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Cliff Lee is retiring; the former Cleveland Indians ace won the 2008 Cy Young Award

Cliff should have more time for reading now.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Dear Cliff,

While I haven't heard anything from you, based on what your agent has said, it sounds like you're calling it a career. I imagine that wasn't an easy decision to make, because you've worked hard to get back on the field after exiting with an elbow injury on July 31, 2014 in what now looks to have been your final game. I imagine that's not how you wanted to go out. On the other hand, you seem to be enjoying the additional time with your wife and children, and there are few better ways to spend one's time than with family.

You had such an interesting career, one unlike almost any other in baseball history. You were drafted by the Expos (RIP) in the 4th round back in 2000, and despite walking kind of a lot of guys while in their farm system, you were promoted fairly quickly and established yourself as a solid prospect. In June of 2002, the Expos foolhardily thought they were contenders, and made a desperate move, sending you and some other very talented prospects to Cleveland for Bartolo Colon. We Indians fans view that trade as the best the Tribe has made in decades. Thanks for being a part of it!

The Indians called you up to make your MLB debut that September. You only gave up one run, but those pesky walks were an issue again; you walked 4 batters and were pulled before then end of the sixth inning. You spent most of the next year back on the farm, but were part of the Tribe rotation in 2004. My gosh though, 81 walks in 178 innings! That's no way to be successful, sir.

In 2005 and 2006 though, things got better. You got a handle on those walks. In 2005, you managed to win 18 games, which back then was good enough to convince many Cy Young voters to list you on their ballot, and you finished 4th. What happened in 2007 though? Many of your teammates were having one of the best seasons they ever would, but the wheels came off your wagon in a big way. You gave up 7+ runs in three consecutive starts, something no other Indians pitcher has done since 1936. Getting sent back to the minors must have been a bummer. Walking five guys per nine innings there must have felt even worse. Did some part of you think about heading home to Arkansas, maybe opening a bar or a fishing shop? You'd already made $5 million or so; and you had those couple pretty good years to talk to folks about.

I guess you probably didn't think about it much. You probably spent you time thinking about how to get back to the show, and how to do better when you got there. Whatever you were thinking, boy did it ever work.

In 2008 you turned in arguably the best season by any Indians pitcher in the last forty years. You went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 223.1 innings. Offense was still booming then, and your ERA was good for an ERA+ of 167. Gaylord Perry in 1972 was the last Tribe starter to post a figure that high. You coasted to the AL Cy Young Award, and deservedly so.

Unfortunately for us Indians fans, much of the rest of the team had fallen off in 2008, an the front office wasn't going to try to re-sign you when you hit free agency at the end of 2010. You were pitching well again in 2009, but the Tribe traded you to the Phillies. For a long time that deal look like a huge bust for the Tribe, but somewhat like you, Carlos Carrasco just needed a little extra time to piece it all together. He's awesome now. Thanks for being a part of that trade!

The Phillies traded you to the Mariners that offseason, and then the Mariners traded you to the Rangers the following July. The Phillies then decided they'd made a mistake, and signed you to a big contract after the 2010 season. By the time you suffered that elbow injury in 2014, you'd been an All-Star five times and you'd received votes in the Cy Young race six times.

It's natural that with all those accolades, you find yourself wondering if perhaps you're going to be voted into the Hall of Fame someday. I take no pleasure in telling you this, but I don't think Cooperstown is in your future. The six -year stretch from 2008 through 2013, during which you were arguably the best pitcher in baseball, that was absolutely a HOF peak. Baseball-Reference has you with 37.4 WAR for those years. Pitchers who put up 37.4 WAR over the course of just six seasons are almost all in the Hall of Fame; the thing is, that stretch didn't start until you were 29, and that's too late for a Hall of Famer to really get things going, unless they're Phil Niekro, and are going to play until they're 48. You've got the peak of a Hall of Famer, just not the longevity; the rate stats, but not the counting totals.

I could be wrong though. You were a better pitcher than Jack Morris, and he sure got a lot of support. What you did to overcome your early control and command problems was remarkable. From 2008 on, you walked just 1.33 batters per nine innings. Only three pitchers in the modern era retired with such a low walk rate, and the most recent of them was Babe Adams, who pitched half his career during the Dead Ball Era and called it quits 90 years ago. The 3.93 K/BB, 6.10 K/BB (4.91 by Halladay), 1.33 BB/9. You didn't just pitch to contact either, you struck guys out at a high clip too. Your strikeouts-to-walks ratio from 2008 on was 6.10, which looks like a typo. The record for highest career K/BB in the modern era is 4.38, by Curt Schilling, and for the last seven years of your career you were 40% better than that. Even including your rough early years, your career K/BB was 3.93, which ranks 4th among all retired pitchers with 1000+ innings in the modern era.

I'm sure you're looking forward to more time with your family, without the pressure of keeping yourself in playing shape. I imagine you're giving some thought to maybe going into coaching at some point. Whatever you learned before 2008... well, if you can teach it to others, you'll be ale to name your salary. Even without the Hall of Fame, you were incredible, Cliff. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

I'm also confident that in retirement you'll find time to do the reading you could never fit into your playing days. I'm sure you'll appreciate this letter, and I look forward to your reply.

With greatest admiration,