Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Cliff Lee on Baseball Hall of Fame ballot
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants on Monday, July 21, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
FAYETTEVILLE Former Arkansas pitcher Cliff Lee is on the 2020 ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Lee, 41, is on the ballot for the first time. He retired in 2014 after a 13-year MLB career in which he pitched for four franchises, most notably the Cleveland Indians from 2002-09 and the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 and from 2011-14.
Lee won the American League Cy Young Award and was also the AL’s comeback player of the year in 2008 while pitching for the Indians. Lee finished the year with AL bests in wins (22) and ERA (2.54) that season, one year after a preseason injury caused him to struggle and be sent to the minor leagues for a short time.
The Indians traded Lee to the Phillies midway through the 2009 season. He pitched for the Phillies in the World Series that October but was traded to the Seattle Mariners after the season. He was traded again, to the Texas Rangers, midway through the 2010 season and pitched for the Rangers in Games 1 and 5 of that year’s World Series.
In 11 postseason starts, Lee had a 7-3 record and 2.52 ERA. He pitched three complete games in the postseason.
Lee was never part of a team that won a World Series. He was voted to the All-Star game four times - in 2008 (as a starter), 2010, 2011 and 2013.
He finished his career with a 143-91 record and 3.52 ERA, and had a career strikeout-to-walk rate of 3.93. His strikeout-to-walk rate is fifth best in MLB history.
According to BaseballReference.com, Lee’s 43.5 win above replacement is fourth among players eligible for the Hall for the first time, behind Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi. Lee finished in the top four of the Cy Young Award voting three times and twice received votes for MVP.
There are 32 candidates on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, including 14 repeat candidates. Curt Schilling was the highest vote getter last year (60.9 percent) among returning candidates, followed by Roger Clemens (59.5) and Barry Bonds (59.1).
It is rare for former players to be elected in their first year to appear on the ballot. Elected players must receive votes on 75 percent of submitted ballots, which last year totaled 425.
The 2020 Hall of Fame class will be announced Jan. 21 and inducted on July 26 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Lee, who grew up in Benton and played two years of junior college baseball at Meridian (Miss.) Community College, transferred to Arkansas prior to his junior season in 2000. He was inconsistent in his only season with the Razorbacks and recorded a 4-3 record and 4.45 ERA in 65 innings.
No former Arkansas baseball player has been elected to the Hall of Fame.
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