Reporting Matt Spiegel
By Matt Spiegel, The Danny Mac Show–
Cliff Lee has turned down money to join what is the best starting pitching staff, on paper, I have ever seen. We’re not sure exactly how much he turned away…initial reports of 54 million dollars were a bit high. But still, to do what he wants, and to spurn the gluttonous pinstripes, well, it feels like a victory for all of us. (We’ll ignore the fact, for a moment, that it’s just another gluttonous team buying themselves the goods on the east coast.) We feel bad for Texas and Nolan Ryan, but we deeply enjoy this particular Yankees off-season. This choice comes from a guy who absolutely everyone thought would take the highest number, and be ruled by that number as much as anything else.
The sports, and the men, are vastly different, but there will be many who say Cliff Lee is being lauded for something LeBron James got torched for.
He chooses a chance to just be a part of something potentially great, instead of perhaps being the leader of the Rangers. He chooses support, chooses a collective. But he will not get ripped like LeBron for not wanting to go somewhere and be the man alone, and he shouldn’t be.
It’s not as necessary, or essential to the game itself, to have an alpha-dog in baseball. You can’t build a team around an ace quite the same way as you can a superstar in the NBA. In hoops, if you really want to be considered the greatest, the team has to be centered upon your skills. Cliff Lee has already gotten to the world series as “the man,” pitched well there and lost. He also pitched poorly there and lost. Now he gets more chances, probably for years to come. And here’s the biggest difference of all: Cliff Lee has not tried to sell himself as the best player in the league. A chosen one. We fans and blow-hards may have done that to him, but he hasn’t shoved it down our throats like the king of Akron did.
The Phillies top 4, on paper, is better than Smoltz, Maddux, Glavine, and Avery (swap Denny Neagle in there if you like). It’s better than Gooden, Darling, Sid Fernandez, and Bobby Ojeda. Is it better than Palmer, McNally, Dobson, and Cuellar? They won’t have four 20 game winners like that O’s team; the sport has changed too much of course. But how about quality starts as a staff? Remember, the quality start may seem feeble as a per-start measurement, but in a cumulative sense, the best in the league are always amongst the leaders.
The Phillies are still old in the field, with a power hitting hero who watched strike 3 to end his team’s season. The Giants beat Halladay, Oswalt (in relief), Hamels, and Lee (twice) in the post-season this past fall, so it can always be done.
I just wouldn’t want to be in the front office of any of the teams trying.
Apologies to the Cubs, who had no shot at the NL pennant anyway, and now even less. As for the White Sox? Lee stays out of the AL stretch run and playoffs. Outstanding.