Cliff Lee shut down the Rays twice in the ALDS, including Monday night's series-clinching Game 5 victory. Since the Twins were reportedly one team that was outbid by the Rangers for Lee's services at the trade deadline, his dominant postseason performances have prompted some local fans to complain about the team's lack of willingness to put the chips on the table and do what it takes to succeed in October.
I know people are frustrated with another three-and-out in the postseason, but let's employ some common sense here.
For one thing, there's no saying the Twins had any shot at acquiring Lee regardless of what they were willing to offer. It seems evident that Bill Smith at least made an effort to bring in Seattle's ace, but the Mariners clearly desired a premium, major-league ready power-hitting prospect and the Twins had none to speak of. Even if they'd been willing to part with top prospect Aaron Hicks, there's plenty of room to question whether the M's would be interested in giving up their best trade chip for a kid with no track record who's still three or four years away from the big leagues.
Even if the Twins could have acquired Lee by bundling up all of their top prospects, I'm absolutely flabbergasted by the notion that his presence would have somehow guaranteed advancement in the postseason.
The Twins were swept out of the playoffs in three games by the Yankees, and in those three games they averaged barely over two runs. If they had Lee, sure, there's a much better chance they win Game 1. A lot of people have asserted that if the Twins win Game 1, the series proceeds much differently.
But since when are the Yankees a team that gets down on themselves and unravels after losing a playoff game? The Twins took Game 1 of the ALDS in both 2003 and 2004 with Johan Santana toeing the rubber, and in both instances New York took the next three games to end the series.
As much as we want to talk about how adding Lee or Roy Oswalt (or getting back Justin Morneau) might have made the difference in this series, those theories don't really hold water. It takes a full team effort to succeed against baseball's best clubs in the playoffs, and the Twins didn't get much production from anyone in this series.
Lee just wasn't going to make the difference. Much time will be spent talking about what kind of changes the Twins need to make this offseason to beat the Yankees. The fact is that none of those changes will matter unless the guys already on the roster step up and play better when push comes to shove.