Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Saturday, October 8, 2011
Updated: October 9, 10:32 AM ET
Lee's addition wasn't a lock for Phillies

By Rob Parker
ESPNNewYork.com

Take solace, New York Yankees fans.

At least your team wasn't knocked out of the postseason early with Cliff Lee on the roster.

That's what happened to the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night, losing a fifth and deciding game in a National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals at home.

And while Lee, the big free-agent prize this past offseason, wasn't on the mound in the big game, his addition wasn't the lock most thought it was going to be after he signed on. After the Phillies stole Lee from the Yankees -- for less money, in fact -- most thought Philadelphia was going to win its second championship in four years.

That was because Lee joined Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt in the Phils' rotation. It was dubbed the best starting staff assembled in baseball since the 1993 Atlanta Braves had Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery.

It was going spell doom for the Yankees in their quest for another championship.

Granted, the Detroit Tigers beat the Yankees in five games and advanced to the American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers.

Still, it's hard not to look at Lee and realize that the last three teams he has pitched for in the postseason haven't won a championship -- two of them actually lost in the World Series.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. In fact, the opposite.

Lee started his postseason career 7-0. He made general managers and fans drool. All figured a talented lefty like Lee was good as gold in October.

Especially Yankees fans who witnessed Lee beat the Bronx Bombers twice in the 2009 World Series. Still, the Yankees beat the Phillies in six games. Last season, Lee, pitching for the Rangers, lost twice in the World Series to the eventual champion San Francisco Giants.

This postseason, Lee blew a 4-0 lead at home to the Cardinals. Instead of putting the Cards in a 2-0 hole, Lee gave them life. Lee gave up five runs, all earned, on 12 hits in just six innings of work. It was a terrible outing. It wound up biting the Phillies.

For all his talent, Lee has now lost his last three playoff games. He still has a tremendous postseason record at 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA.

But Lee, who was 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA in the regular season, was supposed to be the missing piece, not MIA when it mattered most.

Would Yankees fans be happier about the pitching staff if Lee was in the rotation? Of course. But it wasn't pitching or the lack of it that cost the team against the Tigers. The Yankees' hitting, especially in the middle of the lineup, went south in clutch situations.

The same can be said about the Phillies, who were shut out 1-0 in that classic pitcher's duel in Philly on Friday night.

It reminds you that even though most believed that the Phillies had a great shot to get to the World Series because of Lee, it wasn't a layup.

The Braves' staff of the ages was proof positive. Let's face it, those stud starters were the Buffalo Bills of MLB. They won a ton of games in the regular season, but should have won more titles. To be fair, though, at least they did win it all once.

The Phillies were supposed to win again. They won 102 games in the regular season, a franchise record. Still, the pressure was on for the Phillies. Anything short of a trip to the World Series was going to be considered a failure.

There's no other way to look at it: Lee failed the Phillies.