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A Quick Post On Cliff Lee And Colin Cowherd

I know this is Tuesday morning's news, and I'm way behind on the story. Every blogger and his mother upstairs has already said his piece and moved right along.

I also know this is something I needn't acknowledge. I try to spend as little time as possible criticizing major media personalities, because it doesn't make a difference, and we already know not to go to them for keen, cutting insight. If I tell you that Colin Cowherd said something really dumb, that isn't interesting, because, of course he did. That's what we expect him to do. Making note of his countless inaccuracies would be a full-time job.

Still, in this particular instance, I can't help myself. See, Cliff Lee recently got bombed by the Orioles, and Colin Cowherd - on whatever show he hosts on whatever station that airs it - accused Lee of mailing it in. If I'm not mistaken, he said those very words. He added that Lee hates Texas and is completely focused on joining the Yankees in the offseason.

Now, Cliff Lee's already defended himself by addressing the accusation with the media. But the man struck a chord with me, and I still feel compelled to weigh in.

Nevermind that Cliff Lee is a pitcher in the Major Leagues, a level you don't reach without the proper degree of self-motivation.

Nevermind that Cliff Lee bounced back from a potentially career-killing 2007 to become one of the absolute top starting pitchers in the league.

Nevermind that Cliff Lee has been a team-leading ace, developing a reputation as one of the most professional, committed starters in the league.

Nevermind that Cliff Lee is currently pitching in a contract year, for a division-leading ballclub.

All you need to understand to know that Cliff Lee would never mail it in is how he spent his days with the Mariners. See, Lee was supposed to be a part of something big. He was supposed to be half of the 1-2 punch that would lead the darling M's to the playoffs. Instead, when Lee made his season debut on April 30th, the M's gave him zero runs of support and blew a winnable game. When Lee made his third start of the year, the M's were 12-19. When Lee made his fifth start of the year, the M's were 15-26. After Lee's second start, the M's were never again within 5.5 games of first place, and they fell to ten back on June 10th, after which Lee still spent another full month on the team. At no point during Lee's time with the Mariners were the Mariners playing well, and by the middle of the team's second month, it became apparent that it wasn't going to compete.

So how did Lee respond? He didn't respond by sulking. He didn't respond by putting up walls and playing for himself. He didn't respond by mailing it in. Forget what he actually did on the mound. What's important is that, even for a terribly disappointing Mariners team in last place - a team Lee knew he wouldn't play for much longer - Lee assumed the role of a leader. He took other pitchers under his wing. He called team meetings to clear the air and get some guys focused. He was always available to speak with the media. He was, in short, a positive influence on the field, and a positive influence off it. It didn't matter whether you were talking to a teammate, a coach, a journalist, or a fan - all held Lee in high esteem. With a Mariners team that was doomed from the start, Lee went well above and beyond what could've been asked of a player in his situation, and he did so knowing full well that any start could be his last.

Lee was a leader and a consummate professional in every sense of each word. You could argue that he was only putting in the work because he was gunning for a midseason trade to the Yankees, but that wouldn't explain all his extra effort in the dugout or in the clubhouse. If Cliff Lee just wanted to get traded to the Yankees, he would've focused on doing his job. Cliff Lee did more than his job. Cliff Lee did everything you'd ever want, and he did it with a smile.

He wound up getting traded not to New York, but to Texas. A Texas team headed to the playoffs, and a Texas team looking to Lee to lead them to the Series. And Colin Cowherd thinks Cliff Lee mailed it in? Cliff Lee. Of all people. Cliff Lee is literally - literally - the last player in baseball I would accuse of taking a game or two off.

What's sad is that I can't even really blame Cowherd. The man was just doing his job. The great misfortune is that, these days, there's value in just being provocative. Across all media platforms, the focus is increasingly on generating attention and traffic, and Cowherd certainly succeeded in that regard. By making some off-the-cuff remarks about an American League starting pitcher, Cowherd lit up the internet and got a response from the pitcher himself. For Cowherd and his bosses, that's a job well done.

And to me, that's a damn pity. I get it. I really do. You need to generate attention and traffic in order to generate revenue, and you need to generate revenue in order to survive. But Cowherd's just another guy whose job is to give people something to talk about, and that plays right in to our society's maddening prioritization of chatter over being informed.

So much has gone so wrong.