October 4, 2023

For a Few Dollars More

October 13, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Cliff Lee is the best hired gun since Clint Eastwood starting taking himself too seriously. The Texas Rangers, born the expansion Washington Senators in 1961, went almost fifty years without winning a post-season series. Then like poor campesinos faced with hired guns from the hacienda, they brought in Cliff Lee. Cue the music as Cliff Lee flips his smoking cheroot to the ground, throws the serape over his shoulder to reveal his long and very dangerous left arm.

For two innings last night Lee struggled to find his rhythm, but by the end of the ninth inning he had chewed his way through the Tampa Bay lineup four times, notching eleven strikeouts along the way. The heart of Tampa’s lineup, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, and Carlos Pena, managed not a single hit during the game. The Rays have one of the best teams in baseball and their young pitching staff is likely to yield at least one pitcher of Lee’s caliber in the years to come, but for now, there is only one other Cliff Lee and he pitches for the Philadelphia Phillies.

The cutaway television shots during the game of new Rangers owner Nolan Ryan were ironic. Hardly the campesino type, Nolan Ryan wore a look of serene satisfaction as Lee carved up the Rays. Lee’s complete game masterpiece had to warm the heart of Ryan who has challenged the conventional pitching wisdom about pitch counts and conditioning regimes. Still, Lee threw only 120 pitches because that is all it took. And the luxury of the Kinsler home run in the bottom of the eighth inning kept the bullpen quiet.

Now it is on to New York City. In the 2009 World Series, Cliff Lee won the only two games that Philadelphia managed to win against the Yankees. The first game looked exactly like those two games he won against Tampa Bay. He pitched a complete game, struck out ten, gave up a single unearned run against the most potent offensive machines in the game. In the second game the Yankees finally got to him for five runs, but most of them came when the game was out of reach as the Phillies won 8-6, scoring six runs against A.J. Burnett in the first three innings to ice the affair.

The Rangers are much more than Cliff Lee. Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler were very impressive against Tampa and they are hardly the best bats Texas has. Mike Young had a three-run homer in Game One against the Rays, but was silent thereafter. The likely MVP of the American League, Josh Hamilton, has yet to show up, and he will have to find his rhythm against the Yankees if the Rangers are going to win. Elvis Andrus, the 22-year old shortstop and leadoff hitter, showed what he could do as he ran the bases with abandon in Game Five. Is he Derek Jeter? No, but Derek Jeter might agree to be 22 again if it were possible.

Cliff Lee against Roy Halladay in Game One of the World Series is a long way off. The Giants will have something to say about the whole thing, but the Rangers took a big step last night. Texas will need additional heroes to take the much bigger step of beating the Yankees. The big moments will have to come from a list that includes Vladimir Guerrero, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, and Neftali Feliz. The odds are long for the Rangers. But every dog has their day and maybe it is just their time after the long history of frustration, the fifty years without a win. This could be the year for the Texas Rangers, Cliff Lee and Nolan Ryan. If so it will likely mean that David has slain Goliath with a left-handed slingshot named Cliff Lee.


One Response to “For a Few Dollars More”
  1. Ken Voytek says:

    I liked the reference to Clint Eastwood. I understand that his Lee’s stats are up there with Koufax and Matthewson. I would like to see the numbers racked up so to speak. Maybe that could be another post.

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