Top Moments #6: Welcome Back Cliff Lee – Phillies Nation

Top Moments #6: Welcome Back Cliff Lee

It came as a surprise when it was revealed that the Phillies were the "mystery team."

This top moment technically happened in 2010, but since it occurred during the offseason and was not part of our 2010 Top Moment series, we will include it in the 2011 edition.

I remember December 14 and 15 clearly.  I was up late reviewing for finals, and because I am so “studious,” I somehow missed all the rumors of a mystery team landing Cliff Lee.

At 6:45 a.m the next morning, I woke up angrily to the sound of my phone ringing.  Who could be calling at this hour, and is it really that important?  Oh, it was important alright.  My rage quickly turned into excitement when the person on the other line screamed: “THE PHILLIES GOT CLIFF LEE!”

At first I thought it was a crude joke, but I immediately checked the Internet and found the news to be true.  It was hard to believe, but knowing that Cliff Lee was back in red pinstripes was an amazing feeling.

I think many Phillies fans can relate to my story in that they remember where they were when they heard the news that Lee was returning to Philadelphia.

As the news was unveiled, some comments on Phillies Nation included:

“I can’t believe it! I can get my Lee shirts back out of the closet! What a job by Ruben and thank you Cliff Lee for taking less money to come back to us! The Phour Horsemen! Woooo!!!!” -Mazinman

“I have to give Jr. props. I have put him down many times. You now have the greatest staff in baseball history. He tried for Werth but Washington overpaid by a lot. Lee wants to be here. We all were so depressed when he left. That man is a big time pitcher. We all fell in love with him. Do not worry about right field. Jr. will take care of it. This team is built for now. Now…The Yankees are finished. Their pitching is awful. We have Lee. Lee and Doc is so so so so so so so so sick. Throw in Hamels and Oswalt. I just wet myself. MERRY CHRISTMAS…” -Jeff

Many thought he would stay in Texas or accept a big offer from the Yankees, but Lee “left money on the table” and returned to the team he loved playing for.  The final deal was five years, $120 million, with a vesting option for a sixth year,  less than what the Yankees had offered.  Lee showed that baseball contracts aren’t always about the money, but happiness too, as well as other factors.

Cliff Lee did not disappoint in 2011, as Pat Gallen broke down in his analysis of Lee.  That “moment” of hearing the news that Lee returned to Philadelphia and that “feeling” of knowing the Phillies’ 1-2 punch was going to be Halladay-Lee was certainly a great memory.



  1. Editboy

    January 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I live on the west coast and was following all the rumors on Twitter. So I was up when it was confirmed. “Holy Shit” was the only thing I could think. I immediately called my neighbor who is a Rangers fan and told him to SUCK IT.

  2. Mazinman

    January 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    That was the most insane night I ever spent as a baseball fan in the offseason. My great happiness at getting Doc was offset by losing Cliff. That night was just pure happiness as there were no negatives. The poor “Refresh” command on my computer was never as abused as it was that night.

  3. Jeff Dowder

    January 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Lee to the Phillies was almost as shocking as Fielder to Detroit. Almost.

  4. Manny

    January 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Nine-year, $214MM contract for Fielder. Craziness. Anyway, glad he’s not going to the Nats.

  5. Chris

    January 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    So much for AFW’s great source that said Fielder to the nats for 8 years. LOL

  6. Andrew from Waldorf

    January 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Phils did dodge a bullet with Fielder going to Tigers.

    But doesnt mean the old age movement is acceptable.

    Onward to the regular season. And with this the Phillies are the favorites in the east and deserve to be. But they are no lock with this line up.
    Not close. And they are one Halladay injury away from not making the playoffs.

    I still rate this off season a D. Fielder to the Tigers is the best news of the off season. And pujos also to the AL.

    • Phillibuster

      January 24, 2012 at 9:25 pm

      Because a rotation of Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Worley and Kendrick certainly is nowhere near intimidating enough. Why, if we didn’t have 3 top-5 Cy Young finishing pitchers, surely we’d go 62-100.

    • schmenkman

      January 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      Andrew, congratulations on a rational-sounding comment.

      1) best pitching and
      2) best offense (with Utley)

      still adds to a pretty strong favorite.

