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So what happened to Cliff Lee?

Oct 28, 2010, 9:03 AM EDT

Cliff Lee wipes face

I know the NFL likes to play up that “any given Sunday” crap, but baseball is really the sport where anything can happen.

To wit: Cliff Lee getting torched by a team that wasn’t supposed to have any offense. A team that was supposed to be so dominated by Lee that people actually suggested saving Lincecum to pitch another day rather than waste him on a lost cause. Yeah, well, people who say stuff like that don’t really understand baseball all that much.  Even Cy Young winners and latter-day Sandy Koufaxes get lit up a few times over the course of 30 or 40 starts in a season. It’s just how the game rolls.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying to figure out what went wrong.  And it did go wrong. Lee gave up seven runs — not all earned, of course — in  f our and two-thirds. If you look at the box score you wonder how that could be, what with him striking out seven and walking only one.  I didn’t catch any of Lee’s postgame quotes, but the answer, I’m thinking, had to do with his curveball. The thing looked like an eephus pitch at times, arcing over the lefthanded batter’s box and never presenting much of a threat.  It seemed to me that batters were waiting for the heater, and when it came, they deposited it someplace useful. Which just goes to show you how fine a line it is between dominance and humbling mortality in this game, even for the best.

But let’s not overreact. I’m sure that many of the same people who assumed that Lee was a stone cold lock for Game 1 will now be saying how terrible this is for the Rangers in this series and maybe even for Lee on the free agent market.  Ignore that stuff too.  The Rangers only needed one win from Cliff Lee in the ALCS and survived a disastrous Game 1 there as well. As long as they don’t get a second disastrous game — C.J. Wilson, it’s time to pick up your teammate — they’ll be fine.

And this winter, when Cliff Lee signs a nine-figure deal, this will be all but forgotten.

  1. BC - Oct 28, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    I think he’s tired. His location was awful.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 28, 2010 at 10:52 AM

      I agree. He looked like he was really straining.

    • mcsnide - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:42 PM

      Come on. He was TRYING to throw his curveball shoulder-high and 2 feet off the outside corner.

  2. yetisizz - Oct 28, 2010 at 9:49 AM

    As a Rangers fan, watching that start was liking watching the starts he made when he was hiding his back injury.

  3. levistahl - Oct 28, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    I attribute it to the magic powers of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/santheo/5121718887/sizes/s/in/photostream/"the Tim Lincecum jack-o-lantern my wife made last night.

    She’s been doing World Series jack-o-lanterns since 2004, and they’ve not lost yet: Johnny Damon, Ozzie Guillen, Yadier Molina, and Manny Ramirez. (Sorry Phils and Yanks fans: she took 2008 and 2009 off, despite my pleas for a Matt Stairs pumpkin each year.)

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 28, 2010 at 10:52 AM

      Matt Stairs should always have a pumpkin for himself. He’s the best player to ever grace this game!!!

      • BC - Oct 28, 2010 at 11:15 AM

        Matt Stairs is God.
        Wait, strike that. Clapton is God. Stairs can be the Holy Spirit or something….

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 28, 2010 at 11:52 AM

        Hence, the Stairs-way to Heaven.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:13 PM

        Clapton is not GOD. SRV is GOD. And Clapton is cursed, he went to the crossroads and sold his soul like many a blues man before him. It was Claptons helicopter that ended up killing SRV btw.

      • BC - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:17 PM

        Jonny – helicopters don’t kill people. Flying into a raging storm kills people. Ask Buddy Holly.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:28 PM

        Actually since you wish to get technical. Claptons Helicopter who was flown by Claptons Pilot ,who happened to be HIGH at the time pretty much crashed into a mountain. I Blame Clapton!!! And his curse… Just like Cliff Lee is now blaming the Curse of Fiorentino. “The Phills are a stone cold lock.” “Cliff Lee is a stone cold lock”. See a pattern here? ;)

  4. levistahl - Oct 28, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    Grr. Bad link. Here’s the Lincecum jack-o-lantern

  5. Adam - Oct 28, 2010 at 10:32 AM

    First, a lot of people forget that the Giants have 3 guys in their lineup who slugged over 500 this year. That’s pretty good, the Rangers only have 2 (granted Vlad is at 496 so it’s roughly 3).

    Their overall team OPS+ is bad, at 95, but Texas was only 102. The trade deadline moves paid dividends for the Giants. In July they outscored the Rangers by 38 runs, and in August they outscored the Rangers by 5 runs. Granted in September the Rangers beat them by 36 runs, but the fact is that the disparities by the END of the year weren’t as great. Replacing Molina with Posey was huge (55 points in OPS+), and inserting Pat Burrell was a huge swing as well. They don’t have big names, but they have some good hitters. Team slugging the Rangers are only 11 points better than the Giants.

