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Dear Cliff Lee,

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I'm sure you don't know who I am. I wouldn't even necessarily bet you care. I am a Rangers fan, and you are about to start the most important game my team has played.

I'm writing this to ask you to please pitch the game of your life. I know you never got to know Justin Smoak, but he was pretty important to our hopes for the future. Most of us expected him to at least give us an All-Star-caliber first baseman for years. He was under team control for a while, not far from what ends up being the prime of most players. You may hear a lot about the farm system the Rangers have, and it's great, but it's lacking on the position player end. Giving up someone with Smoak's talent and contract situation is a big price to pay.

And many of us think that price was worth it to get you here. With all due respect, though, we didn't get you for the regular season. The Rangers were going to win the AL West with or without you. That's not an insult of your performance (which should be getting much more Cy Young consideration than it is). Rather, that's an insult of the Athletics and Angels, who were never equipped to make a run at Texas.

We got you, instead, for this exact situation coming this evening. We got you to take us from underdogs to favorites against an AL East team. We got you so that if a series went to a decisive game, you could go out on the mound and shut the other guys down and deliver to Rangers fans something they've never seen: post season advancement.

To us, this isn't merely a chance to advance in the playoffs. We're not like other teams. We haven't been there before. The goal is still to win a World Series, but, for the Texas Rangers, victory in a playoff series alone is significant history.

And that is what you are here for, Mr. Lee. You are here to get this team to that level. Your very short tenure as a Ranger has culminated in an opportunity to have the most important performance in the long history of the franchise. Sure, this is a lot of pressure, but I'm comfortable putting that on you because I think you can handle it and also because I'm sure you're never going to read this.

The price to get you was either worth it or it wasn't. The deal is done and the process should be judged on its logic, not hindsight. But, if you don't come through here, it would have been for naught. It doesn't necessarily mean you weren't worth it, it just means it didn't pay off, and that would be painful. It would be rough to watch Justin Smoak play for a division rival and never even have a playoff victory to show for it. You can make sure that doesn't happen tonight. You can go out there and use your thousands of slightly different fast balls and place them exactly where you want in the strike zone against a team that's loathe to swing and open to striking out. You can be your efficient self and keep the Rangers from having to use a bullpen that has been shaky the last couple of days.

This may not end up being the signature moment of your career, but if you just go out tonight and pitch at the elite level we all know you're capable of, you will be loved by an entire fan base forever.

Please dominate tonight, Cliff Lee. Those of us who have invested way too much emotion on this never very successful team are counting on you.


Rangers Fan

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.