Minor League players are eligible for the annual Rule 5 Draft after either four or five seasons,…
Lee Needs To Forget Squabble And Pitch
While we all seem to enjoy the good-guy image the Indians portray, you have to realize that in the locker room there are 25 well-paid professional baseball players, all of whom with some sort of ego who are forced to live together for more than seven months. From the start of spring training in mid to late February until the start of October, they spend far more time with each other than they do with their families. Only a fool would think they don't get under each other's skin once in a while. Some guys don't take kindly to being benched; or to the bullpen blowing a lead; or to a hitter failing to come through in the clutch; or to a defender committing a costly error. And you know every team has a few practical jokers who will pull a prank at the wrong time or on the wrong guy. Feelings can get hurt very easily. That's why managers are constantly putting out "little fires." Former Tribe skipper Mike Hargrove did an incredible job of dousing the small brush fires so that they didn't erupt into out-of-control wild fires, which were always a threat due to the huge egos that existed in the Tribe's combustible clubhouse in the mid to late 1990s. For the most part, there is a tremendous amount of harmony on manager Eric Wedge's club. Every day, while the locker room is open to the media, you'll see several players sitting and chatting, competing in video games, or gathered around the sofa watching a movie or television show on the giant screen. I doubt that once the locker room is closed these guys suddenly put on the boxing gloves and start duking it out. In other words, Tribe fans shouldn't blow the Lee-Martinez confrontation, which was reportedly sparked by Lee's lack of remorse after hitting Sammy Sosa on the helmet with a fastball, out of proportion. As Wedge said, it is something that happens with every team, particularly at this time of the year. Of far more concern for Wedge and Tribe fans everywhere should be the pitching performance by Lee this season. The confrontation with Martinez took the spotlight off the fact Lee gave up five runs in the first inning and pretty much took the Tribe out of the game by the second inning. Sure, they did come back and make a game of it thanks to Texas starter Jamey Wright's wild streak, but the bottom line is that Lee once again failed to do his job. This has become a recurring theme to Lee's 2007 season, which has been just short of awful. The loss to the Rangers put his record at 5-7 and ballooned his ERA to 5.95. One of Lee's biggest problems this year has been the fact that after his teammates score, he can't hold down on the opponent. For example, in his previous start against the White Sox on July 16, the Indians battled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game 2-2, only to see Lee give up five runs in a nine-run sixth inning of an eventual 11-10 loss. On July 6, he gave up five runs in the second inning to the Blue Jays. The Indians battled back, but eventually lost 8-6. Whether it has been failure to hold a lead, or giving up tons of runs early, the 28-year-old left-hander has not pitched well. For whatever reason, it's been that way all season for Lee, who was one of the most consistent pitchers in the American League from 2004-06. Over the past three seasons he won 14, 18 and 14 games. He has always been the recipient of excellent run support, but in the past when his team scored he was able to protect the lead. This year, he has struggled when he gets ahead. The Indians invested some big bucks in Lee last year when they signed him through 2009 with a club option for 2010. Thus far, he has not lived up to his end of the bargain. In fact, if the post-season began tomorrow and the Indians made it as a wild card, Lee would probably find himself working out of the bullpen. Over the next two months, pitching coach Carl Willis must find out what is wrong with Lee, whose performance in August and September might very well determine whether the Indians end their post-season drought that dates back to 2001.
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