While Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers continues his somewhat surprising march toward baseball immortality, each of his subsequent dominant postseason starts helps him climb higher and higher toward the pinnacle of baseball's Mount Olympus.
Already, after only parts of two seasons performing on baseball's grandest stage, Lee has earned himself the right to be mentioned alongside legends of the game like Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson, pitchers who excelled when the stakes were the highest.
As baseball fans, we constantly attempt to place our heroes within their proper historical context, by comparing them with stars of the divergent eras in the history of the game. Sure, Albert Pujols is amazing today, but how would he fare in the Polo Grounds, or against spit-ball pitchers? Could Babe Ruth possibly have crushed 714 home runs against today's fire-balling hurlers and relief specialists? Tim Lincecum may be "The Freak," but could his dominance withstand the expectation to throw 300 innings a year?
The comparison between Cliff Lee and Sandy Koufax becomes inevitable, as their names now sit near each other on many postseason baseball leader boards. Obviously, their shared, left-handed throwing hand makes them easy to group together, but more so, the way in which they have dominated their playoff opponents has elevated them above the rest of the field into a class of their own. After eight playoff appearances each, seven starts for Koufax, and eight for Lee, they are at a nearly identical point in their postseason careers, making the comparisons even more appropriate.
These similarities between the two dominant left-handed hurlers practically beg the question: if your team was facing a decisive Game 7 in a playoff series, who would you prefer to have starting on the hill? Cliff Lee or Sandy Koufax?