Jon Lester has had his doubters.
I was one of them.
Don't get me wrong. I never felt like Jon Lester couldn't pitch in the big leagues. But Lester was once thought to be the best pitching prospect in a system containing Clay Buchholz, Jonathan Papelbon, Anibal Sanchez, amongst others. And while the first three have distinguished themselves in their own spectacular ways, Lester seemed destined to never really deliver on the promise he showed, rising quickly through the system upon being drafted out of high school in 2002. His stuff, experience, and pitching maturity seemed like they'd never quite come together all at once. Thankfully, the doubters have been proven wrong tonight.
I don't have to tell you that Jon Lester isn't one to be told something can't be accomplished, or about the difficulties one can face in life and on the pitching mound. We all know about what he's gone through, and what he's had to do to get to this point.
There are some who would make mention of the fact that his opponent was the Kansas City Royals. Sure, but this devalues both the Royals and the accomplishment, and in needless ways. No-hitters can be broken up at any time, by most any ball put in play. Lester came close a couple of times tonight. There was a slow roller to short, put in play by Tony Pena, Jr., who nearly beat the ball out for a hit if not for a good play by Julio Lugo and a good stretch by Kevin Youkilis. There was the Jose Guillen liner to CF, that Jacoby Ellsbury was able to make an amazing diving catch on. A no-hitter is a special and amazing accomplishment, and there's nothing, now, that can take that away from Jon Lester.
Terry Francona made mention that he felt as though his "son" had graduated on this night, and thrown a no-hitter. As much as we love Clay Buchholz in Red Sox Nation, the feelings surrounding his no-hitter, to me at least, were those of immense pride in/for a young pitcher and his stuff and ability on the mound. In my mind, this was so much more. It's not as though we've had anything to complain about in Clay Buchholz, the individual, but this was a celebration of a man that we are proud of, first and foremost, as a person. His frankness about his fight against lymphoma and his efforts to get himself back into playing shape after undergoing chemotherapy are truly inspirational. To be honest, while watching Baseball Tonight this evening, I felt that John Kruk was a bit over-the-top in proclaiming the no-hitter as being inspirational for anyone else who has to fight the disease.
I've thought a little more about it, and come around to this: Jon Lester's no-hitter is proof that cancer is not necessarily the end of life, but more specifically, it's not the end of the individual's life. Jon Lester beat cancer and came back to return to doing what he's wanted to do for many years: be a Major League pitcher. He now has accomplished something truly historical as a Major League pitcher. For all the things that we deal with in this life that are negative, this is a truly positive event to be enjoyed and shared. I know it's not something Jon Lester takes for granted.