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Cliff Lee wins AL Cy Young


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The constant quest for perfection drove Cliff Lee to great feats throughout 2008.


"Even if I had won every start, I don't know if I'd be satisfied," he said near the season's end. "There's always something you can do better. I don't know how to explain it other than that. It's just the way I am, I guess."


But even Lee has to be satisfied with what took place Thursday, when the Baseball Writers' Association of America named him the American League Cy Young Award winner.


The honor was well-deserved. Lee led the AL in wins with a 22-3 record and in ERA with a 2.54 mark, posted the third-highest winning percentage (.880) for a 20-game winner in baseball history and became the Tribe's first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1974.


Lee followed the trail of former teammate and fellow left-hander CC Sabathia, who, one year ago, became the Indians' first Cy Young winner since Perry in 1972. Lee, Sabathia and Perry are the only Tribe pitchers to win the prestigious award.


Lee captured his in dramatic fashion, having been banished to the Minor Leagues and left off the Indians' playoff roster in '07. He was 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA in that '07 season, which was marred by a right abdominal strain he suffered in Spring Training.


In Spring Training of this year, Lee had to fight for a spot on the Tribe's roster. Because of the $3.75 million Lee was set to make, it was generally assumed he was the front-runner to beat out young left-handers Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers, but the Indians nonetheless wanted him to earn the job.


Lee earned it all right. He looked confident and in command of all his pitches in spring camp, and the fifth starter's job was his.


But Lee wouldn't be the Tribe's fifth starter for long. He began the season 6-0 with a 0.81 ERA in his first six starts and never looked back.


Lee won a career-high 11 straight decisions from July 11 to Sept. 12 -- the longest such streak in the bigs since the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter won 13 straight in 2005. He was the AL Pitcher of the Month in April and August, and the AL's starter in the July 15 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.


To put a little more historical perspective on Lee's season, consider that he was just the seventh pitcher since 1920 to win 22 of his first 25 decisions, according to STATS LLC.


When all was said and done, Lee, who was scratched on the final day of the season because of a stiff neck, finished second in the AL in complete games (four), ninth in strikeouts (170), second in innings pitched (223 1/3), 13th in opponents' batting average (.253), first in homers allowed per nine innings (0.48), second in baserunners per nine innings (10.2) and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.38).


Shortly after the season ended, Lee was the runaway choice for AL Comeback Player of the Year by MLB.com, The Sporting News and the MLB Players' Association. The MLBPA, The Sporting News and the Internet Baseball Awards also named him the AL's top pitcher.


So the Cy Young Award is far from Lee's first postseason honor this year, but it is the most impressive and, one would assume, the most satisfying.


Then again, Lee is tough to please, as he recently acknowledged. And that's probably what propelled him to such an incredible season.


"I never pat myself on the back for anything, really," he said. "I'm never going to be satisfied."



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