Cliff Lee leads Rangers to their first World Series

October 22, 2010

Texas will face San Fran as Charlie Manuel, Roy Halladay and the Phillies go home

ARLINGTON, Texas - Cliff Lee threw a bullpen session and took batting practice Sunday. Lee starts a World Series opener for the second year in a row after winning Games 1 and 5 last year for Philadelphia against the Yankees.

The Texas Rangers are getting ready for their first World Series, and the opener will be at San Francisco, where their ace left-hander will be pitching after an extended break and also taking swings in the National League park, where the designated hitter isn't used.

In a year when pitching excellence has been a theme of the entire baseball season, Lee is proving to be the best of the best.

The Phillies decided to dump Lee last off-season when they figured they couldn’t sign him to long-term deal. Even though they had Lee signed through 2010, they traded him to Seattle and went with Roy Halladay, acquired from the Blue Jays, instead. It was a move that (had they asked) Wickman’s Warriors would have advised against. The Rangers, lead by new owner Nolan Ryan, pulled off the trade of the season by acquiring Lee from Seattle.

A .132 hitter in his 68 regular-season at-bats in a career spent mostly in the American League, Lee was 1 for 3 in last year's World Series. He hit .273 (3 for 11) the postseason for the Phillies. More important for the Rangers, Lee has been an October ace on the mound winning all three of his starts during the playoffs. He's struck out 67 and walked seven over 64 1-3 career postseason innings.

"I'm anxious to get it started," Lee said. "I don't feel any pressure. We're fortunate to be in this spot — we're one of two teams left playing. We should just go out there and have fun and play the game the way we can, and things are going to work out."

As heartbreaking as it is to be seeing Cliff Lee doing all these marvelous things for teams other than the Indians, it’s hard not to be happy for him. Why should he and the rest of the world be deprived of his excellence just because Cleveland couldn’t figure out how to use his talents to win anything? J. Ladd

A Look at Lee:

·          Cliff Lee struck out 13 Yankees a masterful 8-0 blowout in ALCS game 3 on October 18th.

·          In his 8 postseason starts, Lee has struck out ten or more batters six times. His 13 strikeouts against the Yankees set a personal postseason high. He is the fourth pitcher to strike out at least 13 batters in a postseason game against the Yankees. He joins Carl Erskine (1953 World Series/Dodgers/14), Sandy Koufax (1963 World Series/Dodgers/15) and Bob Gibson (1964 World Series/Cardinals/13).

·          There have been 31 postseason games in which a pitcher has struck out 10 or more batters and walked one or none. Cliff Lee has done it 5 times. No other pitcher has done it more than twice.

 

Lee honored to be AL starter

Left-hander's standout season rewarded with first All -Star trip

NEW YORK -- Four months ago, Cliff Lee was merely trying to secure the last spot in the Indians' rotation. Now he's starting for the American League against the National League in Tuesday night's 79th All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.

"I'm just honored to be here, to be honest with you," said Lee, who will take the hill opposite Milwaukee's Ben Sheets in his first All-Star appearance, coming during the final season at the old Yankee Stadium. "To get the start is icing on the cake. I've never even been in an All-Star Game, let alone this one in the final year at this ballpark. It's something special.

"I hope it's as exciting as anticipated. I just have to go out there and do my job and if that happens, I'll be even happier."

For Lee, the left-hander's dominant first half has pushed him to the forefront of the AL pitching staff. AL manager Terry Francona of the Red Sox gave him the high honor as a reward for his incredible comeback on an Indians team that has struggled mightily in its attempt at repeating last year's AL Central-winning season. "He's been the best pitcher in the league from the start to this point," Francona said.

Lee went 12-2 with a 2.31 ERA in 18 first-half starts. He is tied for first in the AL in wins and he became just the fourth pitcher in Indians history to start a season 11-1 or better, but the first since Charles Nagy did it in 1996.

A year ago, less than one season removed from signing a long-term contract extension with the Indians, Lee was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo because of a July in which he had a dismal 0-4 record and 11.70 ERA.

For the 2007 season, Lee was 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA. He might not have lost confidence in himself, but he had clearly lost command of his fastball. And his pride took a hit when the Indians brought him back in September, placed him aside in the bullpen, and left him off their postseason roster.

Lee opened last season on the disabled list because of a strained right abdominal muscle.

"I got hurt during Spring Training last year and that had a lot to do with my rough season," Lee said. "Sometimes going through some failure makes you a better player in the long run, and I think that was the case with me. It gave me a little bit of motivation going into the offseason. It made me work a little harder and I did everything I could not to get injured again. "I just wanted to give myself a chance to compete and prove that I could pitch the way I did in the past. And fortunately it's worked out that way."

Lee is in his seventh season, all with the Indians. He's 66-38 with a 4.60 career ERA, posting a career-best 18-5 record in 2005, following that up with a 14-11 record in 2006.

Lee Delivers as All-Star Starter

 Two innings. One hit. Three strikeouts.

"I'll take it," Lee said. "Especially in an All-Star Game. The hitters they've got over there are some serious power threats. I'm pretty pleased to keep them from scoring."

Lee had plenty to be pleased about in his first All-Star experience. Upon his arrival with teammate Grady Sizemore to the Big Apple on Sunday night, he learned AL manager Terry Francona would be giving him the start in a game the AL ended up winning in 15 grueling innings.

The starting nod gave Lee the opportunity to be part of a special pregame ceremony in which 52 Hall of Famers stood on the field to greet the members of each starting lineup. Lee strutted out and shook hands with Dennis Eckersley, Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal, Phil Niekro, Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry, Goose Gossage, Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, Robin Roberts, Don Sutton and Bruce Sutter.

"It was surreal seeing that many Hall of Fame pitchers in front of my face and getting to shake their hands," Lee said. "I don't know if there will ever be an opportunity to see that many Hall of Famers right in front of me ever again. It's a moment I'll never forget."

Lee shuts out White Sox for 20th win

CLEVELAND -- On Sept. 1, 2007, Cliff Lee was one of the players the Indians called up from Triple-A Buffalo when the team expanded its roster.

The left-hander had struggled for most of the season, spent the month of August in the Minors and finished with a 5-8 record and a 6.29 ERA.

Exactly one year to the date of his callup, Lee pitched himself into the Indians' record books. He went the distance Monday in a 5-0 win over Chicago, becoming the first Indians pitcher in 34 years to win 20 games in a season.

Gaylord Perry was the last Tribe pitcher to win 20 games when he went 21-13 in 1974.

"It has a nice ring to it," said Lee, the front-runner for the American League's Cy Young Award. "I like the sound of it."

Lee's only problems came in the first and ninth, when the first two White Sox hitters reached base in each frame. Lee worked out of trouble both times thanks to inning-ending double plays.

In between his problem innings, Lee retired 21 straight batters, starting when Jermaine Dye lined into a double play to end the first and ending when Paul Konerko singled with one out in the eighth.

Lee, who held the Sox to five hits and struck out four, was given standing ovations throughout the night. The first came when he walked to the bullpen to warm up about 25 minutes before game time. The ovations continued before and after every inning.

The noise reached a crescendo after Joe Crede and Orlando Cabrera started the ninth with singles. Lee retired A.J. Pierzynski on a fly ball to left and got Carlos Quentin, who leads the league in home runs, to bounce into a game-ending double play.

"I'm honored and privileged to get the opportunity to accomplish this," Lee said. "It's a magic number in this game."

Lee's 20-2 record gives him a .909 winning percentage, tops in the AL. His 20 wins represent 30 percent of the Indians' 66 wins for the season, the highest percentage of team wins for any Major League pitcher this season. His only losses have come to the Reds on May 18 and the Twins on July 6.

"I'm glad I got it out of the way on the first try," Lee said. "I'm glad I don't have to answer questions about it leading into my next start."

The bad news for Lee is he will now have to answer questions about potentially winning a Cy Young Award. He leads the AL in wins, winning percentage and ERA (2.32). He also has won nine straight decisions, which is tied for the longest streak in the league. Lee has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 21 of his 27 starts. He also has two complete games and four shutouts.

The game featured some interaction between Lee and Pierzynski, who exchanged words and stares beginning in the fourth inning and ending when the pitcher pointed to the White Sox dugout after the final out. "His second at-bat, he slammed his bat down and stared me down," Lee said. "I stared him down back. He was chirping at me from the dugout. Actually, I appreciate him doing that. It gave me a little extra energy."

Pierzynski, naturally, had a different version.                

09/30/2008 12:30 PM ET

Tribe's Lee earns AL Comeback honor

All-Star starter recognized for remarkable turnaround in 2008

To think that Lee's remaining Minor League option was even a topic of discussion is laughable now that he's a 22-game winner and bona fide Cy Young Award favorite.

But it also just goes to show how far the 30-year-old Lee has come this season.

After a demotion to Buffalo in '07 and an absence from the Tribe's postseason roster, Lee has made it back to being a consistent winner in the big leagues.

In doing so, the left-handed Lee won the first of several expected offseason accolades. Lee was named the American League's Comeback Player of the Year on Tuesday, following a landslide vote of MLB.com reporters. Lee received 24 of 30 first-place votes. Phillies closer Brad Lidge won the award in the NL.

Lee, who won 46 games from 2004-06, missed the first month of 2007 with an abdominal strain and went 5-8 with a 6.38 ERA in his first 16 starts. An 0-4 record and 11.70 ERA in July earned him that humbling trip back to Triple-A.

After his name became the subject of trade rumors that went nowhere throughout the winter, Lee reported to Spring Training looking to stay healthy and regain the confidence of the Indians' decision-makers. He did all that and more.

Lee wins 2008 AL Cy Young Award

After pacing league in wins and ERA, lefty earns well-deserved honor

By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com

The constant quest for perfection drove Cliff Lee to great feats throughout 2008.

"Even if I had won every start, I don't know if I'd be satisfied," he said near the season's end. "There's always something you can do better. I don't know how to explain it other than that. It's just the way I am, I guess."

But even Lee has to be satisfied with what took place Thursday, when the Baseball Writers' Association of America named him the American League Cy Young Award winner.

The honor was well-deserved. Lee led the AL in wins with a 22-3 record and in ERA with a 2.54 mark, posted the third-highest winning percentage (.880) for a 20-game winner in baseball history and became the Tribe's first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1974. The voters took notice. Lee received 24 of 28 first-place votes and finished with 132 points in balloting. He beat out the Jays' Roy Halladay, who finished second with 74 votes.

Lee followed the trail of former teammate and fellow left-hander CC Sabathia, who, one year ago, became the Indians' first Cy Young winner since Perry in 1972. Lee, Sabathia and Perry are the only Tribe pitchers to win the prestigious award.

Indians Trade Cliff Lee to the Phillies

Another boatload of “can’t miss” prospects on the way

 It’s enough to make a die-hard Indian fans’ head explode.

For the second year in a row, the Tribe has traded their Cy Young award winner for a bunch of no-name prospects to replenish their farm system, which is woefully depleted of no-name prospects at the present time.

I would list the four guys we received for Lee (and Ben Francisco), but no one except their families have ever heard of them. I should mention that the key player in the deal, Jason Knapp, is currently on the disabled list. Lovely.

 One MLB source was quoted as saying, “this guy Knapp could be the key to the whole deal! He has a great pitcher’s body.” He declined to say why the body was on the DL.

The real winner in this was Lee himself. I never saw the no nonsense, all business lefty so happy in the six years he’s been here. What a relief it must be for him to be set free from this dreary incompetence and be thrust right into a playoff race. Don’t be surprised if Fransisco, who will now be under the direct tutelage of former hitting coach extraordinaire Charlie Manuel, starts mashing in that Philadelphia launching pad.

Just think of the sweet irony of a World Series match up of Cy Young winners Lee and Yankee Sabathia. That should provide enough Cleveland jokes to easily last through October.

There was, of course, the obligatory “economic hard times” excuse thrown out there by Mark Shapiro at the press conference. He sounded a lot like a member of Congress; blaming the economy while hip-deep in the process of destroying it.

Blaming the economy is insultingly lame to us fans. Everyone knows, including the Indians brass, that if the Indians were a serious contender that park would be packed. Just look across the street at the Cavaliers, whose ticket prices are 10 times what the Tribe’s are, and see what a crock that argument is. If the Dolans can’t afford to keep the talent that they develop than they should get out of the baseball business.

That leads to my next point: With talk of Victor Martinez being up next on the auction block, I’m beginning to sense something nefarious taking shape behind the scenes. What better way for the Dolans to make our team attractive to potential buyers than to dump payroll? They could cut their losses and the new owners would basically have a minor league team to build and mold into their own image.

