Many Phillies fan’s rolled out of bed this morning and had to pinch themselves to make sure they were not dreaming. Next, came a glance at the calendar to verify that they had not time travelled to April Fool’s Day. And when all that was done, the reality hit like a freight train, only in a good way. Sleepy eyes widened and fans began to jump for joy! Cliff Lee is back!
Phillies fans were treated to the exact same mind-boggling experience last offseason, just without the happy ending. Lee was sent to Seattle to free up prospects and acquire Roy Halladay which was a serious shock. It takes a big man to admit he was wrong. Not only has GM Ruben Amaro Jr. done that, he has redeemed himself completely with this signing.
And Cliff Lee has just established himself as almost God-like in the still sleepy eyes of Phillies fans everywhere. Lee accepted less money and fewer years to come back to Philadelphia simply because he loved it here. His wife Kristen loved it here. And Philadelphia loved them right back.
The deal is reportedly for five years and $120 million with a vesting option for a 6th year. The Yankees offered six years, $138 million and another option to bring the total to $154 million. The Yankees must be equally stunned as the Phillies are with this turn of events. A player choosing happiness over money is not something you see every day.
The Yankees fans who probably feel the worst about this news are the ones who harassed and spit on Cliff Lee’s wife Kristen during the ALCS in New York this past October. These fans may be to partly blame for sending the Lee family on this journey back to Philadelphia. Phillies fans thank you.
As far as making room for Lee, the Phillies made an exception to their payroll to make the deal happen. It is also rumored that they are shopping pitchers Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick plus outfielder Raul Ibanez. Whether any teams will bite remains to be seen.
For now, Phillies fans should feel free to celebrate. The Phils now have the best rotation in the majors with Lee, Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. And while no one faults Jayson Werth for taking the money and going to Washington, Cliff Lee will be appreciated that much more in Philly for choosing this team over the money. And what an amazing team it is.
You can all take the masking tape off you HalLEEday tee-shirts now.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography