To the guy who emails me nearly every day asking for Cliff Lee trade rumors:
The Dodgers don’t need Cliff Lee.
Would he give the Dodgers the best 1-2-3 combination in all of baseball? Yes.
Would he make them a better team? Maybe, depending on the number of prospects the Phillies demand in return, which is usually quite high two weeks before the waiver trade deadline.
But should a team that is adequately built for the present (see: 41-8 record since June 22), and needs all its elite prospects to maintain momentum through the future, trade for a guy like Cliff Lee? Probably not.
And the fact that the Dodgers don’t need Lee, after watching what he did to them Friday, is just as strong a testament to their turnaround as any statistic we could insert here.
Lee allowed three runs and five hits in eight innings Friday, walking one and striking out six. He left a changeup over the plate for Hanley Ramirez in the fourth inning today with a runner on first base. Ramirez smoked the pitch over the left field fence, making it 2-0 Dodgers.
Lee also made the mistake of letting Mark Ellis hit a ball to left fielder Domonic Brown in the seventh inning, a sinking line drive that the rookie couldn’t decide whether to play on a hop or attempt to catch on a dive. Brown dove, stabbed, missed, and let Ellis waltz into second base with an RBI double.
Obviously, the latter wasn’t Lee’s fault — it was Brown’s — and it was overshadowed by Zack Greinke, who gave Lee no margin for error Friday. This was a worthy pitcher’s duel, fair and square, and Greinke won.
But at times, Lee was more impressive. In the top of the sixth, the left-hander had to face Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and Ramirez in that order. Puig grounded out to shortstop on a 1-1 pitch. Gonzalez grounded out weakly to second base on the first pitch he saw (Chase Utley needed to charge and scoop the ball to first to get the out, but the contact was about as poor as you’ll see Gonzalez make). Ramirez popped out to a cameraman in the Dodger dugout on 2-1, but that didn’t count, so he took a called strike three on the next pitch.
You’ll never see a pitcher retire those three hitters that quietly.
And the Dodgers don’t need that guy.
Consider also that this season, Lee would be the team’s highest-paid player; next year Lee would be a close second to Greinke. With the little matter of re-signing Clayton Kershaw looming, you wonder how large Kershaw’s agent’s eyes would grow if Lee — a 34-year-old left-hander with a career ERA-plus of 118 and a declining strikeout rate — is now the salary standard bearer for Dodgers left-handed pitchers. Kershaw, 25, has a 144 ERA-plus and is probably en route to his second Cy Young award in three years.
In conclusion: Dude, stop asking me about Cliff Lee.
Some bullet points:
• The box score is here.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Arizona Diamondbacks behind former UCLA star Gerrit Cole, giving the Dodgers an 8 ½ game cushion in the National League West standings.
• Kenley Jansen has converted 13 straight save opportunities. He has a 0.98 ERA since the All-Star break.
• Greinke is 5-1 with a 1.45 earned-run average since the All-Star Break. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 13 ⅔ innings.
• The Phillies were averaging 4.18 runs per game at home before their shutout loss tonight. The winning pitchers in their six shutout losses at home: Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, Bronson Arroyo, Jeff Locke, Lance Lynn and now Greinke.
• Citizens Bank Park is rightfully regarded as one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball. Seeing Ramirez’s fourth-inning home run clear the left-field fence in the time it takes to read this sentence made me wonder: How many home runs could he hit if he played his home games in Philadelphia? Already this season, eight of his 12 home runs have been hit away from Dodger Stadium, in nearly the same number of games (29 road, 28 home).
• With all respect to the Dodgers, the big story today took place in the home clubhouse. The Phillies fired their manager, Charlie Manuel, who had 40 games left in the season and two pennants, one World Series title in nine seasons on his resumé. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer had the nuts and bolts of how it went down. Jim Salisbury of Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia took what appeared to be the prevailing opinion, that this was an unnecessary turn of events. One former Phillie player (coincidentally, a former Dodger), openly lobbied for Manuel to manage his team.
• This won Twitter tonight:
@truebluela if Dodgers beat Cliff Lee, they will have beat Lee, Harvey and Oswalt.
— Andy Kleinman (@atk825) August 17, 2013