Maybe it’s the alliteration that made this headline work, since both pitchers have two-syllable names beginning with “L.” But “Lackey outduels Lester” is being used by ESPN, FOX Sports, the Boston Globe and probably hundreds of other places this morning to describe the Cardinals’ 6-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Monday. It’s “Dewey Defeats Truman,” except that is factually correct.
But let’s play an imaginary game for a moment. If you don’t like make-believe, it’s probably best to hit the “back” button right about now. But this self-flagellating Cubs fan wants to go in a different direction than the “Jon Lester got his first career hit and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning” narrative. There’s lots of examples of that online, I’m sure.
Let’s say there are three enormous piles of money in a room. The first one is made up of one-dollar bills. Singles. Semolians. Whatever you want to call them. The forgotten stepchild of U.S. currency, that never has and likely never will undergo the kind of makeover that all other denominations have had in recent years.
And let’s say there are two equally large piles of $20 bills. It’s Andrew Jackson city, at least in my imaginary world. They aren’t Fifties or Hundreds, but Twenties are pretty respectable, particularly when there are so many of them.
Since this is my fantasy, here are the rules. You and I will split this money up, on whatever terms I decide. Take it or leave it. Let’s say a pile of imaginary money sounds good, so you agree to go along, and not hit that “back” button, at least for a few more minutes.
I start the procedures by giving you a dollar bill. You and old George Washington, together at last. You’re understandably upset, with all the 20s around, to only get a single for yourself. Can’t even buy yourself a soda with that, unless you go to a 7-Eleven and get a Big Gulp. But a dollar’s a dollar, right? Especially when it doesn’t exist.
Your willingness to take a dollar inspires me to be even more generous. Go ahead and take all the singles, I say. The whole stack. A half-million of them. And you’re welcome.
This game is going pretty well, if you walk out with a half-million dollars. Only don’t try to spend it anywhere because, you know, it’s not real.
So what happens to the rest of the money? There are 20s involved, after all. Well, here’s the good news: I get to keep the first stack of 20s. And now you’re mad, because I get 20s when you only get singles. But it’s my imaginary money, and my imaginary rules. A stack of 20s for me, and a stack of singles for you.
But what about that other pile of 20s? The one that’s as big as the first one? Perhaps that can be divided among us a bit more evenly than the other two stacks were. But again, I’m making the rules here, so I’m going to keep that pile of money, too. Sorry.
By now you’re going full Lewis Black on me: “Are you kidding me? For every dollar I get in this made-up world, you’re going to take forty bucks for yourself? That’s absurd!” And you know what? It absolutely is. The disparity between the two is almost too great to be believed.
Now take a look at last night’s pitchers again. John Lackey is the sap who received a pile of singles. A very large pile, but still that’s all he got. He gets paid a half-million dollars by the Cardinals this year, in very real U.S. currency. He wants a long-term deal, starting right about now, but so far an offer that suits him hasn’t materialized. Last night’s strong performance will certainly help, I would imagine.
And the other pitcher in last night’s pitchers duel, the one who pitched well but came out on the short end of the stick, is Jon Lester. He’s the part I was playing myself in this game of “divide the imaginary money.” His $20 million salary from the Cubs is 40 times more than the Cardinals are paying John Lackey this season. Shed no tears for Jon Lester; he still gets to keep the money, for real. But ask yourself which team, and whose fans, truly got outdueled at Wrigley Field last night.