If this is goodbye for Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester in the Windy City, he is doing it up right.
Like Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong and a host of other prominent ballplayers, Lester hit free agency when his team opted not to exercise its 2021 option on him.
Rather than buy a newspaper ad or rent a billboard to thank Cubs fans, Lester picked up the tab for Miller Lites purchased at four Chicago bars over the Halloween weekend.
"Was kind of brainstorming on what we wanted to do," Lester told ESPN 1000 in Chicago Friday. "Couple buddies and I were talking and we seemed to always come back to this."
These rounds added up to 4,838 beers costing $31,082.63. Lester tacked on a 34 percent tip, honoring his uniform number, for a total tab of $47,094.90.
He shared photos of the bills via Twitter. “Whether this is goodbye or see you next year, I love you Chicago,” he wrote.
Lester, 36, could afford the gesture. He came to the Cubs on six-year, $155 million contract in 2015. The team declined its $25 million option on him for next season.
He could return to the Cubs for less money next season if nothing else materializes in the market and if the team offers him a spot.
"Since Day 1 it's been awesome to be a part of," Lester said. "They have made my family feel like family and accepted us from the beginning. It's been a fun ride, and hopefully the ride is not over."
But the Cubs have been breaking up its World Championship nucleus piece by piece and it’s transitioning into a complete organizational overhaul. The ongoing pandemic wrought severe economic damage and expedited the makeover.
"I know there is some doubt as far as the money that's out there, but I would like to think we can definitely get this thing done," Lester said. "I think it's going to be a long offseason for everybody."
Here is what folks are writing about Our National Pastime:
Ben Lindbergh, The Ringer: “As long as games were going on, protocols were being followed, and positive tests were being averted, it was possible at times to lose oneself in the game’s sights and sounds, despite the jury-rigged rules and discordant roars of fake crowds. Now that the action is over, though, the underlying ills aren’t counterbalanced by anything, and the headlines highlight what may be in store for the next several months. Welcome to MLB’s fraught stove season. The overnight transition from the Fall Classic’s showcase of baseball’s best teams to tweets about declined or exercised options was disorienting in pre-pandemic times, but the feeling of foreboding is deeper than usual this year (and not just because of the looming election). Thanks to the pandemic, the customary countdowns to spring training that start as soon as the series ends seem more aspirational than reassuring; no one knows whether next season will start on time or whether it will be safe to sell tickets. That sort of uncertainty isn’t specific to baseball, but Manfred and the 30 lords of no shame have reliably wrung the maximum frustration from challenging circumstances by making unsubstantiated and apocalyptic pronouncements about the pandemic’s impact on the viability of their businesses.”
Dayn Perry, CBSSports.com: “MLB has repeatedly claimed losses of more than $3 billion during 2020. Given ownership's long history of lying about all things financial, there's reason to question the veracity of this figure. They lost money, yes, and probably a lot, but the specifics will forever be elusive and probably less than claimed. Insofar as player-owner tensions are involved, the point is that the league is already laying the foundation for a free agent freeze-out this offseason. That's already a sore spot for players, and it's going to become more of one as premium FAs like J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, and George Springer likely find the market lacking. Already we're seeing some incredibly miserly decisions on club options for 2021, and the non-tender market figures to be flooded beyond example. All that of that is going to put downward pressure on the free agent market. The union is going to be frustrated by that, and you'll likely hear whispers of collusion once again.”
Steve Goldman, Baseball Prospectus: “In these dull days between the end of the World Series and a Hot Stove Season that may never arrive, it’s good to have something to be exercised about, but the last ride of [Tony] La Russa is unlikely to matter much in the long run. It’s nothing more than the grey-haired buddy film you didn’t ask to see, two old-timers reliving past triumphs on your time. Pay it no mind — [Jerry] Reinsdorf and La Russa don’t care what you think anyway. Hey, look! It’s Jerry Dybzinski and Mike Squires! Aren’t reunions fun?”
Bob Nightengale, USA Today: “Tony La Russa may be a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest managers in baseball history, but his introductory press conference for his return to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday was contentious, even combative at times. He repeatedly was questioned, in different ways, how he could handle the job as a 76-year-old. Never mind that Joe Biden will be 78 if he’s elected president, and would be running an entire country, not a baseball club. He was asked his views about the new-age players and White Sox star Tim Anderson’s passion for bat flips, as if Rickey Henderson didn’t strut and Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire didn’t bash when he was their manager with the Oakland Athletics. He was grilled on his approach towards analytics even though this was the man who virtually invented the modern bullpen – and has always been one of the most creative thinkers in the game. He was asked if he’s out of touch with the game since retiring as manager in 2011, ignoring the fact he was running the Arizona Diamondbacks entire baseball operations department for three years, was a vice president with the Boston Red Sox for another three – including their World Series championship year – and spent the past year as a special advisor with the Los Angeles Angels.”
Ray Ratto, The Defector: “La Russa has been more of a fud on the unwritten rules about who gets thrown at and why, and there he will have to defy his years of experience and accept that times have a-changed, whether he likes it or not. So the matter of whether La Russa is out of step is not really a matter of age but flexibility. Yes, he is 76, and nobody hires 76-year-olds to wear the clothes of people one-third their age. But maybe against the run of play, he could turn out to be the kind of cool grandpa the kids like to see at holiday time. It’s probably not the way to bet, given that he once spent a chunk of a pregame working out bullet points on ripping Jose Canseco after he was traded to Texas, but it’s not out of the realm of likelihood.”
“It’s absolutely certain, I know, that we’re going to have to have conversations with the MLBPA about what 2021 is going to look like. It’s difficult to foresee a situation right now where everything’s just normal. And obviously, if it’s not normal we’re going to have to have conversations about it.”
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, to Sportico, on next season.