PBR - How many times have you seen it? A highly competitive offseason battle for the market’s top pitching arm that ultimately ends with the New York Yankees overpowering the other teams involved with their unchallengeable payroll and aggressiveness. It’s what makes so many people hate the Yankees and what has created their evil empire. That’s what makes the Cliff Lee deal so special.
Based on the reported contract he will sign with the Phillies, Lee will have turned down approximately $30 million to play in Philadelphia over New York. You just don’t see that anymore. Regardless of all the reports from last December when the Phillies said they couldn’t resign Lee because of the money he was reportedly expecting, regardless of the mindset that the Yankees and Texas Rangers had going into free agency that they each had to pay the maximum price; it seems as though this is one of those rare occurrences where money simply wasn't a deciding factor.
Lee first came to Philadelphia in 2009 via a trade with Cleveland. He established an excellent rapport with his teammates and the organization during the organization's run and finished the postseason 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA.
When the organization traded him to Seattle last December to make room for Roy Halladay he was stunned.
“I was devastated,” Lee said. “I wanted to spend the rest of my career there.”
Despite the fact that Lee pitched for two different teams in 2010, including a Texas club that he led to the World Series, his heart was always in Philadelphia.
Lee apparently was willing to stay in Texas if the Rangers accepted the terms of a deal that he and his agent proposed to them that included a contract of seven years. However, the Rangers organization did not feel comfortable signing Lee for a seven-year tenure; the most substantial offer they made him was six years, $138 million.
"In this instance, it was simply a matter of us saying yes," Rangers managing general partner Chuck Greenberg said. "But it would have been us saying yes on terms we weren't comfortable with. This wasn't about Cliff not coming to Texas. He was willing to remain a Ranger, but it was on terms we felt went beyond the aggressive parameters we were operating under. Had we been willing to go beyond the parameters we were willing to go, he'd be here. We needed to act aggressively, but responsibly and we did so."
So while it is true that Lee was willing to stay in Texas if the price was right, it’s obvious that his desire to come back to Philadelphia trumped all other circumstances.
"In the back of our minds, thinking that experience was something that was going to be meaningful to him,” Greenberg said. “We realized the Phillies had made a positive impression on him."
It is also obvious that Lee just flat-out did not want to go to New York.
Reports earlier in the free agency season that Yankees’ fans poured beer on Lee’s wife during a Rangers/Yankees game last season likely had an impact on him.
Lee's decision came down to comfort. He enjoyed his time in Philadelphia and developed some strong relationships, and those benefits trumped the extra money tossed at him from Texas and New York.
Lee has emerged a hero of some sorts from this deal. He turned down one of the largest contracts ever offered to a pitcher to follow his heart and return to a city where he felt he was at home.
It is this kind of attitude that Phillies fans admire, and it’s time for the Phillies’ faithful to embrace him with open arms.