    I’m not saying the Giants are juggernauts by any stretch, but they’re a lot better now than they were, they’re just dragged down by their numbers early in the season.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 28, 2010 at 10:53 AM

      I agree that they just straight-up overmatched Texas, but I’m with Millar with what he said last night about this going 7 games.

  6. feartherallythong - Oct 28, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    All the Giants-haters are cracking me up (I’m looking at you, Mr. Calcaterra). Of all the posts post-Game 1, I see a bunch of “How could the Rangers lose?”, and “What happened to Cliff Lee?” posts and stories. Even the MSM is referring almost exclusively to the game as a Rangers loss, not a Giants win. It’s funny. Lee had a sub-superhuman game, the Giants are hot and at home, their offense doesn’t suck as much as everyone says, and the only person to give props to the Giants for getting good wood on the ball was Cliff Lee himself. He gave up one walk, he wasn’t wild – the Giants are just hot, and seeing the ball well.

    This may be a 6 or 7-game series in the end, but when every pundit had the Rangers winning in 6, I was reminded of the underrated Graham Chapman in “Yellowbeard”, when he says, “We Yellowbeards are NEVER more dangerous then when we’re dead!”

    • kage10 - Oct 28, 2010 at 4:03 PM

      I totally agree with you. I mean, give the Giants some credit. With hitting, when you are on you are on and the Giants are definitely on. They say they are not the greatest hitters, but supposedly the Phillies were great hitters and they couldn’t hit the side of a barn. Lee may have been off his normal game, but who is to say that if he didn’t pitch exactly like he did last night against the Yankees, the Yankees STILL wouldn’t have teed off on him. It IS the World Series and both of these teams have surprised everyone, but the reality is, the Giants have been hitting during the playoffs and so have the Rangers. I mean, why not diss Lincecum? He didn’t do that hot either. Anyway, it’s a great series…Lee will come back, but he won’t dominate the Giants like he dominated the Yankees. And just for that, I love him.

  7. dustin84v - Oct 28, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    Philly doesn’t need Ryan Howard’s poor post-season performances. They should trade his contract to a competitive team. A good fielder at first base would improve morale.

  8. Utley's Hair - Oct 28, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    Sorry, Cliffy (damn you Joe Schmuck!!!!), but last night actually makes me feel better about the Phightins’ rotation last week.

    • feartherallythong - Oct 28, 2010 at 4:34 PM

      The Phillies have a very good rotation, certainly at least the equal of Los Gigantes. I think that the hotter team won a bunch of close games (okay, not Game 2). So far in the WS, the Giants still are the hotter team chippin’ away…

      Crap, did I just jinx my team?…
      Never mind, I’m safe – I just remembered that I keep the TV on with the mute on, so I can listen to Kruk and Kuip…

  9. seeingwhatsticks - Oct 28, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    This is officially getting ridiculous. Of course Lee didn’t have his best stuff, but neither did Lincecum against the supposedly superior offense and Timmy was able to bear down and get through without too much damage. The bottom line is Lee is not as good as he has been hyped up to be, despite his postseason numbers. Those numbers may have as much to do with a relatively small sample size as anything else. Remember, even though Lee has a Cy Young, in his career he has just as many mediocre-bad years as he does great years. His career numbers are nowhere near elite levels because of that inconsistency. This is a case of a guy who beat the Yankees a couple times in a couple big games being hailed as a baseball icon when the truth is, if he had beaten the Reds or the Twins a couple of times in the playoffs we aren’t even having this discussion. Comparing him to Gibson and Koufax was absurd to begin with, and all the talk about “what happened to Cliff Lee?” has everything to do with members of the media needing an explanation for why they look so stupid today.

  10. mcsnide - Oct 28, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    C’mon Craig, you know what happened. It was Joe Buck and the Curse of the Cliffy. Before Buck called Lee “Cliffy”, his line was 2 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs. After the”Cliffy” remark: 2.2 IP, 6 hits, 7 runs. Who needs logical explanations when you can just blame Joe Buck?

    • Utley's Hair - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:06 PM

      Blaming Joe Buck IS a logical explanation, duh.

  11. Utley's Hair - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    Maybe it was Vicente Padilla in Cliff Lee costume?

    • Jonny 5 - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:11 PM

      Not enough HBP’s to be him. I hate that guy btw…. He wasn’t easy to like for me when he was a Phill.

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:17 PM

        But he was doing his best to stay in character–upping the HBPs would’ve been a dead giveaway.

  12. frankvzappa - Oct 28, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    with all the money down on Lee, the mob probably paid him close to 9 figures just to shank it last night…

    • mckludge - Oct 28, 2010 at 4:39 PM

      I’m sure people were thinking the same thing about Lincecum when he walked the runner back to third base and never tried to throw him out.

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