With Jon Lester on board, it’s a white-letter day in Chicago


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Jon Lester
Today, the “L” flag at Wrigley Field stands for Lester.  (R. Lincoln Harris)

Cubs fans know the drill: When they win a game at home, the white flag with the blue W goes up from the flagpole on the scoreboard in center field. That W can be seen on T-shirts, outside of bars, anywhere Cubs fans can be found. I even saw one in the stands at Notre Dame stadium last month, after my Northwestern Wildcats came from behind to beat Notre Dame. We all understand the meaning of that blue W.

But just like the yin and yang, there’s an opposing flag that Cubs fans are all too familiar with. When the Cubs lose at home, they run up the blue flag with a white L on it. Somebody’s gotta win a baseball game, and somebody’s gotta lose. And the Cubs let their fans know, either way.

Chicago is the home of the blues, musically. And it’s also the home of the blues in a baseball sense: the championship drought now in its second century, the lack of a World Series game since 1945, the curses and hexes and all of it. I chose the name Addison Street Blues for this column as a tribute to the television series Hill Street Blues, but also to acknowledge that the Cubs not only wear blue on the field, but they cause the blues for people like me.

All that seems different today. With the signing of Jon Lester, there’s a sense that finally — finally — things are going to happen for us now. It’s been a long rebuild to this point, and it isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot. But there’s a renovated Wrigley Field on the way, a new manager at the helm, and an ace starter the Cubs have lacked since, I don’t know, Rick Sutcliffe, maybe? With no disrespect intended to Greg Maddux, whose best days were either in front of him or behind him when he pitched in Chicago, this type of signing can make a real difference for a franchise that has been down for so very long.

So, I’m happy to fly the long-dreaded blue flag today, with a white L that doesn’t stand for losing. It stands for Lester — Jon Lester — instead. And he’s going to — dare I say it? — take us to places that we haven’t seen before at Wrigley Field. I’m more excited than I have been in a long time.

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