So now that the Indians hierarchy has made Cleveland the laughing stock of the baseball world again, it’s safe to say I’ll be paying more attention to the Phillies than the “retooling” Tribe for the remainder of the season. Beginning on Friday (Lee’s first scheduled start for Philadelphia) I get to tune in to the Phillies MLB website, see Cliff’s Indian mug shot with a Phillies ballcap photoshopped onto his head and follow his in-game progress.

This whole sad scenario reminds me of the 2006 Wickman trade to Atlanta, in which Mark Shapiro said that it wasn’t about money, that it was all about the player they were getting. That player was A-ball catcher Max Ramirez, who was tossed away like a banana peel the following year. Last I heard he was floating around the Texas Rangers organization.

 I can hardly wait to hear the manure they pile onto this shameful spectacle in hopes that something beautiful will grow.  Well, at least my season ticket prices won’t go up for next year. The Dolans should pick up the tab for them considering the team they’re going to field for 2010. Wait…that’s right; they can’t afford to. J.Ladd 7/29/09

Detonation Complete:

Tribe jettisons their only All Star as an encore to the embarrassing 2009 debacle

The Tribe finished off their heartbreaking fire sale on Friday, just hours before the July 31st deadline, by trading fan favorite Victor Martinez to the Boston Red Sox for 3 more pitching prospects. Martinez, who said at the All Star Game in St. Louis that he loved the Indians and never wanted to wear another team's uniform, wore sunglasses as he sat by his locker and spoke to reporters so no one could see the tears.

His reaction was quite a contrast to Cliff Lee's, who couldn't wait to get out of town and join the Phillies. He responded like a man that was just set free from a dungeon in his first start for the Phils in Friday, taking a no hitter into the 6th inning against San Francisco. Lee ended up throwing a four-hitter, doubled and scored on Ben Francisco's sacrifice fly in his 5-1 victory over the Giants.

Between Cliff and Victor, we can see which one has the better attitude towards this current Indians organization. There's a great teaching moment here for Martinez: his tears should be that of joy. He just got a second chance to play in a World Series before his career ends. Being left off the post season roster in 2007 by Eric Wedge, Lee is getting his first shot at it. And he's not looking back.  J. Ladd 8/2/09

Ex-Cleveland Indian Cliff Lee talks about fantastic start with Philadelphia Phillies, reflects on trade

by Dennis Manoloff, Plain Dealer Reporter - Wednesday August 26, 2009, 10:06 PM

PITTSBURGH -- It is good to be Cliff Lee.

The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner is 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA in five starts with the Phillies since being acquired from the Indians on July 29. He has given up 24 hits in 40 innings, walked six and struck out 39.

Lee is continuing a groove that began in early July. In his final five starts with the Tribe, Lee allowed 10 runs in 38 innings. He has won eight consecutive decisions since July 16 to improve to 12-9.

Lee's 2.63 ERA in 27 starts overall is approaching that of 2008, when he was 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 31 starts and became the Indians' second straight Cy Young winner (CC Sabathia).

The left-hander allowed for a peek into his world before the Phillies played the Pirates in PNC Park on Wednesday night:

DW: So what's it like to be Cliff Lee these days?
CL: Just like every other day, preparing for my next outing.

DW: Have you needed to make any specific adjustments from American League to National?
CL: Not really. Other than having to hit, and pitching to the opposing pitcher, it's basically the same deal. You're facing major-league hitters. You've got to make pitches. You miss over the plate, you're going to get hurt.

DW: Last year, you rode your fastball to the Cy Young. This year, it's still the dominant pitch, but you appear to be mixing in more curves and changeups.
CL: I still feel like I'm commanding the fastball, but yeah, you've got to use all your pitches. It helps to be unpredictable.

DW: In your first two starts this season, you gave up 11 runs in 10 innings and lost twice. Most of the 25 starts since have been quality. Are you pitching as well as you did in 2008?
CL: Similar. Every year's different. I'm giving the team a chance to win. I'm getting deep into games, throwing strikes, not walking many guys. I keep it simple -- you know that. I just try to put up as many zeros as I can.

DW: Did any of the trades the Indians made as part of the summer sell-off surprise you?
CL: My getting traded surprised me.

