Jon Lester Loves to Compete, Just Don’t Expect Him to Smile While Pitching

Jon Lester isn’t always angry when he’s on the mound, he’s just too focused on winning to waste energy on a smile. As much as he loves to compete and would probably rather be taking his turn in the rotation than spending the day in a deer stand, he figures the four days he’s not pitching afford him more than enough time to relax.

That’s what he told the Bernstein & McKnight Show during a live appearance Wednesday at Sloan Park.

“My mom gets on me about that,” Lester said. “My fifth day is my day. That’s my day, and that’s my opportunity to help the team. The other four days days when I’m in the dugout, I’m doing nothing to help the team. I have no impact on the outcome on that game. So, when I get my turn, I want my turn to go well and I want to win that game.

I had initially opted for a Bruce-Banner-in-Avengers comp by saying Lester’s always angry, then a better option popped into my mind. Lester is really more like Old Man Logan, or the final theatrical version of Wolverine if that’s more your jam. He’s the best there is at what he does, but what he does isn’t very nice. And as he’s gotten older, he’s had to focus far more on strategy than on brute strength.

“When I’m out there, I want my day to go well so bad,” Lester explained. “That’s what drives me. I love to compete. I love the cat-and-mouse game of pitching, of, ‘I have a better plan than you do today.’ I have to go out there and execute it. And then when I don’t execute it, it’s frustrating because I have to wait four more days to go out there and do it again.”

The lefty has also softened over the years, at least when it comes to taking younger players under his wing. Kris Bryant has said he wants to pattern his own balance of fatherhood and a baseball career after Lester’s, and David Ross has said he’s seen his good friend serving in more of an advisory capacity than ever before.

That doesn’t mean he’s getting in guys’ faces or pulling them aside to share his philosophy or anything, just that he’s willing to sit down and talk about what motivates him and how he goes about his business. In the same manner, he’s equally willing to listen to what the Pitch Lab says about his performance…to an extent. Lester explained that he uses the data more as a baseline to help him judge why a certain pitch might not have been working well.

More than anything, and this is the least shocking thing ever, he believes success is a matter of going out there and executing his strategy no matter what the data might say about it. Lester also offered his thoughts on framing and how he feels about umpires’ judgment of his pitches, so go have a listen to the full interview in that player above if you haven’t already.

And maybe even watch Logan if you haven’t yet done so. Just maybe don’t take my analogy too seriously as the movie goes along.

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