>Cliff Lee! CLIFF LEE is back!
Philadelphia has been in a buzz the past two days after news broke late Monday night that the Phillies had signed a man they’d just gotten rid of one year ago. I am not disappointed I didn’t consider the possibility of this happening before it did, because I did consider it. In fact, most Phillies fans couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like if Lee was still on the team after they acquired Oswalt last year, but now it’s happened! I’m just disappointed I didn’t jokingly tweet about this scenario–then again, signing Lee happened so fast and stealthily that no one could have really called it the way it unfolded.
Four aces, it’s unheard of in baseball. It’s even rarer in other sports for a team to have so many dominant players in the same position. Baseball is unique that you need a different starter to go every five days, but no NFL team has ever had four of the best receivers in the league…no NBA team has had four of the best forwards or guards at the same time…the closest comparison might be Premier League soccer in Europe where a team like F.C. Barcelona is able to have Lionel Messi, David Villa, Andres Iniesta, and Xavi all on the same attacking front…or Real Madrid with Christiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema, and Xabi Alonso. The comparisons between the Phillies and the Miami Heat, however, have to stop.
First of all, like I said before, baseball requires you to have a different starting pitcher going every night. Unlike LeBron, Wade, and Bosh—Lee, Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt will never actually play together, at the same time. They contribute separately such that the Phillies do not benefit from combining their dominant abilities, rather they have a different stud to plug in four out of every five nights. You need five starters no matter how you look at it, the Phillies just happened to acquire four who are about as good as it gets in the MLB these days. And they acquired these men through honest, intelligent work, carefully crafted strategies, and clever managerial techniques. They never gave up their top prospect, Domonic Brown, and they never overpaid. They also acquired these pitchers over the course of many years.
Lee signed as a free agent and left somewhere between $20-$30 million on the table to come back to Philly, just because he liked the environment and team so much. Halladay also took less money and less years at the beginning of last year to join a team that had been to two straight World Series. Oswalt was acquired at the trade deadline last July, and Hamels has been on the team for longer than any of these men…you might remember he was once a World Series MVP–in fact, despite being the youngest of the phab phour, he’s the only one with a World Series Championship to his resume. Just because both teams have multiple top-tier players doesn’t mean you can compare the Phillies and Heat…if the pitchers had conspired to join forces and play with each other on the same team, if this assemblage of players was more pre-meditated, if they all decided to sign with the Phillies at the same time thus creating a sudden championship-or-bust atmosphere…then, maybe, there would be more of a comparison. But the Phillies would be in championship-or-bust mode with or without Cliff Lee, or Oswalt for that matter. With most offensive players on the wrong side of 30, the Phillies have basically bought their way back into the playoffs next October.
That’s a hell of a long time from now, but it’s still an exciting thought as long as everyone can stay healthy. What the Phillies did more than anything is get the fan base re-energized and excited about the regular season again, you know that thing you do basically everyday from May-September. By adding a fourth ace to their roster, the Phillies have set this season up to be more memorable than anything we could have hoped to see. As a fan, there’s not much more you could ask for. Gonna’ buy my Phillies 6-pack tickets now—see, it worked.