I don't know how other fans feel, but personally I love how amazing Cliff Lee is being in the postseason for the Rangers right now. It feels weird to root for Texas, but I can't help but root for Cliff Lee. He isn't "the one that got away." He was amazing for the Mariners, and the utmost professional, and now the whole world gets to see what we saw for a couple months. They are getting an eyeful, to say the least.
My question right now (and I don't have an answer), is how much has Cliff Lee been worth to the Texas Rangers?
I am not sure a price can be put on Lee's contributions. Certainly, someone could pencil out the WAR numbers, or virtually any metric that they please, and come up with some quantifiable way to say how much he is worth, post-season included.
However, I don't think a price tag can be put on Cliff Lee right now. Seriously, can anyone quantify what he has done for the Texas Rangers in his three playoff starts alone? He won two of the three games in the ALDS, including a complete game effort in the decisive game five. That was the performance that propelled Texas to their first series victory in the playoffs ever.
Then tonight, Cliff Lee goes to Yankee stadium, and delivers one of the greatest starting performances in LCS history. A couple hits, a walk, and 13 Ks against the Yankees? Are you kidding me? This win tonight clinched a return to Arlington, either for the end of the ALCS, or for the World Series.
It really is not that debatable: Cliff Lee, about as alone as you can get in baseball, is pitching the Texas Rangers to heights that the organization has never been before.
Is there a way to put a price on uncharted territory? Advanced metrics are all about improving player evaluation in the name of winning more ballgames. So, winning at a new level is far from irrelevant. Cliff Lee was acquired by Texas to do exactly what he is doing right now, on the stage he is doing it on right now.
There are ways to argue how valuable Cliff Lee has been within a given start, but I don't think there is any way to really quantify how important his playoff starts have been to the Texas Rangers. It matters that he is doing this for a team like the Rangers, instead of the Yankees. New York literally has dozens of teams that have capture AL pennants. Cliff Lee's starts would still be amazing, but the 2010 Yankees, no matter how far they go, could get lost in the shuffle of their storied past.
The 2010 Texas Rangers are already the new gold standard for Rangers baseball, and it hard to see them being the far-and-away greatest without Cliff Lee's postseason starts.
If the baseball gods had gone to Jon Daniels and said, "You can field the best team in Rangers history, the one that finally wins a playoff series and grabs the attention of the nation - but it will cost you three talented minor-leaguers, and your struggling (but talented) young first baseman," I think Daniels would have done that deal in a heartbeat.
It is easy to get wrapped in whether the Rangers can keep Cliff Lee or not. It might be even easier to wonder how much the Yankees will offer Cliff just so he stops killing them in the playoffs
However, big questions like those can wait. Right now, based purely on what he has already done, Cliff Lee has been worth it for Texas. He probably was worth it once he won game five of the division series, but he has definitely been worth it after tonight's masterpiece. Lee's three postseason starts closed the book on the trade, at least on Texas's side. It is undeniable, even though it is about impossible to put a hard value on how much those starts were worth to the Texas Rangers.