Opening Day in Arlington is just two weeks away, and today Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg announced Cliff Lee as the starting pitcher for his squad. That means it will be a showcase of past and present for Texas Rangers fans with Yu Darvish and Lee on the mound to begin the 2014 season.
There was no surprise when Rangers manager Ron Washington named Darvish the Opening Day starter a few weeks ago, and with the news of Lee throwing for the Phillies, you have to wonder what could have been for Texas.
The Rangers acquired Lee at the trade deadline in July 2010 and several key playoff wins by Lee helped clinch the first World Series appearance in franchise history. Texas and Lee appeared to be a match for the long-term as well, but Philadelphia was able to swoop in during the offseason and sign Lee to a five-year deal.
Lee went on to win 17 games in 2011 and compile a 2.40 ERA. Last year he won 14 games with an ERA of 2.87.
Texas returned to the World Series in 2011 and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Late-season issues in 2012 and 2013 have resulted in early departures from the postseason.
If the Rangers had been able to keep Lee, they certainly would not have the current depth issues in the starting rotation. If his pitching brings in a few more wins over the past two seasons, Texas wins the American League West Division and never has to play a one-game playoff, which has ultimately ended their year.
Not to mention how different the 2011 World Series may have turned out.
But now we’re a few seasons down the road. The Rangers won a bidding war for Darvish in 2012, and he has turned into the ace everyone hoped he would. Lee is still a high quality pitcher and patrons in Arlington on Mar. 31 will be treated to a battle of lefty versus righty.
Clay Ihlo is a Texas Rangers writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClayIhlo