December 15th is a historical date. In 1794, the United States Bill of Rights became law. In 1933, the 21st Amendment went into effect, legalizing alcohol. Russians landed on Venus in 1970. And now, in the year 2010, Cliff Lee re-signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The signing will obviously not impact our society in such way as the Bill of Rights or the 21st Amendment once did. And it is doubtful that December 15th will be named a national holiday. However, this is still a historic occasion for the City of Philadelphia.
The following is a list of five ways in which the Cliff Lee deal has made a positive impact on the team, the city and the fans.
Four Aces Are Better Than Three
The entire Phillies team just got a whole lot better. Adding Cliff Lee to the already dominant rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels has the potential to make the opposition weep like children.
All together, that makes 3 Cy Young awards, 13 All-Star appearances plus an NLCS and a World Series MVP title. Combining all four starter’s 2010 ERA’s comes out to an average ERA of 2.86. If they stay healthy, this rotation will be frightening.
Statistics aside, these are four very competitive pitchers who will push each other to do better. This type of healthy dynamic should inspire the entire team to work harder and expect more from themselves and their teammates.
Having solid starting pitching also takes a great deal of pressure off the offense. Players who can relax at the plate will be more productive. After a down year in 2010, this Phillies offense should be ready to explode.
The City of Philadelphia Finally Gets Some Respect
The City of Philadelphia and their sports fans constantly get a bad rap in the media. Focusing only on the negative, national press makes Philadelphia look like a war zone.
Yes, some horrible human being threw up on a little girl at a Phillies game. The Eagles snowballs and Santa disaster begs the question, will the media ever get over it? That was in 1968. It is officially time to let it go.
There are idiots everywhere, not just in Philly. Look at the Cubs fan who threw beer on Shane Victorino during a play in the outfield. Ask the family of the poor teenager who was killed after a San Francisco Giants game in 2008. But these are isolated incidents and by no means do they reflect the attitudes or actions of an entire fan base.
About Philadelphia fans, Cliff Lee told the press, “They get excited. They’re passionate fans. They understand what’s going on. They don’t need a teleprompter to tell them to get up and cheer, to do that.” Lee also stated, ” Yeah, you know, the feeling of playing on the field feels different than anywhere else. I don’t know how to explain it other than you can feel the volume that’s created by the fans and their intensity.”
Lee loves Philadelphia, the team and their fans so much that he took fewer contract years and less money to play here. Much to the dismay of the national media, Cliff Lee has finally given Philadelphia the respect it deserves.
Philadelphia Just Landed On Every Player’s Wish List
Along with the respect that Cliff Lee’s words and actions have delivered, this signing has also put the Phillies on the wish list of all major league players who are interested in winning.
The days of JD Drew, who was drafted by the Phillies in 1997 but refused to sign, are long gone. No more grumblings from the likes of Scott Rolen either, claiming the Phillies have no desire to win.
The Phillies were already on the minds of many players before the Cliff Lee signing. Roy Halladay made an exception to his no-trade clause last year to come to Philadelphia. Later in July of 2010, Roy Oswalt did the same.
But the Cliff Lee deal puts the Phillies in a whole new echelon. They are now able to compete with the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees. The Yankees lost out on Lee despite offering more money and additional years. So while the Yankees payroll still far outweighs the Phillies, in terms of status, they are now nearly equals.
Jayson Who? Losing Werth Is Not So Bad
There was a lot of groaning among Phillies fans when All-Star right fielder Jayson Werth signed a gigantic contract with the Washington Nationals. Fans having flashbacks to Werth’s monster home runs, a steal of home plate, his rocket arm nailing runners at the plate and the 2008 World Series win, were disappointed that the Phillies did not try harder to sign him.
The facts now show that had the Phillies re-signed Werth, Cliff Lee would not be on the team. They simply would not have had the money or resources to bring Lee back.
Pitching wins ballgames. The impact Lee will have on this Phillies team in the long run far outweighs anything that Werth may have delivered.
Werth went where the money was and no one can fault him for that. But that move further illuminates the magnitude of Lee’s decision to sign with the Phillies for less money. Lee will be appreciated by Phillies fans everywhere. Werth will simply fade away into a distant memory.
Ruben Amaro Jr. Is Now A Phillies Legend
A Philadelphia native, Ruben Amaro Jr. started out as a Phillies bat boy in 1980. His father, Ruben Amaro Sr., was the first base coach at that time. Prior to that, Amaro Sr. played short stop for the Phillies from 1960-1965. Amaro Jr. also played for the Phillies from 1992 to 1993 and 1996 to 1998 in the outfield. He became the Assistant GM right after his playing career ended. Currently the Phillies General Manager, this man has literally spent almost his entire adult life, and part of his teenage years, with the Phillies.
Many were unsure of how Amaro would fare in the GM spotlight, having taken over the job right after the 2008 World Series. Amaro was doing a pretty average job but did not score big until wrapping up Roy Halladay last offseason. Most were thrilled with the Halladay signing. However, the happiness quickly turned to shock when it was announced that Cliff Lee was traded in order to replenish the farm system.
The short half year that Lee spent with the Phillies in 2009 was enough to enamor him to the entire fan base. His easy-going and unwavering demeanor on the mound combined with his ability to mow down opposing batters made Lee a fan favorite. He was also the only Phillies pitcher to record a win in that year’s World Series, which they ultimately lost to the Yankees.
To say that trading Lee was a stunning blow to the fans is an understatement. Even months later and well into the 2010 season, people questioned the move. Some even went so far as to proclaim it the dumbest move Amaro would ever make.
And while those people may be correct, Amaro created an extreme reversal of fortune by re-signing Lee on December 15, 2010. The five-year, $120 million dollar dear with a sixth year option completely redeemed Amaro.
Amaro jumped though a number a very large hoops to make this deal happen. The biggest of those had to be convincing team ownership, who have been notoriously stingy in the past, to cough up the dough. This will be the highest payroll carried in Phillies team history.
Respect is not easy to come by in this business, but Amaro has now earned it. He is a formidable opponent in the eyes of other ball clubs and to his own staff and players, he is a true leader. More than that, Amaro has earned the trust of this organization. They know he wants to win both now and in the future.
The Cliff Lee deal has cemented Amaro’s place in Phillies history. All he is missing now is his very own World Series Championship.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography