Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, April 10, 2013 09:15 AM Comments: 15
I’ll never forget Cliff Lee‘s first start with the Phillies.
He was just acquired from the Indians amidst a flurry of rumors that had the Phillies close to getting Roy Halladay. While his arrival carried excitement, many fans couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed for missing out on Doc. I was one of those fans, having only seen Lee from afar, and having considered him more of a good pitcher with a great season rather than a great pitcher.
His July 31, 2009 start against the Giants quieted all nerves. Lee ran out to the mound in his own patented fashion, did that bizarre fake pitch to the outfield that we learned was part of his routine, and prepared to face leadoff man Randy Winn.
First pitch was right over for a called strike. Winn then swung and missed at Lee’s second offering. In what felt like rapid fire succession, Lee then caught Winn looking with a fastball perfectly placed on the inside corner. It wasn’t a debatable pitch or one an ump usually calls a ball on an 0-2 count. It was just a flat out perfect pitch. My friend and I turned to each other with wide eyes. We had never seen anything like this before.
Sure, Cole Hamels was the World Series MVP the year before, but his ace-ness seemed built more on finesse. Lee was aggressive, worked quickly, and after three pitches had me convinced he was going to be the best pitcher I ever watched on a routine basis. Keep in mind I wasn’t alive when Steve Carlton pitched and I was too young to appreciate Curt Schilling during his heyday here.
Lee tossed a complete game that night and even settled for a double after coming close to a home run. He was dominant then, he remains dominant today, and over the last five seasons he has proven himself to be one of the very best pitchers in baseball. Watching him over these first two starts of 2013 has reminded me of what it was like watching him in his first outing with the Phils.
Yet, even with a Cy Young award and a lucrative contract under his belt, I can’t help but feel that Lee is underrated, even in this city. To help shake that feeling, let’s take a look at his brilliant time with the Phillies to put things in perspective.