On Cliff Lee, Sports Bigamy, and the End of the Civilized World

Posted by Michael Baumann, Mon, June 14, 2010 01:33 PM | Comments: 77
Commentary, Posts, Rumors

I assume that everyone here is a Phillies fan, and has either cheered for the men in red pinstripes their entire lives or jumped on the bandwagon sometime between August 2006 and September 2008. But even though we all root for the same team, each of us has his own idiosyncratic biases about non-Phillies baseball teams. Sure, we all hate the Yankees (because everyone does), and we take special pleasure in the misfortune of Phillies rivals like the Braves, Mets, and Dodgers. But apart from that, I’d wager that our team preferences are somewhat disparate.

Now, I don’t think that having a passing interest in another team makes me a sports polygamist any more than enjoying Gemma Arterton’s brief appearance in Quantum of Solace makes me an adulterer. I enjoy baseball in all its forms, and it’s fun to have someone to cheer for when the Phillies aren’t playing.

For instance (if you’ll forgive an NFL example), I pull for the Houston Texans because their owner endowed the scholarship that paid for my college education. But if they were to play the Eagles? No doubt where my allegiances lie. My point is that we all have secondary preferences in sports for one reason or another.

With that said, I’ve started hearing rumblings. It’s mid-June, and teams are starting to figure out what their needs are, and whether they’re good enough to pursue the playoffs this year. I love trade rumors. But I heard one over the weekend, from Ken Rosenthal, Rumor Geyser, that could ruin the Phillies’ hopes at a second World Series title. Not only that, it could cause violence and lawlessness in the Phillies blogosphere and cast a black cloud over this entire half-decade of National League supremacy.

That rumor: Cliff Lee to the Yankees for prospects, possibly including 20-year-old catcher/Tokyo-wrecking radiological monster Jesus Montero.

My reaction: To become the world’s biggest Tampa Bay Rays fan.

For a city prone to sports-based mass panic, the dual trades that sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners and Roy Halladay to the Phillies occupied a special place. Like T.O. doing crunches in his driveway panic. Like Eric Lindros concussion panic. The cries of “the Phillies are too cheap to win a title” and “to hell with the prospects, I want the three-headed monster this season” seemed to blot out the sun. Even after Roy Halladay started off better than any Phillies starter in recent memory, it seemed like no number of MS Paint illustrations or French-speaking slurves from Phillippe Aumont could stem the insatiable bloodthirst of the Philly sporting public.

Now imagine the following series of newspaper lead sentences.

July 29 SEATTLE (AP)—The Mariners threw in the towel on their season this morning when GM Jack Zduriencik announced that the team had traded ace pitcher and free agent-to-be Cliff Lee to the New York Yankees for three prospects, including prize catcher Jesus Montero.

Oct. 27 NEW YORK (AP)—“It’s good to be back,” said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard as his team arrived at Yankee Stadium for the second straight October.

Nov. 3 NEW YORK (AP)—If you can’t beat him, trade for him. Cliff Lee, the one pitcher the Yankees couldn’t solve in the 2009 World Series outdueled former teammate Cole Hamels for the second straight game to tie up the Series at 3-3. The 4-1 victory sets up a Game 7 matchup of Phil Hughes against Joe Blanton.

Let’s say Hughes beats Blanton (which he would in most cases) and the Yankees beat the Phillies in the World Series again, this time behind the one guy Philly fans wanted to keep the most. Where the Phillies were either unable or unwilling to pony up to keep Lee, the Yankees were, and were rewarded with a World Series title. The blogosphere would blow up. WIP’s switchboards would catch fire and burn down half the city. I’m imagining the scene in Mean Girls where Regina George sprinkles photocopied pages of the Burn Book down the halls of the high school, except it’s neither funny, ironic, or narrated by Lindsay Lohan.

Granted, this scenario is far from a certainty. First, the Yankees have to trade for Lee. Then, the Phillies and Yankees have to both make it back to the World Series. Then, Lee has to win two games (both against Cole Hamels, in the worst-case scenario) and the Yankees have to take the Series.

But I’d give almost anything to avoid this scenario. I wouldn’t sell my own soul, but I’d certainly sell someone else’s. Which is why I’m throwing my full karmic weight (such as it is) behind Tampa for the rest of the season, in the hope that they prevent the Yankees (either through some confluence of regular-season events or in the ALCS) from reaching the World Series. If you don’t want this to happen, you’ll do the same.

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

  • Posts: 0 George

    There are still people who wanted Lee so badly they refuse to give any credence to the reasons why the Phils couldn’t keep him. I suspect they’d still be griping if Lee’s arm fell off and Aumont began throwing perfect games.

    Personally, I don’t give a crap who gets Lee, or what Seattle gets in prospects. I’m just going to worry about the Phils. If they play right, they’ll win, and Lee won’t matter. If they play wrong, they’ll lose, and Lee won’t matter, either. They can beat even a team with Lee on it if they play even 75% as well as they did earlier this year.

