Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies overnight and joins Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels in what is bar-none the best starting 4 in all of baseball. Two thoughts:
a) How ironic is it that the very blueprint the Yankees used for success in the late '90s and early '00s is coming back to bite them now? By that I mean, the Yankees used to suck up top-talent after top-talent in free-agency year after year which helped them, to some degree, win 5 world series championships in the last 14 years. Now, teams like the Red Sox and Phillies have adopted a somewhat similar strategy (especially the Red Sox) in acquiring expensive talent to build winning ballclubs. In this case, one of the teams following that blue-print gobbled up a prize free-agent in a last-minute deal. Fear not Yankee fans, the Yankees will find somebody else, it may cost them a little bit, but this will only serve to make them more aggressive on the market.
b) I couldn't help but think about the somewhat obvious similarities to LeBron's big Decision and the mass of talent that the Miami Heat now have. There are some huge differences between baseball and basketball which will make it worlds easier for the Phillies to hold this much talent together, but still, the whole "buying a championship" thing...I don't know, it seems pretty lame. I can't help but think a little less of Lee for doing what he decided to do. For one thing, he turned down an opportunity to pitch on the biggest stage in baseball, He fled to the weaker and easier National League, and he went to the team packed with talent where he won't even be considered the best pitcher on the staff. You could give Lee props for doing what he wanted to do in going back to a team that traded him away, you could give him a pat on the back for giving his wife's wishes some consideration, but the main thing that separates Lee from LeBron is that he didn't make a big spectacle of it, he just let his agent do the work and kept out of the spotlight. I like that he didn't make a big deal out of it. The media did that for him. He just let the cards fall and it turns out, he got as good of a deal from the Phillies as he would have anywhere else and he gets to pitch in the much more pitcher-friendly National League. In the words of Ethel Merman, "everything's coming up roses"...for Lee that is.
Nothing's for sure, injuries happen, pitchers break down, offenses can go cold, etc, etc. That being said, if everything works out for the Phillies, you have to think that they'll be strong contenders for the World Series, check out this rotation:
1.) Roy Halladay - 2 Cy Young Awards, 7 All-Star Appearances, 169 Career Wins
2.) Cliff Lee - 1 Cy Young Award, 2 All-Star Appearances, 102 Career Wins
3.) Roy Oswalt - 5 Top Five Cy Young Finishes, 3 All-Star Appearances, 150 Career Wins
4.) Cole Hamels - 1 All-Star Appearance, 60 Career Wins
5.) Who knows. Blanton?
Cliff Lee has the highest career ERA of any of those 4 pitchers at 3.85, between them they have 3 Cy Youngs, 16 Top-10 Cy Young finishes, 481 wins and 13 All-Star Appearances. Lee is now locked up for 5 years, Cole Hamels will be arbitration eligible starting in 2012, Oswalt is signed through next year and has a mutual option for 2012 and Halladay is signed through 2014. In other words, this isn't just a one-year, one-shot thing, this group will be in Philly for at least the next 2 years and possibly longer than that. Wow.