On June 29, 2009 a love affair started between a left handed pitcher and a team looking for back to back titles; just six months later the relationship was over.
For the past year, radio stations, news papers, blogs and just casual water cooler talk in the city have cursed the Phillies for letting Lee go. The city of brotherly love showed Lee the love, and at a little past midnight on December 14th, he showed it right back.
Most people that had been following Cliff Lee knew that he was headed into free agency looking to cash in. The general consensus was that Lee would look to take his talents to the big apple and team up with his former Indians teammate C.C. Sabathia.
If it wasn’t going to be the Yankees, it would surely be the Texas Rangers, the team that swept in and stole Lee from the Yankees grasp during the 2010 trade deadline. But after the winter meetings had come and gone, and Cliff hadn’t signed with the Yankees, speculation started swirling that maybe Lee wasn’t going to be wearing Yankees pinstripes.
Maybe it wasn’t all about the money with Cliff Lee; maybe the situation in New York and his wife really put a bad taste in his mouth.
Even as Lee played the waiting game, most still figured it was a two horse race. That is until Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman reported that there was a “third mystery team in the Lee sweepstakes. A place that Lee reportedly loved but the offer was substantially less than the Yankees.”
As speculation started swirl around about who this mystery team could be, the Yankees and Rangers still patiently awaited Lee’s decision.
And then it all came out: Ken Rosenthal reported that the “mystery team” was the Phillies and that they were in serious contention for the prized lefty. Phillies fans started to salivate at the thought of their beloved Lee returning to the Phillies.
“Imagine it. Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels….. that's the best rotation in baseball. Those four….I mean who’s gonna beat them?!”
But still being in a race and being able to win are two different things.
And Phillies fans knew full well that Lee returning would mean he would have to leave a bunch of money on the table, and tell New York “no thanks” something they aren’t used to hearing.
As the thought of the magical rotation started to swirl about, the news finally hit the wire.
“Cliff Lee has reportedly reached a preliminary agreement to return to the Phillies for a reported five year deal in the 120 million dollar range.” MLB.Com’s T.R. Sullivan broke the story.
So, there you have it baseball fans: The greatest rotation in possibly baseball history has been put in place. Not since the 1971 Orioles rotation that featured four 20 game winners has a rotation been this dominant.
A rotation that will feature the reigning NL Cy Young winner (Halladay), a former World Series MVP (Hamels), a former AL Cy Young award winner (Lee) and last but not least a three-time All-Star and a former NLCS MVP (Roy Oswalt).
Lee has left around $50 million on the table to once again don Phillies pinstripes. In the day and age of greed, it’s amazing to see a baseball player leave that amount of money and take a lesser deal.
$100 million, of course, is nothing to shake a stick at but it is certainly close to, if not the most money ever left on the table.
A day before the one year anniversary of him leaving Philadelphia, the prodigal son has returned. His five year deal will likely bring with it free drinks and dinners for life.
I bashed Cliff Lee, thought he was trying to save face by saying he liked his time in Philadelphia and thought he would take the money and run.
I said countless times, “CLIFF LEE WILL NEVER BE A PHILLIE EVER AGAIN” and I can say that I love being wrong.
After seeing Jayson Werth take the money, I would have been happy to see Lee go anywhere but the Yankees.
To see a player tell the evil empire no is simply amazing, but then to have that player return is even better.
I said a lot of bad things about Cliff Lee this past year and because of it, I will be eating crow for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I couldn’t be happier.
Can you say "Mystery Team to beat?"
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