  7. B_Merce

    January 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    I had no idea the Phils were the “Mystery Team” until my roommate, a Spankies fan, shot me a text that said “I hate you so much right now.” I didn’t even need to ask what it was about. I responded “I take it he turned down the money to play with Doc?” and then proceeded to be happier than a little girl getting a life size Barbie.

  8. Don M

    January 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    that’s a MONSTER deal that seemed to come out of nowhere … if the 9 years-$214 M is accurate (wonder about extensions, buyouts, opt-outs, etc)

    only $23.78 m per season… so I know at least one person that will be happy that the all-important annual value is less than $25 M per year …however, that’s almost $90 million more gauranteed than Howard will make.

    Fielder and Pujols both in the American League = WIN for the Phillies

  9. Mazinman

    January 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    The Tigers went crazy like the Angels. I can’t believe this offseason is actually making Howard’s contract look good by comparison.

    But, yeah, Fielder out of the NL is great.

  10. Manny

    January 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Fielder is 27. Howard is 32. When Fielder’s nine-year deal is over, he’ll be 36. When Howard’s deal is over, he’ll be 36 as well.

    Durability issues? Both have some red flags. Prince is very big and doesn’t project to age well past his 30s. Howard has troubling ankle issues and will probably not be able to play a full season without a trip or two to the DL.

    My initial reaction? They are both equally atrocious contracts.

    • Ryne Duren

      January 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      how true they’re all outrageous. howards contract will look much beter when fielders knees start going from his weight. and abert starts to have subpar years. it inevitable. it would be nice if howard could stay healthy and be real productive. it would give all of us a big nananana if you know what i mean.

  11. Andrew from Waldorf

    January 24, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    With them both in the AL it really is good for the phillies.
    There is really no excuse for the Phils this year.
    The AL is stacked and packed.

    Wish the Phils had a younger line up.
    But you take what you can get.

    I still think the Phillies line up cant hit good pitching and hasnt in a long time.
    Maybe it will be different this year. Or ill get my wish and a few of the old sacred cows will be moved mid season.

    The number 1 player in fantasy this year should be Cabrera.
    Having fielder behind him will be sick.

    IMO today and Pujos going to the Angels makes the phils offseason.
    I am happy today.
    Miami is a threat and the nats are still greatly improved.
    But I still favor the phils in reg season.
    Playoffs will depend on match ups.

    Cant wait for opening day.

  12. Mazinman

    January 24, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    When I made my statement I was not intending to compare Howard’s contract to Fielder or Pujols but, rather, put it in context of this offseason. I am starting to believe that Howard would have obtained an equally good if not better contract this offseason if he had become a free agent. Considering the sheer length of the deals that Pujols and Fielder were asking for if Howard would have come in and said “Give me more per year but for less years” someone would have bit on that. Howard’s deal might end u, comparatively, as a bargain. I do not say thay in support of the deal but rather as a comment of just how crazy these first baseman deals have been this off season.

  13. Don M

    January 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I think the argument with Howard is that while it’s not out of the question that somebody would go 6 years- $150, 7/$165-175, etc,… We’ll never know.. And others main point is you can get much more production with $125 m over 5 years. Two players instead of just one, etc

  14. Laura

    January 24, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I remember this clearly; it was my birthday. My sister told me that I should start having a birthday everyday because the Phillies always seemed to have luck that day. The previous year they had gotten Halladay. And then this year, Lee! It was unreal. Overall, I think that we have had one of the best rotations in all of the MLB.

  15. bacardipr05

    January 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    That is crazy contract Fielder just got. No way would have i signed him to that long. I guess RAJ signing of Howard sort of makes sense now. This is assuming Howard returns to a decent .275 35 HR a year type of production.

  16. betasigmadeltashag

    January 24, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    I am sorry but I can not help myself, Great breaking News AFW, Wrong team wrong league and wrong numbers can you get any worse. Good Call AFW

  17. Phillibuster

    January 24, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    I remember I was working late (really late), and one of my friends texted me about how the Phillies were suddenly announced as being in the running for Cliff. The colleague who was coming in after me was also interested, so we huddled around the computer – constantly refreshing MLB and MLBTR – until such time as it was confirmed.

    Then we did a happy dance.

  18. Andrew from Waldorf

    January 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    RAJ keeps getting handed things.

    Hes got a horseshoe up his ass.
    Somehow the 2 best hitters in the NL vanish to the AL.

    But he trots out the same line up thats lost 7 of its last 11 playoff games.
    With Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels starting the majority of the games and the majority of games at home.

    In a way it makes you mader. But then again it is being handed to him.
    He has the best salary situation in the sport. He doesnt have to over pay like the Yankees.
    But he jsut seems to be the classic hoarder.

    He won the lottery aain today. It will mask some of the bad moves ( over pays) or should.

    But really there are no excuses anymore.
    Except a GM who is hoarding old guys.
    And a manager who manages like this is the 2007 line up and the best in baseball.
    Its not close. Its one of the worst in baseball.
    Charlie needs to change his approach or he needs to go.
    Hard to change though with a lead off hitter with a .310 on base and clean up man OPSing 614 vs lefties. Makes the line up easy to navigate.

    If they could have manufactured just 2 runs in that game 5 things would have been different. But they couldnt. And if its the same old same old this year they wont again.

    Celebrate all you dont stop believers. You won the lottery today.
    No excuses now.
    But I am sure you guys will manufacture them again. Its what you do.

    Now say your prayers. Today they were answered yet again.
    Dont squander this.

  19. Lefty

    January 24, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Good stuff Amanda, I was wondering if this would be included since it was offseason. You are doing a great job on the series this year, thanks. It was fun to read the posting from last year too, and the comments that night/morning.

  20. Brian Sr. of CO

    January 24, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    I remember this one. I went to bed hearing something about a “mystery team”…Woke up the next morning turned on DirecTV, and the red sports score button had the info that Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies. First words, “Holy $h!t, we signed Cliff!…And for less money and years than the Yankees. SUCK IT!” within 5 minutes the Wife was on the internet ordering the new jersey. LOL. Her first words about it…”I love Cliffy”

    I am also surprised there isn’t more on the Fielder signing. The fact that he did not go to the Nationals is HUGE for the Phillies IMO.

  21. EricL

    January 24, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    A few things:

    1. Lee’s deal really isn’t for all that much less money than the Yankees offer when you consider the 6th vesting year (which makes it 6/$135). The NYY offer was supposedly 6/$132. Sure, it’s possible that year doesn’t vest and they have to buy him out at $12.5 leaving it at 5/$120, but those AAVs are either $22.5 if it vests vs. $24 if the 6th year option is bought out, whereas the reported Yankees offer was only for $22/yr AAV. It’s a nice myth that’s been circulating the last 13 months, but it just ain’t true.

    2. It’s still awesome that he picked to come here.

    3. The Prince deal is awful. Still, the AAV is lower than Howard’s contract, and it runs through the same age (36 for both of them), and that means 7-9 years from now the annual cost will likely be defrayed somewhat by salary inflation, so it might not end up being as bad as RyHo’s. Oh, also he’ll be able to hide out as a DH…although you really shouldn’t be paying a DH that much money either. Any way you look at it that contract is up there with the baddies like Zito, Wells, Werth, etc. (BTW, I also am intrigued to see just how amazingly awful Detroit’s infield is going to be now that they’re moving Cabrera back to 3B. There should be some

    4. Apropos of nothing, you guys should check out Corey Seidman’s twitter feed. Apparently he witnessed a dude get shot today while at the barbershop getting his pencil-beard shaped up. He tweeted about the whole incident right after it happened. Bananas.

    • Phillibuster

      January 25, 2012 at 12:00 am

      Last I heard, the Yankees had a vesting 7th year that put the total value somewhere closer to 150, meaning, yes, there was significant funds left on the table. Not a huge sum, but still a noticeable one.

      • EricL

        January 25, 2012 at 1:47 am

        Ah, if that’s the case then I supposed he did leave a little money on the table, provided the vesting options were attainable. Although, as you said, it wasn’t a huge sum (unless you compared it to my bank account, in which case it’s an astronomical number)

      • Brian Sr. of CO

        January 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm

        There was a 7th year vesting option.

  22. Chuck A.

    January 25, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I’m one fan that wasn’t ECSTATIC that the Phillies got Cliff back. Don’t get me wrong….I love Cliff and am glad that he’s part of the rotation. But does having him here with his big contract prevent the team from signing Hamels long-term? Cause I’m a BIGGER Hamels fan and have a feeling that at age 33 (or however old Cliff is now) that Hamels will be BETTER.

