Cliff Lee — Benton boy bouncing all around the MLB
Any fan of Major League Baseball has heard the news by now — pitcher Cliff Lee has left the Texas Rangers to play once again for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Here in Benton, we do tend to keep up with Lee. He’s a Benton boy who’s made good. In fact, there’s a sign at the Benton Panthers’ baseball field that declares the place is “home of Cliff Lee.” Proud of him? You’d better believe it.
However, keeping up with the player is a bit of a chore. Let’s take a look at his resume, shall we? Lee, fresh out of Benton High School, was drafted in 1997 by the Florida Marlins. Instead of going off to play for the Marlins, Lee decided to attend Meridian, Miss., Community College.
In 1998, Lee was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, but he decided to go to the University of Arkansas instead (yes, he’s a Razorback — another reason we like him so much around here). In 2000, Lee was drafted by the Montreal Expos and traded two years later to the Cleveland Indians.
Lee started to get a lot of attention with Cleveland. He hit Sammy Sosa in the head in a game against the Rangers in 2007 and, in 2008, he chalked up 22 wins and won the American League Cy Young Award. His winning ways continued in 2009 and, in July of that year, the Phillies picked him up right before the American League playoffs. The Phillies, of course, made it to the World Series against the New York Yankees. Lee started in two World Series games against New York and was the winning pitcher in both of them.
Correction — he was the winning pitcher in the only two games the Phillies won in the 2009 World Series. Yes, the Yankees won their 27th World Series title that year.
Prior to the 2010 season, Lee was traded to the Seattle Mariners, who did a confusing thing just a few months later — they traded Lee to another team. Apparently, the Rangers had forgiven Lee for beaning Sosa back in 2007 and he became a pitcher for that team in April 2010. Lee won his 100th game in that season and got to play in another World Series.
Yes, Lee lost two games against the San Francisco Giants in that series. As the five people who watched the series knows, the Giants won it. Hey, no disrespect to the Giants or the Rangers, but those teams didn’t exactly make for a matchup that generated a lot of interest to anyone who happens to live outside the Dallas-Fort Worth or San Francisco metro areas.
To sum all of that up, Lee has signed with five MLB clubs since 2000 and is now returning to one of those teams. Here’s hoping he stays around in Philadelphia for awhile. That team has an incredible stable of starting pitchers and, with any luck, Lee will finally be a member of a team that wins the World Series.
A baseball player can be outstanding, but he’ll always come up a little bit short in the public eye if he never won a World Series. Take Ty Cobb, for example. There are still some people in the world (myself included) who claim that maniac and sociopath was the greatest player of all time. He appeared in the World Series three times with the Detroit Tigers, but his team never got the job done. The lack of a World Series title is a glaring omission in an otherwise outstanding career.
Here’s hoping Lee’s legacy includes at least one World Series championship and that Phillies will field a team that will help him earn it.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.