ARLINGTON -- Cliff Lee's Opening Day start not only generated concern among fans. It also generated controversy among the talking heads. After Monday's 9-1 loss, in which he gave up seven runs in five innings of work, Lee was talking to reporters about how baseball can be a game of inches, and he pointed to Jarrod Saltalamacchia's second-inning, two-run single past a diving first baseman Victor Martinez as an example. "If Vic lays out and is able to catch that ball," Lee said, "those runs don't score."
It was quite clear, in Lee's tone, that he wasn't trying to throw Martinez under the bus. But tone is difficult to decipher in print. Lee's quote became a subject of debate on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" and the sports talk radio shows back in Cleveland. The debate did have some historical precedent, given that Lee and Martinez had an altercation in 2007, after Lee hit the Rangers' Sammy Sosa in the head with a pitch on the night he was honored for his 600th home run. Still, it was much ado about nothing. To Lee, the controversy was a surprise. "I was saying two feet is the difference in those runs right there," he said Wednesday. "It's not, 'He should have made that play.' I was saying, 'If they hit it two feet to the right, he makes that play.' It was taken out of context, because I had just gotten through saying I take responsibility and expect more out of myself." Lee made it a point to seek out Martinez before Wednesday's game and explain the misunderstanding.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.