The Philadelphia Phillies will put the baseball in Cliff Lee’s hands on Tuesday when they need a win. Funny how things change. Not long ago, Lee wasn’t considered valuable enough to keep. So far this season, he’s the only Phillie starter worth keeping.
Clifton Phifer Lee made his MLB debut on September 15, 2002 for the Cleveland Indians. Six years later, he won the American League Cy Young Award. Fortunately for the Phillies, just one year later, the Indians developed short memory syndrome and decided that Lee wasn’t valuable enough to keep (sound familiar?).
And so on July 29, 2009, he and Ben Francisco packed their bags and moved to Ben Franklin’s city.
It didn’t take long for Lee to make an impact. In his first five games with the Phillies, he sported a 5-0 record, with a 0.68 ERA.
The Phillies met the New York Yankees in the World Series in 2009, and Lee had the honor of being named the Game 1 starting pitcher. He immediately went out and, with the help of his teammates, won the game 6-1. In doing so, he became the first pitcher since 1903 to strike out ten or more batters with no walks.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Lee proceeded to win Game 5. Despite his stellar performances, the Phillies lost the World Series. Less than two months later, the Phillies developed the dreaded short memory syndrome and traded Lee to the Seattle Mariners.
Midway through the 2010 season the Mariners traded Lee to the Texas Rangers, where he continued to build his impressive resume.
Among his notable achievements were setting the ALDS series strikeout record and tying the MLB record with 21. Lee also owns four of the eight post-season pitching performances with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks in MLB history.
You might guess what happened next. The Rangers were inflicted with short term memory syndrome and allowed Lee to pursue free agency, again much to the delight of the Phillies. On December 10, 2010 Lee signed a free agent contract with Philadelphia for five years and $120 million. The rest is on-going history.
On the personal side, Lee and his wife, Kristen, live in Rittenhouse Square. They have a son, Jaxon, and a daughter, Maci. It’s easy to imagine that most Phillies fans are ecstatic that he made the decision to return to Philadelphia.
He is the only pitcher currently standing in the gap between a quick trip to last place in the National League East and possible redemption.