    I suspect Baumann just wanted to stir up some doo-doo, because it’s the only reason for a stupid post like this one. And he can keep the Rays.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Dear Management:

    While a staunch advocate of free speech, I am growing somewhat frustrated with the level of discourse on the board over the last week or so. New people showing up whom I suspect are the same people using different names. Those who post for no other reason than to annoy and to try to poke legit posters with a stick to get them to react. As I am addressing this issue, I would think that those I am speaking of feel a small victory. While that may be, I will cede this satisfaction to them in exchange for some more attentive moderation from the Big Brothers (I say it with respect) at the Nation so some of this valueless expression could be kept from taking up %50 of every thread. Just a request. I know all you guys were away this weekend and I hope you had fun. Help me….Spock.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    Dipsy — You are making valid points and I respect your frustration. I am behind you 100 percent. Serious bloggers like yourself deserve the utmost respect and reverance for all you bring to the Phillies Nation. Please don’t leave, as we all enjoy your comments.


    Bart Shart

  • Posts: 0 Brian Sr. of CO

    First, I agree for crying out loud give it up on the Lee thing. He is gone, just give it up. I hope the Phillies aren’t worried about facing Lee in the World Series. I hope the Phillies arent even worried about the World Series, NLCS, NLDS or even winning the NL East yet. They SHOULD be concerned, just as we should be concerned about first, keeping a winning record, second, getting back into first place.

  • Posts: 0 brian

    I am a huge Phillies fan. What a terrible article his was. First off this team is on a down spiral to the bottom of the division. To worry about meeting the Yankees again. Are you serious. First off Utley is hurt. Werth is probably off the juice with Raul. Never a fan of either. Howard I love but not worth the kind of money they gave him. We are going to regret this contract in a year or two. I hate that they did not keep Lee for the season. I understand that was not Jr. This ownership doesnt care because we sell out everynight. Blanton, Kendrick, and Moyer are huge concerns. We need Jimmy back at the top of this lineup. The only thing we have going right now is this division is so bad. Nobody is running away. The Mets are out of Baltimore now. We will see.

  • Posts: 0 Pat Gallen

    Agree with Dipsy, blame ownership for Lee being gone. A choice had to be made, they went with Doc who was willing to sign an extension. Easy as that.

    The prospects they could have done better, yes.

    Brian of CO, yes they should be concerned about first place.

  • Posts: 0 Ryan H.

    i truly believe lee was moved for the prospects. it doesn’t make any sense for him to be moved for the money because he wasn’t making that much. He was moved for the prospects. what most fans don’t realize is that GM’s are looking 5 or 6 years into the future when they make moves. you don’t want to end up in prospect hell like the mets or yankees are unless you can spend your way out of it. you have to have good guys in the system coming up at all times or else you will never be competitive .

  • Posts: 0 Ryan H.

    PAT: who are you to say the prospects could have been better, do you have a crystal ball? nobody knows how they’ll turn out. just because aumont was demoted to single a doesn’t make him a bust.

  • Posts: 0 TomohawkChop10

    Just admit you’re screwed and that the divison will not simply be handed to you this season like 07,08,and 09.This isn’t your year.It’s the Brave’s year.Bobby is retiring and our boys want him to go out with a bang.We are World Series bound.Have fun getting sweeped by the Yanks & Twins (2 easy wins for the Braves this weekend btw).

  • Posts: 0 Greg

    Ryan, I think Pat was more or less implying better prospects could have been attained from other teams for Cliff Lee. I don’t recall him saying Aumont, Gillies, or Ramirez were dreadful.

  • Posts: 0 MikeB.

    TomohawkChop10; we’ll see.

  • “It hasn’t happened yet,” is the mentality I’ve stuck with since hearing that Lee being a Yank is all but an inevitability. It’s the same logic I use when I’m supposed to be at work in 7 minutes, but I’m clearly 30 minutes from getting there… “Well, I’m not late YET.” Right now, I’ll take my head out of the oven if the Phils can take the Yankees series… Whether or not we
    re playing in October isn’t even a concept I want to debate yet.


    and we take special pleasure in the misfortune of Phillies rivals like the Braves,



  • Posts: 0 bobby

    The Braves stink. They wont last. Lowe is old. Chipper is finished. They are plain terrible. Put a couple of camels and let bobby smoke them. PIG.

  • Posts: 0 mikemike

    dipsy please explain your statement :blanton was to good to let go. but they couldnt trade him, because no one would give them anything???

  • Posts: 0 Dave

    People will never get over the Lee trade because it was a terrible trade for the Phillies and could cost them another World Series!

  • Posts: 0 Matt Kwasiborski

    Anyone who has followed the Phillies for years knows that the ownership doesn’t like spending money. They have shown a willingness to spend money since moving to the Bank but only because they knew it was a basically a mint. However, they have always given the GM a payroll and the GMs could not go over it. Amaro rolled the dice on Ibanez, which looks like a bad contract right now.

    Amaro got Lee but when he had a shot to get Halladay- he knew payroll would be over the limit. He could either keep Lee for one year- knowing he probably couldn’t keep Lee and Halladay long term. Or trade his highest commodity- Lee. He figured Blanton gave us a better chance to win now as Drabek is unproven. And if he non-tendered Blanton the chance was that Lee would only be here 1 year.

    Personally, all of us would have rolled the dice on this year and worry about next year, then. Amaro also has to look to the future as well.

    Bottom line is we should be much more critical of ownership not giving Amaro the payroll flexibilty to win it all this year. They figured they have maxed out the WS revenue and have gone back to penny pinching ways equal to today’s unstable economy. They are the ones who are not like the Yankees/Mets/Sox- which is win at no costs. In order to do that, the Phils need to establish their own network. Amaro can be faulted for Ibanez but lets judge that at the end of the year.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    LOL. DOes everyone realize that the Phillies are only 2 games back in the loss column despite a ton of injuries? That’s a weekend series for the life of Pete.

    Heard on the radio yesterday that the Phils did turn down significantly better prospects from the Yankees for Lee. IMO, unless you’re trading in Division, maybe in League you take the best deal you can get. I’d loe to know the prospects they could’ve had.

  • Posts: 0 Dagobs

    The bottom line is getting rid of Lee was a horrible move. Yes, Doc is great. You had Lee here without giving up Drabek. Terrible move. Listening to Stark today and I am almost convinced this team cheated to win. He brought up lots of good points. Just look at Werth right now. He was a nobody before he came here. Then all of the sudden boom. Now look at him. Look at Utley. You never know.

  • Posts: 0 Pink

    Assuming that the Phillies offense finds its way out of this current slump, which I am confident it will very soon, I don’t see the need for such panic. I have confidence in our 1-2 pitchers, and I think that they can take the Yanks in the WS. Halladay is clearly amazing, especially against the yankees, http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/yankees/post/_/id/4356/halladay-king-of-the-yankee-killers ! Cole seems to be back to, or at least close to, his 2008 WS MVP form. So, what if the Yankees get Cliff Lee? Halladay against Lee and Hamels against CC, i’ll take it. And if Halladay and Hamels both pitch two games each and we throw in one of the other 3 pitchers in the middle, whoever seems to be the hottest at the time, I am confident that the Phils will regain the title. I know it’s thinking pretty far ahead but unless the offense continues to look the way it has this past month, this sense of panic, in my opinion, is not warranted.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe


    Werth was always hurt before coming to Philly . He’s always been a tremendous athlete. His start this season was ridiculous, but I seriously think the pressure of the contract bogged him down. He’s settle d in at his career norm. Keep in mind in 2004 he bombed 16 in only 290 abs. His second best career ratio.

  • Posts: 0 Phan in the outfield

    Dagobs – “Cheated to win”? If you’re talking about “stealing signs” well that’s not considered cheating in baseball. It’s part of the game. Every team steals signs, some teams are more successful than others.

    I’m not sure what your point about Werth and Utley is. Utley was drafted by the Phillies. Werth was drafted 37th (or something like that) in the 1st round by the Orioles. They both had the goods before they came to the Phillies (though Werth’s road was notoriously far more difficult). They aren’t known b/c they’re on the Phillies. They’re known b/c they worked hard, earned their way, and did their jobs, managing to stand out on a team that’s full of talent. They also tend to keep their heads down and their mouths shut, all-in-all an admirable quality.

  • Posts: 0 Phan in the outfield

    psujoe – The facts are that Werth was not always hurt before coming to Phila. He was drafted by the Orioles as a catcher; traded to the Blue Jays as a catcher. The Jays moved him to the outfield but moved him around, never really sealing him up in RF, but that’s where they felt he began to be comfortable. They traded him to the Dodgers as an outfielder. He was injured in ST when AJ Burnett hit his left wrist with a fastball – breaking it. This began an almost 2 yr stint of ups and downs with the Dodger doctors, 2 surgeries (I think), and ultimately their misdiagnosis, not knowing how to treat the incorrectly fixed injury. Were it not for Werth’s own tenacity, his wrist might still not be fixed. A neighbor referred him to a specific doctor at the Mayo Clinic who knew exactly what was wrong and did a corrective laser surgery w/i days of the initial MRI. Since then he’s been essentially fine, except for a pulled muscle here and there that’s put him out briefly.

    I think the pressure put caused by the media may be behind this slump for Werth. But I’m not sure I’d outright say the pressure of the contract caused it. How would any of us know? And what’s behind the slump for everyone else on the team?

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    True, always was a too strong. About a year and a half. Point was the year before the wrist injury, 2004 for the Dodgers is statistically very similar to his years with the Phillies. So I don’t so how Werth was cheating for the Phillies.

  • Posts: 0 Dagobs

    Steroids are cheating and they were not banned from baseball. Cheating is still cheating. This is not a slump. A team all the sudden stops hitting after they get caught. I love the Phillies but if thats the case I am done with them. Play fair.

  • Posts: 0 PhilliePhagatic

    LOL – the Philthies aren’t going to the World Series. They’re not even making the playoffs! LET’S GO METS!

  • Posts: 0 Phan in the outfield

    Wait -Werth was “cheating for the Phillies”? What are you talking about?

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