Cliff Lee Sounds Off on Phillies, Yankee Fans, Ron Washington
He wasn't happy when the Phillies, who got four postseason wins in five starts from Lee last year, dumped him on the Seattle Mariners when they got a chance to get Roy Halladay at the top end of their rotation.
The Mariners did him a huge favor -- and did the Rangers a huge favor, too -- by failing miserably in their effort to contend, ultimately trading him to Texas midseason, a move that has him all smiles now.
Lee is elated that the Rangers made it to the World Series against the Giants by dispatching with the Yankees, but he wasn't happy along the way when fans in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium spit in the direction of the Rangers' family section, where his wife, Kristen, and his two kids were sitting.
And Lee being Lee, he doesn't mask his emotions.
About the Phillies, he admitted to inner conflict.
"I had kind of mixed emotions, to be honest with you." Lee said. "I pulled for a lot of those guys, but it's weird. When a team gets rid of you, you kind of like seeing them lose a little bit. I know that's weird, but part of me wanted them to win where I could face them in the World Series, too. It would have been a lot of fun.
"When a team gets rid of you, it's funny how you have a knack for stepping up a little more when you face them. There's a little more incentive to beat them, and that's definitely the case with me. I was in between. I let that series play out, and I pulled for those guys individually, but I didn't mind seeing them get beat, either, just because they got rid of me."
There has been speculation in the last news cycle that the Yankees, considered the front-runner in the soon-to-be war to land Lee in free agency, may have had that leadership position compromised by the spitting incident.
Clearly Kristen Lee was unsettled and unhappy by the way the Rangers were treated in Yankee Stadium. Lee said that wouldn't be the case with him, or at least he was smart enough to say that it wouldn't make a difference.
"I don't know the guy that did it," Lee said. "It could be anyone. Who knows? Who cares? They're at home right now."
That last line got the World Series media corps laughing. Lee made it clear he didn't like what had happened, but said he could separate out individual acts by random fans from an organization that undoubtedly will be trying to recruit him.
"I brush that off as fans being fans," Lee said. "You can't control 50,000 people and what they're going to do. There were some people that were spitting off the balcony on the family section, and that's kind of weak, but what can you do?
"Some people get a little alcohol in them and act inappropriate. But it is what it is. There's so many people there you can't control them all. I know it's been made into a big deal, but that's really all it is, just two or three or four people just acting like fools. (As for the other) 50,000, you can't group them all together."
Lee, who will start Game 1 Wednesday for the Rangers, also had a little good-natured humor at the expense of his manager, Ron Washington.
Washington is someone "who lets things unfold and enjoys baseball" Lee said. At the same time, the pitcher said he'd like Washington's job.
"You know, he's got a really easy team to manage; I know that much, with just the talent that's in the room," Lee said. "Usually when you have really good players, that makes the manager that much better. I don't know if that's politically correct to say that or whatever, but when you've got a team like this, you'd have a hard time screwing that up, to be honest with you, at least offensively.
"I've had to face them over the years, and it's not a lot of fun. When you start pitching around Josh Hamilton and then you're staring at Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler, it's not a lot of fun because it's a very powerful lineup. I feel like I could fill that lineup every day and throw it out there. I mean, it's a winner."
That drew some more laughs, but Lee was serious about how much he respects Washington, too.
"He's definitely a loose guy who keeps things loose, and lets us kind of police ourselves, and makes sure that we respect the game," the left-hander said. "That's really all you can ask for as a player out of your manager, and he definitely does that stuff."