Cliff Lee Screws The Yankees In Ways Red Sox Fans Can Only Dream About

Jen's dad sent an email early this morning with two words: "Merry Cliffmas."

I wasn't sure what he was talking about at first and assumed maybe that just meant that free agent pitcher Cliff Lee was staying with the Texas Rangers — which would have been funny enough for Yankees Non-Partisans (technical term: "dayenu") — but when I went to the sports section, the news was even better:

The Philadelphia Phillies agreed to terms late Monday night with Lee, the prized left-hander who pitched for them in the 2009 World Series, according to a baseball official told of the deal. The official, who said he believed the deal was for at least five years and $100 million, was granted anonymity so he could speak freely about a contract that was not finalized.

The Yankees had bid seven years and about $150 million for Lee, who also had a strong offer from the Rangers. But in the end, Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, informed the Yankees that Lee was headed to Philadelphia, where he never wanted to leave after a dominant postseason run for the Phillies.

. . .

In returning to Philadelphia, Lee will join a staggering rotation that could rival some of the greatest in history. Lee, a former Cy Young Award winner, will join the two-time winner Roy Halladay, along with Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

I responded to Jen's dad with a similarly terse two-word missive: "Holy shit!"

Late last week, the ESPN people kept saying that the Red Sox signing Carl Crawford made Cliff Lee's left-hand dominance that much more important for the Yankees' rotation. And now Lee going to the Phillies makes the Yankees' rotation that much shakier. But as The Times puts it, "There are always lower-tier free agents, like Freddy Garcia and Kevin Millwood, Bruce Chen and Jeremy Bonderman, David Bush and Rodrigo Lopez."

Rodrigo Lopez? I almost think Tyler Kepner is being facetious here. I don't know how many Yankee fans got to watch Rodrigo Lopez pitch last season. I did, but that's only because I got to see Arizona Diamondbacks games on MLB Extra Innings. Just so you understand, 35-year-old Rodrigo Lopez was like the Diamondbacks' third or fourth starter, 7-16 with a 5.00 ERA last year, a sort of low-risk placeholder until someone else came up or along.

So I ask you: Rodrigo Lopez?

By accepting a smaller contract and fewer years, Cliff Lee has stuck it to the Yankees in ways that Red Sox fans could only dream about. The only thing cooler would be if the Phillies dealt the now-unnecessary Joe Blanton to the Sox. Oh wait.

Lee's "nonchalant" catch* of a Johnny Damon popup in the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 1 of the 2009 World Series was a nice "fuck you." Signing with the Phillies for a shorter contract and less money is an even bigger "fuck you." Few players, much less fans, get to screw the Yankees this way. And Lee not only did it on the field but in free agency as well. He's a Yankee Non-Partisan hero.

As for the Phillies, expectations are now into the stratosphere. That said, while they may have a "staggering" rotation, they still don't have a lot of solid relief pitching. But I'm not sure they even need it: Roy Halladay had nine complete games last year, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels had three between them and Cliff Lee had seven. That's 19 complete games. And something tells me that with relievers like Antonio Bastardo and Chad Durbin backing them up, this rotation will be that much more focused.

Maybe the decision was easy for Lee. Maybe his wife's gut reaction about the city had some bearing on the decision. But it's healthy for New York City to know that it is not the best place in the entire universe. Cliff Lee is now this idea. He's his own Miami. He's Woody Allen's Match Point. He's Northampton, MA. Except that he's better than all of those, because apparently New York wasn't even really in the hunt in the first place.

Which means that he really does own the city.

*It's too bad that there aren't any embeddable videos of this catch — at one time there were but it seems that MLB has cracked down on all that; this link is a never-ending MLB playlist of videos related in some way to Cliff Lee, but as it goes on (and on and on) it gets less pertinent — there are Giants-Phillies highlights from this year playing now; I wonder what will happen if I let it run all day.

Posted: December 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Thrill Of Victory And The Agony Of Defeat! | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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