Christmas came early for manager Charlie Manual this year when it was announced that former Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee had resigned with the Philadelphia Phillies. It was widely assumed that the only two suitors in the game were the Texas Rangers, with whom he went to the World Series this year, and the hated New York Yankees who have more money than God.
Oh the irony. Philadelphia traded Lee to Seattle to get current ace Roy Halladay. Seattle traded him to the Rangers in exchange for young talent. And now he's signed a free agent contract with the team that got rid of him 2 seasons ago. Lee's deal is for over 100 million for 5 years with a "vesting option" for a 6th. According to an interview with the Rangers General Manager on ESPN, Lee said he and his wife enjoyed their time in Philadelphia and wanted to go back.
I've been around Cliff Lee a little bit. While I can't say that I know him I can say that he is a very quiet, pleasant, and very grounded. I know a guy who married into the family. He reported that a recent dinner at Lee's house was takeout pizza and pop. Lee is also generous with his time and money, being a major donor to both the Miracle League of Arkansas and Arkansas Children's Hospital. So when he says he liked Philadelphia and wanted to go back, I see no reason to disbelieve him.
Besides, the money at his stage of his career is just an accounting issue. He ain't hurting. Maybe he's one of the few guys at that level of sports who places lifestyle above money. Especially since it is not exactly an issue for him.
So now the Phillies have easily the best rotation in baseball. Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter in a playoff game last season. Cliff is Cliff. Roy Oswalt went through stretches with the Astros when he was unhittable. And Cole Hamel was their ace 3 years ago. Running a baseball game is a whole hell of a lot easier when your choice between your #3 guy and your #4 is between Oswalt and Hamel.
Is signing a 32 year old pitcher to a 5 year deal for a gazillion dollars a risk? Absolutely. But even given the crazy economics of professional sports, Cliff Lee may be worth it. A Milton Bradley or Albert Haynesworth he is not. A proven winner and clubhouse guy he is.
I know a woman from Philly. She says the pizza there is great. Good for Cliff and the family. You can buy a lot of takeout pizza for 120 million.