I had a thought just now. Cliff Lee is controlling the Texas Rangers. Last night, in Game 1, Rangers manager Ron Washington was quick on the hook with starter C.J. Wilson. After Brett Gardner beat out that ground ball to first with a headfirst slide and Derek Jeter drove him in with a double down the left-field line, Washington yanked Wilson and went to his bullpen.
You know the rest.
The Rangers 'pen would go on to cough up the lead and give away Game 1 to the Yankees. At the time of the Gardner play, Wilson was cruising. He did give up a home run to Robinson Cano to bring the game to 5-1 but hadn't really been in trouble much before that point. He had only surrendered four hits, and the lone run came from Cano's homer.
So why pull him so quickly?
One reason: Cliff Lee.
With a victory in Game 1, Ron Washington knows his team has a good chance to go up 2-1 or even 3-0 with Lee pitching Game 3. Either way, they'd most likely be facing AJ Burnett in Game 4 and it's not as if Washington is unaware of Burnett's struggles. Washington managed the game last night like a man afraid to lose. Of course he wants to win. But he didn't want to win just to make a statement—he wanted to win for a chance to hand the ball to Cliff Lee with a series lead.
With two incredible starts during the ALDS against Tampa, Lee has already cemented himself as one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all-time. When Lee hits the free-agent market at the end of the season, whether the Rangers make it to the World Series or not, we're going to follow his every move until he signs somewhere (and don't be so sure about the Yankees).
But until then, Lee is influencing what the Rangers do and how Ron Washington manages, possibly to a fault. Yes, giving Lee the start with a series lead should be the goal, but not if that goal ironically caused the Rangers to lose Game 1.
Washington needs to manage to win each game without looking ahead to the next game. If not, the Rangers will see the ghosts of championship series' past return.