Lee gives Phillies a potentially historic rotation
Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels – and Cliff Lee. Yes,
The Philadelphia Phillies have assembled quite an impressive
starting rotation that could eventually go down as one of the best
in baseball history. The stunning addition of Lee gives the
Phillies four aces in an era when most teams would be happy to have
Lee spurned more lucrative offers from the New York Yankees and
the Texas Rangers to return to Philadelphia. The free-agent pitcher
passed up an extra $30 million from the Yankees and reached a
preliminary agreement on a $120 million, five-year contract with
The agreement, which includes a buyout of a 2016 option, was
”My family enjoyed it here,” Lee told WCAU-TV. ”There’s a lot
of pros and not many cons, when you start weighing things
The lefty’s decision to join the Phillies makes them the envy of
the majors. No other team boasts four starters with similar
pedigrees. Halladay was the NL Cy Young Award winner this year and
won the AL honor in 2003 with Toronto. Lee won the award in the AL
in 2008. Oswalt has two 20-win seasons and a NLCS MVP award. Hamels
was World Series MVP in ’08.
Lee said speculation about the team having the best pitching
staff ever was premature.
”You’ve got to go out there and do it first, so time will tell
on that,” he told WCAU.
The city, as a result of the news, was abuzz all day with
baseball. Even in frigid temperatures – with the Flyers and Eagles
at the top of their games, no less – all the talk was about Lee and
the Phillies getting back to the World Series. In fact, as the
Flyers prepared to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins across the street
in a battle for first place in the NHL’s Atlantic Division, there
were more television trucks in front of Citizens Bank Park, than
there were at the Wells Fargo Center.
The fever is understandable, of course. After all, this fearsome
foursome has three Cy Young awards, 13 All-Star game appearances,
two NLCS MVP awards, one World Series MVP award one perfect game
and one postseason no-hitter on its remarkable resume.
The World Series-champion San Francisco Giants have an
outstanding rotation. But even two-time NL Cy Young Award winner
Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner
don’t compare just yet.
Lee joined the Phillies in July 2009 in a trade with Cleveland.
He had a sensational postseason, going 4-0 and earning two wins in
the World Series. But the Yankees beat the Phillies in six
Lee never wanted to leave Philadelphia, and was upset when he
was dealt to Seattle last December on the same day Halladay was
acquired from Toronto. The Phillies tried trading for Lee in July,
but ended up with Oswalt instead.
Now they’ve got them all.
”It was somewhat surprising, but all along we had thought that
if a third team would jump in late, it might be the Phillies,”
Rangers managing partner Chuck Greenberg said, adding that Lee
”expressed his affection for his time pitching with the Phillies”
during their first meeting.
The Rangers have to fill a big void after losing Lee, who
pitched them to their first World Series. And, the Yankees must
look elsewhere for a top-of-the-line starter.
”We have a lot of respect for Cliff, Kristen and the way they
went about the decision,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said
Tuesday. ”They had three good offers, from three competitive
clubs. And they went to a place that they were comfortable, in the
National League, and (to be a ) part of potentially a historic-type
The Yankees aren’t used to losing out on big-name free agents.
They’ve thrown big bucks at plenty of stars – CC Sabathia, Mark
Teixeira, A.J. Burnett, among others – over the years and put them
in the blue pinstripes.
But Lee chose to play in a city that he and his family enjoyed
being in, and to be around teammates he bonded with in a short
period. Those factors outweighed the money.
”I don’t believe there’s any environment he’s afraid to pitch
in. I don’t think New York was something he didn’t want to go to,”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. ”These are attractive
places to play. Cliff made a decision I’m sure wasn’t easy. I’m
happy to at least be in the process.”
The addition of Lee instantly made the Phillies favorites to win
the World Series in 2011. The oddsmakers at Bodog.com moved
Philadelphia from 6:1 to 7:2 favorites. But the Phillies have to be
careful. Teams with the best starting staffs don’t often win the
Only two clubs have ever had four 20-game winners in a season.
The Baltimore Orioles had Dave McNally (21), Mike Cuellar (20), Pat
Dobson (20) and Jim Palmer (20) in 1971. But they lost to Roberto
Clemente and the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games in the World
The Chicago White Sox had Red Faber (23), Lefty Williams (22),
Eddie Cicotte (21) and Dickey Kerr (21) in 1920. They finished
second to Cleveland in the American League.
For more than a decade, the Atlanta Braves ruled the NL East
with dominant pitching. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz
are likely headed to the Hall of Fame. The Braves had various
fourth starters along the way. Steve Avery, Denny Neagle and Kevin
Millwood were the most notable. In 1998, the Braves became just the
ninth team and first since 1930 to have five 15-game winners,
according to STATS LLC. Glavine (20), Maddux (18), Smoltz (17),
Millwood (17) and Neagle (16) combined for 88 of Atlanta’s 106
wins. But the Braves lost to San Diego in the NLCS.
Despite all their pitching and winning an unprecedented 14
consecutive division titles from 1991-2005, the Braves only won one
World Series in that span.
With Lee, the Phillies are looking for more than that. Yes, they
are the clear-cut favorite to win their fifth straight NL East
title and reach the World Series for the third time in four years.
But winning the championship is all that counts.