Jon Lester Proving He's Just What the Doctor Ordered for A's

Jacob ShaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2014

USA Today

Clearly it's a cliche the Oakland A's understand: You can never have too much pitching. That's why, even after acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs, the A's went big at the deadline and dealt for Jon Lester.

The trade cost Oakland dearly. To acquire the playoff-tested southpaw from the Boston Red Sox and shore up a starting rotation that was already a strength, the A's sacrificed Yoenis Cespedes, one of the most promising sluggers in baseball.

Oakland will undoubtedly miss his bat, though as John Shea of notes, "Oakland's offense hadn't been in sync since before Yoenis Cespedes relocated to Boston, hitting .227 over 12 games entering Thursday."

Dealing Cespedes was a calculated gamble aimed at getting Oakland to the promised land and netting general manager Billy Beane his first championship in 17 seasons at the helm of the Green and Gold.

Beane has made no bones about his desire to hoist a Commissioner's Trophy after repeatedly and improbably guiding his small-market club to the brink.

As he told's Richard Justice, the key is identifying when you have a squad capable of going all the way. And then?

"When you do, you go for it," Beane said.

He's going for it, and Lester is proof. 

Sure, Oakland also got former Athletic Jonny Gomes back from Boston. Giving up Cespedes, though, was huge.

This isn't some minor leaguer primed for potential greatness; this is a guy producing now, with a possibility for much more. A two-time Home Run Derby champ, for what it's worth.

Aug 7, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA;  Boston Red Sox left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) breaks his bat on a single against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Yet on Thursday night, Lester showed why he was worth the cost. Why he could well be Oakland's missing piece. Why he's precisely what the doctor ordered.

Through nine shutout innings in a 3-0 win over the Minnesota Twins, Lester was masterful. He carried a perfect game into the sixth and struck out eight, while allowing just three hits and two walks. It was the fourth shutout of his career.

"Lester was the story," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told Mike Berardino of "We just couldn't score."

That follows a solid, if less spectacular, A's debut in which Lester allowed three earned runs in 6.2 innings in an 8-3 victory against the Kansas City Royals and left to a standing ovation from the appreciative Oakland faithful.

"To walk off to the ovation was great," Lester said, per USA Today (via The Associated Press). "It kind of makes you feel welcome."

"Kind of" will be an understatement if the A's (owners of baseball's best record as of Thursday) make the playoffs and Lester pitches like he can in October.

The veteran left-hander owns an impressive career 2.11 ERA in postseason play, per

Even more impressively, Lester posted a 0.59 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 15.1 innings pitched in the 2013 Fall Classic. Oh, and he won both games he started.

Overall, Lester is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in World Series starts.

That's the pedigree Beane wanted. So far, Lester has delivered.

Whether he'll help carry Oakland across the ultimate finish line remains to be seen. Maybe the deal will look like a bust in hindsight. As's Justice argues, Beane couldn't care less:

Here's the thing you need to understand about Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane: He simply does not care about next season. Or the one after that. That's the beauty of the man. That's the genius of him. Want to second guess him? Hey, have at it.

For now, Lester and the A's are proving the too-much-pitching cliche—and the instincts of their fearless GM—right.