Davidoff: Don't worry, Lee should be a Yankee next year - Newsday

Davidoff: Don't worry, Lee should be a Yankee next year

Texas Rangers' Cliff Lee pitches against the New Texas Rangers' Cliff Lee pitches against the New York Yankees in the seventh inning of Game 3 of baseball's American League Championship Series. (Oct. 18, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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Ken Davidoff Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff.

Davidoff joined Newsday in 2001, covering the Yankees for the better part of four seasons, and was

This just might be fated. Yankees fans could have to open their minds and remember - and accept - that they don't get to win the World Series each and every season.

And that sometimes it makes sense to sacrifice a single grab at greatness in order to aim for something even bigger.

Cliff Lee lived out every Yankees fan's worst nightmare last night in ALCS Game 3. To say he dominated doesn't properly capture just what he did to the defending world champions.

The lefty allowed two hits, struck out 13 - 13! - and walked one in eight innings in Texas' 8-0 victory, turning Andy Pettitte's terrific effort into an afterthought. Now the Yankees trail the Rangers two games to one, with the wobbly A.J. Burnett getting the ball for tonight's Game 4.

"He came in here and he pitched a great game," Pettitte said of Lee. "I haven't seen many games like that thrown at Yankee Stadium."

Agreed Lee: "Any time you can get that deep in the game and not give up any runs in the postseason, that's huge."

You'd be a fool to declare this series over, but the Yankees now need to win the next three games to avoid facing Lee in Game 7. The way he has pitched in this postseason - he's 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA, 34 strikeouts and one walk in 24 innings - the Yankees' path to a 40th World Series could be irretrievably blocked.

And if it is, you tip your cap to Lee and the Rangers, as Pettitte did, and you take comfort in what's coming next.

The odds strongly favor Lee signing with the Yankees during the offseason. He's going to sign with the highest bidder, and the Yankees think the world of Lee, notwithstanding the fact that, at 32, he's on the older side for a free agent.

And by not trading for Lee in July, the Yankees still have Jesus Montero, who looks to be one of the game's top young bats and an improving catcher.

A year from now, in other words, Lee could be starting playoff games in the Yankees' pinstripes, pitching to Montero. And you'll have forgotten all about the disappointments of 2010, just as you did with 2008.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was willing to send Montero to Seattle for Lee. It just turned out that the Mariners liked Texas first baseman Justin Smoak more than Montero, making Lee a Ranger.

The Yankees' angle heading into this great matchup was to tout their man Pettitte as the underappreciated, super-accomplished underdog. To tell the world that you counted out Pettitte at your own risk.

No one meant to disrespect Pettitte, however. It's just that Lee has established himself as the game's best lefthanded starting pitcher - sorry, CC Sabathia - and Pettitte ranks a cut below him.

Consider that no one on the home team reached base safely until Mark Teixeira's walk in the fourth. No one tallied a hit until Jorge Posada's flare single in the fifth. No one reached scoring position until Brett Gardner led off the sixth with a single and stole second base. Lee, of course, retired the next three batters to maintain the shutout.

Lee has lived one of the most unusual baseball journeys these last two seasons. You don't see pitchers of his caliber work for four different teams over a two-year span.

What better way for him to end this stretch than by delivering Texas its first world championship? Then he can cash in with the Yankees, whose fans need not fear him anymore.

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