Friday, December 5, 2014

NOG Miscalculation Leads To Lester As Cub?

by Mark Lawrence, FenwayNation International Editor

From time to time, this correspondent has sounded off about the amount of money needed to acquire or retain a ballplayer. These sums can be viewed many ways, depending on your own situation. If you’re Scott Boras, you might consider twenty million a year reasonable, while other folks know they’ll live, work and die without ever coming close to a figure like that.  Baseball salaries have risen steadily over the years, a pattern encouraged and supported by rich teams with abyss-deep pockets, and ruthless, predatory agents. It’s reached the stage where the actual dollar amounts don’t seem quite real anymore and I think this why we can accept it: ballplayers get paid an awful lot of money and that’s just how it is. With this as our background, let’s take a look at the Jon Lester situation. I never understood why he was traded in the first place.  

Oh sure, I understood the mechanics of the trade, I even figured out the desired result, but there was an element of stupid risk in the thing that gave me a bad feeling. After all, the expected outcome was that Boston would be able to reclaim Lester, right? Lester loves Boston and Boston loves him back, so there’s no problem. Hell, Lester was even willing to give the Olde Towne Team a discount, wasn’t he?  So, why isn’t he back in town already, renewing the lease on his Back Bay penthouse, playing golf with Papi and getting ready for Spring? Well, maybe it’s got something to do with the ham-handed way initial negotiations were handled by the NOG. Perhaps those first few numbers they wrote on the cocktail napkin told Lester that maybe they didn’t love him as much as he thought.  Maybe that trade-and-reclaim idea needled Lester just a tad, with the thought dawning on him that he was considered more of an asset, a tool, than a member of the family.  

But more likely, Lester saw the trade gambit as an opportunity to not only test free-agency, but to test the true depth of his value to Boston. Some people say that ballplayers are paid just what they’re worth. It seems to me that they’re paid what the market will bear and it appears patently obvious now that the NOG underestimated Lester’s value, while overestimating his loyalty to the team. Some time back, well before the trade, Lester indicated his expectations were in the region of six years and 120 million – but that was a tad too high for the NOG. Meanwhile, over dere in Wrigleyville, old pal Theo Epstein is waiting in the wings with a fat bag o’ cash and offering Lester the tantalizing chance to 'Make History' – again. So what happens now? Well, it looks like Jon’s gone and he ain’t coming back. In this writer’s opinion, he’ll be looking for that apartment on Chicago’s north side pretty soon.