Cliff Lee's altercation with Shane Victorino not that surprising
Cliff Lee’s frustrations over the first part of his 2012 season finally came to a head Friday night.
It all started in the bottom of the fourth inning of Friday night's Phillies game against the Cardinals. Three-time Gold Glove center fielder Shane Victorino horribly misjudged a ball in the lights which resulted in a David Freese triple. Several plays later, he collided with Hunter Pence, who also missed a fly ball. One of these miscues led to the Cardinals taking a 3-2 lead. When the inning ended, Lee and Victorino exchanged words in the dugout. The conversation appeared to be brief, but then Lee started walking towards Victorino rather quickly. He was restrained by Charlie Manuel and Brian Schneider, but one has to imagine what was said behind closed doors after the game, which the Phillies won in 10 innings on a two-run homer by Pence.
Whether Victorino lost those balls in the lights or not, it’s about time Lee raised some hell and lit a fire under somebody on this Phillies team. Frankly, I’m surprised this didn’t happen a lot sooner. It might not be a stretch to say that Lee was speaking on behalf of every Phillies pitcher who has helped carry this team over the last two seasons in regards to his words with Victorino.
Did Victorino drop a 2011 Game 2 NLDS reference on Lee? And would that be a cheap shot if he did? Was Lee complaining about Victorino’s misadventures in centerfield? Even though he went hitless after the altercation, Victorino did redeem himself by making two strong relays in the game which prevented the Cardinals from scoring any more runs, including one on the same play as the collision with Pence.
What was really said between the two is unknown, but frankly, don't be surprised if it wasn't just about those particular plays in the bottom half of the fourth inning. The Phillies’ offense is always a target for criticism. After all, it’s the primary reason the team hasn’t advanced to the World Series the last two seasons. Although the Phillies have been swinging decent bats lately, Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels have been good soldiers and never threw the offense under the bus when they failed to generate enough runs for them. Even though most of these guys are known as strong team players, it would be hard to fault any of them by now for airing out their frustrations.
Back to Lee. He’s a fierce competitor, and he’s beyond frustrated. There was no way Charlie Manuel was taking him out of that game in the 7th inning, and I’ve never seen a pitcher run the bases with such determination as Lee did in the top half of that same inning. Although his run tied the game, Lee again gets another no decision.The Phillies have scored two or more runs only four times in Lee's seven starts this season. That doesn’t include Lee’s 10-inning effort against the Giants which saw him come away with a no-decision, as well as a trip to the disabled list. It’s the end of May, and the Phillies’ $21-million dollar a year starter has no wins. Meanwhile, new Phillies left-hander Raul Valdes has two wins in as many days! Yes, the game of baseball is funny like that.
Whether we’ll hear more of the altercation or if things stay in-house remains to be seen. At least one player on this team is showing some fire, because somebody has to. It’s something we’ve rarely seen this season from the Phillies, and it’s a shame that it had to come to this no matter what happened between Lee and Victorino.
Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP