Never Underestimate Cancer

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This summer, my two best friends and I were talking about the Red Sox and the possibility of a Johan Santana trade. They both agreed that giving up Buchholz and Ellsbury was a little too much. They were fine with giving up Lester though. “He’s just going to be a seven inning, four or five run, five or six walks kind of guy,” Tarit said. “I can see that,” agreed Izak.

“NO,” I said. Lester was only one season removed from CANCER, I explained to them. In the three starts before his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma started affecting his game, Lester had thrown a one-run game, a shutout, then a one-hit shutout, respectively. He had the potential to raise the velocity of his fastball to the upper nineties. He had just won the clinching game of the World Series. And he was only 24.“No way he’ll ever be more than a 12 win guy,” Tarit concluded. Izak nodded in agreement.

After not being traded in the off-season, Lester began the season as one of the Sox’s best pitchers. Izak, not nearly as stubborn as Tarit, admitted to me that he had done the unthinkable. He had underestimated cancer. He didn’t believe that the disease actually had affected Lester that much. He just thought Lester didn’t have the ability.

Tonight, Jon Lester threw a no-hitter.

More than anything in the world, Tarit hates being wrong. Instead of acceding a point, he’ll pretend he doesn’t hear what you’re saying. He has been known to change the subject when the tide of the argument is turning against him. In school debates, he’ll simply raise his voice if the opposing party is making more logical arguments. But tonight he called me. A defeated voice sighed across the line, “Okay, I was wrong about Lester.”

Tarit was quick to point out that a no-hitter does not necessarily mean Lester will be good. Clay threw one last year and he is still far from consistent. Hideo Nomo and Derek Lowe each threw a no-no for the Sox and neither was ever the staff ace. I understand these points. But Lester is my guy. He and Clay both threw their no-hitters at much younger ages than either Lowe or Nomo.

The true moral of the story is to never underestimate cancer. Izak, with his eccentric and backwards logic, has started to overestimate it, if that’s possible. He now says that he expects any player that comes back from cancer to be unreal. Be that as it may, the Jon Lester story is one of the best in professional sports. The Jon Lester career may be even better.

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