Cliff Lee has every right to be absolutely pissed. With the exception of his first start this year, Cliff, while not regaining his untouchable Cy Young form, has pitched rather brilliantly. That, of course, is not reflected in his record (2-5) because any number of things have combined to scheme against his success. The offense doesn't score runs. When they do, not enough. If they score enough, the bullpen blows the lead. Etc. Etc. He was smiling at the edge of the dugout at the start of the ninth yesterday, preparing to watch Kerry Wood dismantle the Royals remaining batters and lock up a game during which Cliff went eight strong innings, giving up only two runs.
Of course, that didn't happen. Again. Cliff (who sports a 2.90 ERA, a 164 ERA+, has struck out 45 compared to walking only 13, a strikingly unlucky .344 BABIP [that's 15th highest in the entire league!], a 3.05 FIP, and a 2.69 DERA) is at the whims of the stunningly bad karma surrounding this team right now. He has every right (as does Victor Martinez and Asdrubal Cabrera, and, I suppose, Choo) to want to punch the rest of his teammates until the feeling leaves his hand.
He won't, naturally. But here's what he might be thinking.
— By chance, are Joe Borowski or Bob Wickman available?
— You know, Josh Cribbs has the right idea here.
— Perhaps if I just put on a Royals jersey after this series is over, no one will notice if I'm not on the plane. Better yet, I'll knock Farnsworth out with Dellucci's bat (he's not using it), throw my jersey on him and have a decoy.
Before his start yesterday, Cliff made the following comment to a reporter.
"I feel like I've given the team a chance to win basically every time I've pitched," Lee said. "We haven't gotten those wins, but I feel like I'm doing my job and doing what I can to help the team win."
Now, that at first seems a little cranky. But you nor I are in the clubhouse on a daily basis, and there's really no good way to judge whether Cliff was lashing out a little bit. And, even if he was, he deserves it. Sure, it might be bad for team morale, but wouldn't you pull an Albert Belle and go nutso if you pitched like Cliff has and had nothing to show for it?
Anyway, I was curious, so I emailed Indians.com beat reporter Anthony Castrovince, and here's what he had to say about Cliff's quote and demeanor.
Cliff used to have this problem where he’d never take accountability for his losses. He’d always say things like, “When I threw a good pitch, they’d foul it off, and when I threw a bad pitch, they’d hit it.” He finally got away from that last year and he began using his, “I just want to go deep into the game and give my team a chance to win” mantra. His postgame interviews are all the same. His basic thought process is that if he makes his pitches, goes deep into the game and keeps the Indians in the game, he’s done his job. So when he says something like what you just e-mailed me with, it’s not so much throwing his teammates under the bus at is his very simplistic view of his responsibilities to the team.
To which I replied that the first vision that popped into my head was one of Kevin Costner putting his arm around Cliff and giving him the "Just say, 'I just go out there and try my best, and, God willing, good things will happen'" speech.
And perhaps that's closer to reality than I think. Maybe Cliff is thinking right now, "Would it help if they all wore lingerie under their uniforms?"