Tag Archives: Cliff Lee

The Picture of Clifton Phifer Lee

In looking up the names of old ballplayers, I stumbled upon a familiar name on the roster of the 1923 Philadelphia Phillies:

How interesting, I thought!  There was another Cliff Lee, playing outfield for the Phillies back in 1923.  My puzzlement continued when I saw that this Cliff Lee had also played for the Cleveland Indians, in 1925 and 1926.  So I checked up on this fellow on ESPN, which has a player archive that stretches back to the 1800s.  Behold what I found (click for larger image):

Nothing in this is touched up in any way by me

I could not take my eyes away from the player’s portrait!  This 1920’s Cliff Lee bore an eeeerie resemblance to the Cliff Lee we just signed to a massive contract.  Comparing the two photographs side-by-side reveals just how similar the two men look:

could be brothers...

Note, dear reader, the similar smiles, and the similar proportion of neck width to jaw width.  They don’t wear their caps the same way, but perhaps that was a result of the differing styles of different eras.

Still, I cannot help but shake the notion that there is a baseball card somewhere, perhaps hidden in an attic in Benton, Arkansas.  The card is well preserved in a plastic sleeve.  Were you to hold it to your nose, you could just imagine the faintest smell of bubblegum dusted upon its surface.  The image on the front is of a man, framed in an oval above which are printed the words Pittsburgh Pirates.  The man in the oval looks very, very old.  The bat which once jutted purposefully from his shoulder has dropped to the ground, gripped at the knob by a veiny hand.  The uniform sags, the button-tied front falling straight down from neck line to belt buckle, as if the chest and stomach of the man have collapsed inward.  The old man’s wrinkled face betrays no hint of the athletic young man who should be gripping that stick of maple.  But the eyes, oh the eyes, they have lost none of their vigor, and they are a ballplayer’s eyes indeed.

And were you to turn over the card and examine its back, dear reader, you would see a curiosity indeed: a list of statistics, impossibly long, type minuscule in size.  At the top, batting numbers; farther down, pitching.  The man, or so the card claims, has played in over 70,000 baseball games.

And if you happen to be holding this strange card, gently, with the edges of its case between thumb and index finger, on an afternoon this upcoming early April, you will see the text suddenly, imperceptibly, shift, and grow smaller.  And at the bottom, smaller than a line of ants, a new line will suddenly appear.  2011.  Philadelphia.  1 Game.  1 Game Started.  7 innings pitched.  5 hits, 0 walks, 1 run, 6 strikeouts.   ERA of 1.28, WHIP of 0.71.  Record: 1-0.

15 Blurted-Out Reactions To The Insanity Of Cliff Lee Signing With Philly

the beautiful prom date Philadelphia couldn't stop thinking about

The universe, and Ruben Amaro Jr., are more absurd than I gave them credit for.  Cliff Lee is going to sign with the Phillies for 5 years, $120 million.  I’m not even happy about it.  So many things I thought I knew about baseball have been proven wrong.  I can’t organize my thoughts into a tidy five-paragraph essay (sorry, 9th grade English teachers!) so here are many of them in bullet-point form.

  • Ruben Amaro Jr. is both brilliant and terrible.  The Phillies just lost the NLCS because they couldn’t hit.  So Amaro lets Jayson Werth walk and signs Cliff Lee.  Natch.
  • Here is what the Phillies have spent on Cliff Lee: 4 minor league prospects + $6 million dollars + Cliff Lee + paying Joe Blanton $24 million over 3 years + losing the 2010 NLCS + $120 million dollars + next year’s first round draft pick + next year’s supplemental round draft pick = Cliff Lee.
  • I’ve always felt that Philly had an obsessive relationship with Cliff Lee.  He was like the beautiful prom date with whom we had one magical night.  Afterwards we figured it wouldn’t work out, so we started seeing somebody else (Roy Halladay).  But in our diaries (ie, Philly sports media) we secretly hoped he might return.
  • We traded Cliff Lee last year, in part, because we though Roy Halladay was better than Cliff Lee.  We were right, we’re still right, and now we learn that Cliff Lee agrees with us.
  • The Phillies really are now the Yankees of the National League.  I have no idea how we can afford another $20 million-per-year player.  I wonder if Citizens Bank is going to foreclose on Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2013 when Amaro and Gillick can’t pay their credit card bills.
  • This signing is overkill.  Yes, we now get to boast a fantasy baseball-like pitching staff.  But our offense is way too left-handed and streaky, our payroll surely now is maxed out for years to come, and Cliff Lee is not going to be worth $20 million dollars in 2014.  Maybe we’ll trade Cole Hamels and Domonic Brown for Justin Upton.
  • The Phillies are certainly going to be good next year.  Hell, I bet we’re going to be winning 120 games…after 7 innings.
  • Maybe we’re entering the post-bullpen era.  Each starter goes 7 innings, and then whichever starter is scheduled to throw a bullpen session that day pitches the 8th and 9th.
  • Last year, we tried to trade Joe Blanton to free up money to sign Cliff Lee.  When we couldn’t do that, we traded Cliff Lee and signed Joe Blanton.  Now we’ve signed Cliff Lee, and are going to free up money by…trading Joe Blanton.  This is insane, and the rest of baseball is laughing.  We can’t afford Blanton (I guess?  who the hell knows), and now we want to trade him.  “Hey baseball,” Amaro is saying, “who wants Joe Blanton and his $16 million dollar contract?”  We’re going to give him away for nothing, because baseball knows the Phillies have no leverage in those negotiations.
  • Maybe now Joe Blanton can retire and join the other heavy-set white guys with trashy facial hair getting drunk in the bleachers like we always knew he should.
  • Early favorite nicknames for the Phillies’ rotation: ClH2O, or CH2O .  Chlorine + water is how you treat your pool.  CH2O is formaldehyde.  We’re also more than halfway to spelling CHOOCH with our starting rotation.
  • This is the first time I can remember that the Yankees could not buy the player they wanted.  The streak is over.  Maybe this is a watershed moment.  Like when Napoleon lost at Waterloo.  Or Voldemort couldn’t kill baby Harry Potter.
  • Jayson Werth must be pissed.
  • By 2014, the Phillies will be Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, and a bunch of players we haven’t even heard of yet.  But hey: the Phillies will have enough money coming off the books in 2011 to sign the entire Tampa Bay Rays.
  • Roy Halladay + Cliff Lee + Roy Oswalt + Cole Hamels is as good on paper as the Maddux + Glavine + Smoltz + Avery/Neagle/Millwood Braves of the 1990s.

Why I Want Cliff Lee To Sign With Texas

The Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees seem to be the two favorite suitors for Cliff Lee’s left-handed, bulldog, quietly-intense pitching services.  The Yankess have offered him a seven-year deal worth a stupid amount of money each year, and reporters think the Rangers will offer him at least a six-year deal for similarly stupid money.

The Rangers and the Yankees will both be serious impediments to the Mariners making the playoffs in the next six years.  As a Mariner fan, I root for both teams’ failure.  But in considering where I’d prefer Cliff Lee to sign, I realized a way in which my Yankee hating differs from my dislike for other teams: I can endure a Rangers title much more easily than I can suffer a Yankees title. 

The Rangers are a young team built largely around homegrown talent.  Like most teams without bottomless resources, they have a window in which to compete for a title, and that window is now open.  It may be open for another 3-4 years.  I respect “windows,” and I obviously like the implication that the Rangers’ window will eventually close, and they’ll have to rebuild.

The Yankees don’t have windows.  They keep the window open constantly by buying the best players on the market, season after season.  As such, desiring the Yankees’ failure is an exercise in year-to-year vitriol-spewing.  Any title for the Yankees is a disaster, because they are just as likely to win next year, or six years later, as they are this year.

Cliff Lee will sign a contract for about $20 million a year, for 6-7 years.  He will be, in my estimation, one of the best pitchers in the game for the next 2-3 seasons, and then he will decline.  Cliff Lee will not be worth $20 million a year in the last 2-3 seasons of the contract, and as such he will be an anchor on his team’s budget.  Unless he’s a Yankee.  The Yankees can afford to pay anybody, anything, because their resources outpace the economics of the game.  In other words, they can afford a decent 37-year old pitcher making $20 million a year.  They will still be competitive that season.

So let Cliff Lee go to the Rangers.  I will respect, and try to wait out, the next 2-3 seasons of Texas domination in the AL West.  Maybe they’ll win a World Series title, and I will probably be happy for them.  After three seasons or so, Lee will begin to weigh down their budget, hastening the closing of their window, and the Mariners will have a better shot in the division.

The lesson?  Rooting against teams in your own division is an exercise in patience and timing.  Like body surfing, you time the waves and wait for a trough to make your move.  Rooting against the Yankees is like fighting against the inexhaustible spray from a fire hose.  It will never get easier and the water smells of iron.

Gatorade’s G-Series: Press Conference Edition

Which of these men need to be drinking an "after competition" sports drink?

Dear Gatorade,

I’m sure you paid MLB, or at least the Yankees, handsomely to have your product on the press conference table after the game.  But if you’re going to convince me that I should invest my athletic hydration in your “G Series,” don’t put it in front of baseball managers.  That’s about as far away from athleticism as you can get in a major league baseball game.

On second thought, however, that is the “03: Recover” bottle sitting there.  Joe Girardi probably needed some of that after last night.

Seattle’s Rotation May Decline in 2010

I found a very interesting baseball statistic today, which I’m sharing with you whether you like it or not.  Here are two pitchers from 2009:

Pitcher 1: 14-13, 231 innings, 245 hits, 43 walks, 181 K, 3.22 era, 1.25 WHIP
Pitcher 2: 13-9, 216 innings, 176 hits, 67 walks, 169 K, 2.71 era, 1.13 WHIP

Which pitcher would you rather have had on your team?  Probably Pitcher 2.  Well the Seattle Mariners are being lauded for their off-season moves, including trading for Cliff Lee.  His 2009 season is Pitcher 1.

Pitcher 2, however, is the combined Seattle production of Jarrod “Overachiever” Washburn and Erik “Underachiever” Bedard.  The Mariners essentially traded for Lee to replace Bedard and Washburn.  But it will be a stretch to ask Lee to throw 216 innings in 2010 with such excellent results.  That, combined with the difficulty in Felix Hernandez improving upon his 2009 season means that the top of Seattle’s rotation in 2010 may actually perform worse than it did in 2009.

I wrote essentially this over at All Swings Considered.  But I’m sharing it with you fine people because, well, because it’s educational, that’s why!