DW: Seriously?
CL: Yeah. For sure. I really was expecting to stay. I figured that, I was pitching well and I potentially could have been back if they picked up the option. Victor (Martinez), the same thing. They had Grady (Sizemore). They had some pieces there that you could build around to make a pretty good team.
They viewed it differently. I'm not a GM, I'm not a coach. I don't make any of those decisions. I play the game. I was an Indian until I was told I was a Phillie, and now I'm here and I've got to help this team win.

DW: After the trades, Indians President Paul Dolan said you were not going to re-sign with the Indians after 2010. Did Dolan present it accurately?
CL: They told my agent that when we got to spring training this year, we'll talk about an extension. We get there, the first half of spring goes by...nothing. We get down toward the end, they call me in the office and tell me, 'Never mind. We've changed our minds. '
At that point, I told them: 'For me, now's the time. After this year, I'm going to be one year from free agency, and you're going to have to pick up my option if I'm pitching well. Otherwise, I'm a free agent. It doesn't make sense to do it one year out when I just watched what CC did.'

DW: Sabathia, of course, was traded to Milwaukee in 2008 and signed with the Yankees over the winter.
CL: Free agency is where you want to get as a player. That's where you get strength and have control of a situation. Obviously, the closer you get to that, the less likely an extension would be. That's kind of what I told them.

DW: What was their reply?
CL: They said, 'We respect your stance on that, and if anything changes, let us know.' And they said, 'If the economy turns around, if things change, if we start winning, maybe we'll change our opinion, too.' I said, 'OK, fine.' That was kind of the end of it.

DW: Do you feel sad about the sell-off in Cleveland?
CL: Yeah. You get comfortable with a city, teammates, coaches, staff, guys in the training room. Those things make it tough to leave. They run a really good program. They basically helped mold my program and what I do. I was wondering how I was going to be able to translate all those things over here, but it's worked out pretty smoothly for the most part.

DW: Do you feel bad for the fans who see the core of their team traded, fans who wonder, 'Why can't Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez still be around in 2010, to try to make another run at it?'
CL: Uh, it would help if the fans showed up and came to the games. That's why the team didn't make money, because the fans weren't there, supporting the team. That's what happens when the fans don't support --

DW: But you guys weren't winning.
CL: Right. It goes hand-in-hand, though. It definitely goes hand-in-hand. Yeah, I feel sorry for them. I wish we were all still there, that we had won the World Series in '07, come back and won it again last year and were going to win it this year. That's not reality. That's not...It's a business. It's a total business.

DW: Many Tribe fans, and other observers, think you began to grind an ax on management when you were sent down to Class AAA Buffalo in 2007 -- two years removed from an 18-win season -- and that that was the beginning of the end. True?
CL: No. Not at all. I wasn't upset at anyone. They were in position to go to the postseason and potentially win a World Series and were arguably one game away from doing that. Their concern was not whether they're making me happy, it was trying to get to the postseason and winning a World Series, as it should be. I was not getting the results I expected out of myself. You can look at the stats. They were black and white.
Obviously, I didn't want to go to Triple-A. But you have to make the best of the situation. I didn't want to be a major leaguer sent to Triple-A who's bitter and mad at the world. I've seen that before, and I didn't want to be that guy. I tried to do everything they asked me to do, and I expected to get back to pitching well, to get back to Cleveland and help the team get in position to win the World Series. It didn't work out that way.

DW: You pitched out of the bullpen four times in September and were not on any postseason roster. Still not bitter?
CL: No. In the long run, I think (what happened in 2007) motivated me to push that much harder in the offseason and prove everybody wrong. I wasn't mad at anybody or anything. I felt like they had kind of changed their views on me as a pitcher, and I wanted to prove that that wasn't right, that it wasn't the real me.

DW: So when you say they changed their view of you, and that you wanted to prove people wrong -- that's not indicative of grinding an ax?
CL: No. That was the Indians doing a business move. They were trying to win a World Series. That's what it's all about. They viewed me going to Triple-A and replacing me with someone else as making the team better. That's their prerogative.

DW: As objectively as you could view it, did you think the Cleveland team that broke camp this spring would contend?
CL: I thought our ballclub was a lot better than it turned out to be.

DW: What went wrong?
CL: We figured out how to lose every way possible, it seemed like. What made it the toughest is, it wasn't one thing. It wasn't something you could put your finger on and say, 'This is what you need to get better at.' It was one thing one day, something else the next. For whatever reason, we weren't playing complete baseball.