Here’s a slogan former manager Joe Maddon never thought of that would’ve been perfect for the contending Cubs from 2015 forward:
“Lester is more.”
More than the free agent who stamped the rising Cubs as legit. More than the ever-willing ace who thrived on guts and guile as much as talent. Indeed, even more than the Cubs bargained for when they convinced him to say yes to six years, $155 million and an opportunity to help lead the team where no one had in more than a century.
Over six seasons on the North Side, Jon Lester more than delivered. And now he’s back at Wrigley Field to start Monday’s series opener for the Nationals.
It’ll be good to see him. Left fielder Kyle Schwarber, too. How loudly can 10,000 or so fans cheer, anyway?
The Cubs had no use for Lester in the end, declining a $25 million option for 2021 — the obvious move — and then keeping him on the pay-no-mind list until he signed somewhere else for one year and a song. Like the Cubs, the Nats are muddling along. Lester has pitched well, though he has yet to add to his career win total of 193. Schwarber has hit some, not a lot. Would these Cubs be any better off with them? Probably not to any meaningful extent.
But to many, they will always be Cubs. Lester, for sure, and Schwarber, too. The Big Lefty and the other big lefty. To the fans who will be there Monday: Let ’em hear you — good and loud.
Here’s what’s happening:
Nationals at Cubs (6:40 p.m., Marquee)
Other than five All-Star selections, eight Opening Day starts and three World Series rings, what does Lester really have that Adbert Alzolay doesn’t? But we kid the talented young right-hander, who gets a chance to outduel a legend.
Blues at Avalanche, Game 1 (9 p.m., NBCSN)
Remember the old days when the Blackhawks and Blues were rivals? Root for whomever you want as the 2019 champs take on the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Avs.
Hornets at Pacers (5:30 p.m., TNT)
The winner of the Eastern Conference’s 9-vs.-10 play-in game stays alive, while the loser joins the Bulls on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Either way, Hornets owner Michael Jordan will be on the golf course if anyone needs him.
Wizards at Celtics (8 p.m., TNT)
From 17-32 hopelessness to the 7-vs.-8 play-in game? Take a bow, Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal.
White Sox at Twins (12:10 p.m., NBCSCH)
Just saying, any time struggling Lucas Giolito wants to get on board with the whole best-rotation-in-baseball thing would be fine by us.
Sky at Dream (6 p.m., The U)
Is it just us or is Candace Parker blocking a shot at the rim, racing the other way with the dribble and firing a 60-foot chest pass like a bullet into the hands of a teammate for a layup kind of cool?
“Class is in Session with Doug Glanville” (5 p.m., NBCSCH)
With a Cubs-Nats game earlier in the day, start time is approximate. And speaking of ballpark figures, this episode features Bill James — analytics’ original nerd — as a guest.
Panthers at Lightning, Game 3 (5:30 p.m., USA)
Remember the old days when the Hawks and Joel Quenneville were best pals? Here’s your best first-round matchup, people.
NBA East elimination game (7 p.m., TNT)
To the winner goes a best-of-seven date with the top-seeded 76ers. Frankly, it doesn’t sound all that terrifying.
White Sox at Yankees (6:05 p.m., NBCSCH)
One hopes Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and the rest of the gang in Monument Park won’t hurt themselves straining their necks to get a glimpse of Yermin Mercedes.
Cubs at Cardinals (7:15 p.m., Marquee)
At long last, the season debut of this wonderful rivalry arrives. Would’ve been nice to bump into Albert Pujols, though.
NBA West elimination game (TBD, ESPN)
If there is a basketball God, the Warriors will be part of this deal so Steph Curry can shoot threes like his very postseason life depends on it.
White Sox at Yankees (12:05 p.m., NBCSCH)
Just an idle thought, but, hey, any chance this is a postseason preview? Sox-Yanks would be off-the-charts fun.
Penguins at Islanders, Game 4 (2 p.m., Ch. 5)
Pens trio Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have been together so long, they make Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith look like the latest boy band.
Inter Miami at Fire (5 p.m., UniMas)
Did you know the same design firm created both team’s logos? Let’s just say one project was more successful than the other.
Gotham FC at Red Stars (7 p.m., Paramount+)
The visitors’ Sky Blue days might be behind them, but they can still hope for blue skies over SeatGeek Stadium.
PGA Championship final round (noon, Ch. 2)
Rory McIlroy ran away by eight strokes the last time this tournament was played on the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C. Nine years later — and despite his zero major titles since 2014 — he’s the betting favorite at 10/1 to finish atop the field again.
Cubs at Cardinals (6:08 p.m., ESPN)
What’s the only thing that can top a Cubs-Cards game? A Cubs-Cards game with Alex Rodguez on the mic. But seriously, folks.