Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Which Way Did Lee Go?

The biggest name of the 2010/2011 Major League Baseball offseason has found himself a new home; or should I say an old home? Former Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee was being courted by the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers ever since the season ended, and most experts believed that one of these two clubs would sign the all-star to a long-term deal. That was, until a mystery team stepped in.

Sometime Monday afternoon, word had gone around that a third team had entered the sweepstakes as a serious contender. By Monday night, Lee had agreed to a five-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. This will be Lee’s second go-round with the Phillies. He was traded to Philadelphia at the trade deadline during the 2009 season. Lee was the Phillies’ ace throughout their playoff run, and won two games in the World Series before the Phillies inevitably lost to the Yankees.

Lee will receive about $120 million in guaranteed salary from the Phillies over the next five seasons with a player option for a sixth season. The Yankees’ offer would have totaled close to $30 million more over seven seasons. Lee expressed some disappointment after the Phillies traded him to the Seattle Mariners before the 2010 season, a trade that led to the Phillies acquiring Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays. Lee was then traded near the trade deadline to the Texas Rangers, who he led to the World Series before they lost to the San Francisco Giants. Cliff Lee’s signing now gives the Phillies the most feared rotation in the Major Leagues. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cliff Lee have three of the top eight winning percentages of current major league pitchers, and Cole Hamels is a former World Series MVP. Half of the teams in the MLB would kill to have one pitcher like these four.

One has to wonder if the heckling of Cliff Lee’s wife at Yankee Stadium during the postseason had something to do with his decision to turn down the Yankees’ offer. Is it that ridiculous to think that some drunken fools may have cost the Yankees an ace pitcher? If it turns out that this was the case, these guys could become as notorious to Yankee fans as Steve Bartman is to Cub fans. Whatever the reason may be, Lee joining the Phillies makes them serious contenders, if not, World Series favorites.

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