Lester signing puts Cubs back in the game

Did you notice the earth shifting on its axis? You probably slept through it. But I assure you, it happened. If you live in Chicago, it was a little past midnight on Dec. 10. A four-word Tweet by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal caused the earth’s center of gravity to move its position.

On his Twitter account, Rosenthal typed simply: “Sources: Lester to #Cubs.”

And the tilt it caused? It did what many had thought not possible. It made Cub fans worldwide wake up with something that they haven’t seen on their faces in a long, long…very long time: a smile.

Suddenly the world didn’t seem like such a dark place. After a long absence, the Cubs were back in the game.

Don’t think that others haven’t noticed this planetary realignment. In Vegas, after news of the Cubs agreeing to a six-year, $155 million deal with Jon Lester late Tuesday night, the oddsmakers moved them to 12-1 to win the 2015 World Series. Not too shabby for a team that began the offseason at 40-1 and are now among the top seven teams in the SuperBook’s World Series odds. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals are co-favorites at 7-1, followed by the Los Angeles Angels at 8-1 and the Detroit Tigers at 10-1.The St. Louis CardinalsBaltimore Orioles and Cubs are all 12-1. Those Redbird Rooters must be crying in their beer.

What makes the Lester signing so important is that it lifts the Cubs out of that place as the doormat of the National League, as Steve Goodman once eloquently sang. The most-prized free agent of the offseason going to the Cubs? That just never happens. Until now.

The signing of Lester, a three-time All-Star who went 16-11with a career-best 2.46 ERA in 2014, is a symbolic victory for the Cubs. It signals that they are ready to compete again, after five straight losing seasons. It makes the Cubs a team that others will want to play for. It makes the Cubs a team that its fans can believe in.

Lester has not won a single game for the Cubs. He won’t take the mound for the team for another four months. Yet he has already won over the faithful and even some of the naysayers. Some of the Tweets that have followed the news of his signing:

Evan Altman: “In Landing Lester Cubs Signal to Rest of World They’re Real…and They’re Spectacular.”

Matt Clapp: “This signing is just so much more than a big splash. It changes everything and after all these years of patience…this is immeasurable.”

Jake Arietta: “The cubby bears just got a lot better.”

The Cubs have had a busy offseason, landing a new manager (Maddon), two starting pitchers (Lester and Jason Hammel) and a two-time All Star catcher (Miguel Montero). They might not be done making moves. The new additions make them more attractive and give them more options. Could pitcher Travis Wood or catcher Wellington Castillo be on the trading block?

To help reel in Lester, the Cubs reportedly pitched the opportunity to make history with a team that last won the World Series in 1908. It seems odd to sell losing but one can see how that might have struck a chord with a pitcher like Lester, who already has two World Series rings that he earned while pitching for the Boston Red Sox and posting a perfect 3-0 record.

Did Hollywood foretell the future? In the 1989 movie “Back to the Future Part II,” the Cubs won the 2015 World Series. After finishing in last place in the NL Central in 2014 with a 73-89 record, it seemed beyond belief that Chicago native and “Back to the Future Part II” screenwriter Robert Zemeckis’ prediction might possibly come true. Now? It doesn’t seem so far-fetched.


Photo: Jon Lester / Keith Allison / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Alteration: Cropped