Cliff Lee won 17 games last year. He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball since his renaissance of a 2008 season where he went 22-3. This year however, nearly halfway through the season, Cliff Lee is somehow without a win. Not a single one. 348 pitchers in Major League Baseball have at least one win. None of them are named Cliff Lee.
It certainly isn’t all his fault. Lee currently has a 3.72 ERA with 86 strikeouts compared to only 17 walks. Not quite up to his regular standard but certainly good enough to win one game. The Giants’ Tim Lincecum, another struggling ace, has a 6.07 ERA with 91 strikeouts and 45 walks. Definitely not as good as Lee, yet he has a 2-8 record. Two more wins than Cliff Lee’s 0-4 record. The Phillies offense hasn’t been as good as it used to be either, but they still rank tenth in the league in runs at 4.38 per game. Not enough runs to get a win for Cliff Lee apparently. The Phillies themselves are 3-9 as a team in Lee’s 12 starts.
So what could possibly explain why Cliff Lee still does not have a win? All of the sports writers and analysts are racking their brains looking for answers. However I know the true reason. Cliff Lee is cursed. Seriously. He is.
A coworker of mine, a fellow Mets fan, had watched with extreme hatred as the Phillies bested the Mets time and time again, winning the World Series and seemingly becoming more and more dominant with each passing day. The biggest blow seemed to come before the 2011 season when, after trading Lee the year before to get Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee came back to the Phillies for less money because he loved it there so much. Now the Phillies had two of the best pitchers in the world. How could they be stopped? My coworker had had enough.
Fast forward to October 2nd, 2011. Game two of the National League Division Series between the Phillies and the St Louis Cardinals. The Phillies, sporting the best record in baseball, had won game one and had a 4-0 lead after three innings with Cliff Lee on the mound. Unbeknownst to the Phillies, my coworker had created what she called a boodoo doll (not voodoo). She took a picture of Lee, put push pins into his head, heart and left hand, and hung it up on the wall. Cliff Lee ended up surrendering five runs over his next three innings, blowing the lead and losing the game 5-4. The Philadelphia would lose the series in five games, and Cliff Lee has not won a single game since.
It seems impossible that Lee will go the entire season without winning a game, but the boodoo in place can’t be ignored. Initially the Phillies were not scoring for Lee, averaging just one run per game in his first three starts, which includes Lee throwing 10 shutout innings against the Giants, again with no win. Then the Phillies bullpen started blowing Lee’s wins for him. His next appearance after the Giants start saw the Mets erase a 4-2 deficit in the 7, on the way to a 10-6 win, and another win turned into a no decision for Cliff Lee. More recently Lee has begun blowing his own leads, giving up 3 runs in the fourth right after being handed a three run lead in the top of the inning against the Orioles. Mother nature has even gotten in the act, as Lee’s last start was rained out on Friday, only to be made up on Sunday night in the second game of a double header. Lee would give up five runs over seven innings in a loss to the Rays.
Cliff Lee’s next start is schedule for Friday night in Miami against the last place Marlins. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that he gets that elusive first win and renders all of this meaningless. However, as long as boodoo is involved, it will never be that easy.