It has officially set in, Cliff Lee is a Philadelphia Phillie. He left millions of dollars on the table and told the New York Yankees “No thanks”, something they certainly aren’t used to hearing. In a move that has shocked the baseball world Cliff Lee is returning to the city that could never get over losing him. But it begs the question of why? Why, in the day and age where the all mighty dollar rules everything, has Lee decided to come back to Philly and leave nearly 30 million on the table by doing so? Sure we sit here and say “what is the difference between 100 million and 150 million” but free agency has shown us that there’s obviously a big difference. The question of why Lee choose the Phillies over more lucrative offers from both the Yankees and the Rangers will be answered soon with a press conference to announce the signing but for now let’s speculate.
One possible reason why Lee would chose Philly over New York and Texas is the American League. Even though the World Champions came out of the National League it’s no secret it is the inferior of the two divisions. With the Boston Red Sox going out and acquiring slugging first basemen Adrian Gonzalez they become the favorite in the AL East. If Lee would have gone with the Yankees he would have had to face Gonzalez, a lefty and that short porch in right field. He would also have to face the DH instead of the pitcher.
If Cliff Lee Were to go to New York and fail, for whatever reason, the New York media would be all over him. The big apple is full of failed attempts from great pitchers to bring their talents to the world’s biggest stage. Guys like Randy Johnson, AJ Burnett, Javier Vazquez, and Carl Pavano all came to the Yankees will big hype but failed to deliver on the field. Immediately the New York media ripped each of them apart until finally they left town. By coming to Philadelphia Lee knows he is coming to a city that already loves him. He could go the first half of the season with mediocre play until the Philadelphia papers start talking bad about him. In New York failure is not an option but in Philly they’ll at least give Lee a few bad starts until they start questioning bringing him back.
Maybe the situation with his wife really did play a huge factor. During the playoffs Lee’s wife was spit on by Yankees fans and she was immediately turned off to the city and the fan base. Of course Philly is known for stupid fans (I’m looking at you moron who threw up on the 10 year old girl. Thanks for giving us a bad name) but we have never treated opposing teams families bad, at least not that I know of. Lee’s wife could have played a huge part in the decision to not go to New York. From everything I hear the Lee’s loved their time in Philly, but the limited time they spent in New York wasn’t a pleasant experience.
The clubhouse atmosphere is often talked about by players as one of the best. Players that come to Philly talk about how great the guys are, and how much they enjoy playing for Charlie Manuel. Instead of a bunch of millionaires you’re playing with a bunch of brothers. Most of the guys Lee played with on the 2009 team that went to the World Series are still there and will welcome Lee back with open arms. Lee loved the team so much that during the All Star break he reportedly searched out all the Phillies coaches and players to say hi and catch up.
With that clubhouse comes a stadium that is packed every single night. The Phillies have sold out 123 consecutive games and its not likely to change any time soon. Playoff atmosphere in Philly is loud and dripping with passion from title hungry fans. The bank is rocking and Lee knows that from his time with the team in 2009. As I previously stated the fans loved lee and after a year could still not fathom why the team traded him. The love affair between Lee and the fans in the city could have played a big role.
Another reason that no one is mentioning is Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz caught a perfect game, and the second no hitter in post season history in 2010. Each time the pitcher to achieve those honors (Roy Halladay) shied the attention away from himself to bring acclaim to his catcher for calling a great game. Ruiz has become one of the best catchers in major league baseball when it comes to calling games, and earning pitchers trust. With Ruiz behind the plate Phillies pitchers had a 3.31 ERA but without Ruiz that number sky rocketed to 4.41. When asked about Ruiz last season Lee said "He knows how to call a good game, He keeps base runners in check. He can throw guys out. He's crafty. He knows what to do behind the plate. He knows how to get to know each pitcher and what their strengths are. He knows what he's doing."
The Yankees did just sign Russell Martin today but they still have a question mark at the position. Jorge Posada isn’t getting any younger and top prospect Jesus Montero is more suited as a DH/1B. They have a young spark plug in Francisco Cervelli but Lee has never worked with him. Lee knows what he’s getting in a battery mate by coming to Philly.
And last possibility I can think of is Cliff Lee’s legend status. “Hero’s get remembered kid, but legends never die” is the line Babe Ruth told Benny “the jet” Rodriguez in the Sandlot. Instead of joining a rotation in New York with Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Phil Hughes, and Ivan Nova he is joining possibly the best rotation in baseball history. He knows this for sure. The rotation of Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels is a dominating force. Joining such a dominating rotation, in the much weaker division, in the inferior league should help Lee’s stats tremendously.
Soon we will find out the real reason why Lee did the unthinkable and told the New York Yankees to take a hike. What is known however is come April 2nd Philadelphia will be reunited with Cliff Lee.