳 pic.twitter.com/EuQ7Ro8TGz
— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) September 21, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“The rain hit the old dog in the twilight’s last gleaming. He said ‘Son that sounds like rattling old bones. This highway is long but I’ve seen some that are longer, but by sunup tomorrow I guess I’ll be home.'” – Mellencamp, Minutes to Memories
A list of notable players who played for both the Cubs and the Cardinals.
- Dizzy Dean
- Rogers Hornsby
- Lou Brock
- Bruce Sutter
- Lee Smith
- Dennis Eckersley
- Rick Sutcliffe
- Mark DeRosa
- Mark Grudzielanek
- Steve Swisher
- Good ol’ No. 11 Dandy Don Kessinger
Also, Shawon Dunston had two stints with St. Louis before retiring with the Giants; Tony La Russa played one game with zero plate appearances for Chicago in 1973 and later managed the Cardinals; Maddon grew up a Cardinals fan and managed the Cubs; and finally, Harry Caray started his career in St. Louis and later broadcast games for the North Siders from 1982 until his death in 1998.
John Mabry, who started his career in St. Louis, played for Chicago’s North Side baseballers in 2006, which who remembers?
How About That!
Neither the Dodgers nor the Giants want to finish in second place and face the second Wild Card team in an elimination game.
Scherzer’s success after being traded to Los Angeles from the Nationals should make him the top pitching target in free agency this winter.
Yankees minor league pitchers have bonded via group texts and avocado shakes (subscription to NY Post Premium required).
ChiSox starter Carlos Rodón is dealing with arm soreness and his velocity is down, and the team is concerned.
Just like the parent club, every single one of the Rays’ domestic minor league affiliates has a shot at winning a championship.
MLB will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all players sent to the Arizona Fall League.
Once a top-ranked outfield prospect with the Blue Jays and Tigers, Anthony Gose has finally made it back to the majors as a fireballing reliever for the Indians. The fleet-footed Gose last played at the MLB level in 2016.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Lester – Congratulations to Big Jon from all Cubs fans.
- Salvador Pérez – The Kansas City catcher broke the record for most home runs by a catcher when he belted his 46th tater last night in the Royals 7-2 win over Cleveland. Johnny Bench (1970) was the previous record-holder.
- Joey Votto – A 3-for-3 night with two home runs will earn a paycheck, that’s for sure. Votto led the Reds past the Pirates to keep pace with the Cardinals. Cincinnati remains three games behind St. Louis for the final NL postseason slot.
To be bestowed with an honorary name like “Mr. Cub,” you’d have to have played for just one team. Perhaps if free agency existed in the 1950s and ’60s, Ernie Banks may have played elsewhere. Then again, it’s hard to fathom that a guy who loved Wrigley Field and the city of Chicago so much would even think about leaving if the opportunity actually existed.
In just his third game with the @Cubs, Ernie Banks slugged his first NL homer on this day in 1953.
There was more where that came from: Mr. Cub would retire with 512 career home runs. pic.twitter.com/4bPm2o7unU
— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) September 20, 2021
They Said It
- “I’m rooting for him. I know he’s pitching for a team that we’re not supposed to root for, but I’m rooting for him to get 200. I think that’s a significant number in today’s game, especially with how we’re using starters and some of the things where you feel like you’re trying to protect guys and health and longevity.” – David Ross
- “It’s a nice round number and it looks better than 199. It’s obviously awesome, but I’m kind of lacking words.” – Lester
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Paper in Fire by Mellencamp – It should have been the damn Cubs. I’ll say no more.