    Of course, some of you will argue that Howard’s and Papelbon’s contract might prevent a Hamels extension…..and maybe it will??…. but that’s not my point. I’m comparing one dominating lefty starter to another, contract situation and all.

    For my money, if it came down to it…..I’d rather have Cole Hamels here long-term than I would Cliff Lee.

    • EricL

      January 25, 2012 at 10:38 am

      Yeah, the reason some of us–like me, for instance–would rather point to guys like Howard and Papelbon rather than Lee is because not only are their contracts large, but they’re also being grossly overpaid (less so in Papelbon’s case, but still overpaid).

      Cliff Lee, on the other hand, has been worth every dollar of his contract. Lee’s AAV is around $23,ooo,ooo a year and over the last 3 years he’s averaged 6.8 fWAR/5.4b WAR. Howard’s AAV is $25,ooo,ooo and over the last three years he’s averaged 2.53 fWAR/3.0 bWAR. So, for the same salary you’re getting approximately half the baseball player. (Papelbon’s 3 year averages are 2.1 bWAR/2.06 fWAR, so he’s not making something ridiculous like Howard, but he’s still being paid more than most comparable closers who aren’t the best of all time)

      Anyway, sure, it’s easy to say “I’d rather have the 28 year old pitcher here long term than I would the 33 year old pitcher,” but you can have both provided you don’t spend like a drunken banshee on other peripheral guys.

      • Don M

        January 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm

        just for kicks . . . .lets say Ryan Howard wasn’t here. You would still want to bring in someone with enough power – the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark – to place them in the cleanup spot in the Phillies lineup. A lot of people say that “Player X would drive in 150 RBIs batting 4th too” …which may or may not be true, but few players have the ability to put a run on the board with one swing of the bat the way that Howard does. I admit he’s grossly overpaid, but they all are. If you want someone to hit HRs, you’re going to pay top dollar for that player.
        Where does Howard stand in the HR race?
        Over the past 5 seasons Howard ranks 1st, ahead of Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols.
        The past 4 seasons Howard ranks 2nd, between Fielder and Pujols.
        The past 3 seasons, Howard ranks 6th in HRs (*I often use the last 3 years as the best sample size*)
        The past 2 seasons, he ranks 12th
        Last year ranked t10th.

        Players with that power potential are not often available- and when they are they either cost your farm system…or a boat load of cash. Players that surround Howard in the (past 3 seasons HR ranks) include Pujols, Fielder, Mark Texiera, Mark Reynolds, Jose Bautisia -*then Howard*-Miguel Cabrera, Dan Uggla, Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Konerko, Curtis Granderson/Carlos Pena
        Of the “comparable” player HR-wise… one just signed a 9 year deal for $214 M….. Mark Reynolds and Carlos Pena have been both cheap, and available in the past few years, though both hit about .50 points lower than Howard’s .270 batting average- and if people have a problem with Howard – imagine the complaints those two would receive.. Reynolds is also worse defensively, as is Uggla- who could play 1b I guess, but also hits for a lower Avg. Konerko signed an extension with CWS (not sure if he reached Free Agency?) Granderson and Gonzalez cost a ton in trades.. Bautista came from nowhere…etc

        I’m sure I could find good use of $25 M annually, and $125 M over 5 years ….but the Phillies seem to really value POWER as a skill set, and in the past few seasons, I’d say it’s worked out for them pretty well. You either pay him or you lose him … they chose to pay him.

      • Don M

        January 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm

        If we look at the past 3 seasons of OPS, instead of just HR totals… Ryan Howard ranks 22nd, behind many of the guys you would expect of guys listed in the HR comment… but adding Tulo, Ryan Bruan, Robinson Cano, Cargo, Youkilis, Beltran, Mauer, Ortiz… he’s even behind JIM THOME ??
        But ahead of Evan Longoria, ARoid, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Victor Marinez, Chase Utley, Adrian Beltre, Jayson Werth, Aramis Ramirez, Curtis Granderson, David Wright.

        And if you’re one of those fans that goes by WAR … Ben Zobrist is the 3rd best player in baseball over the past three seasons.

      • Brian Sr. of CO

        January 25, 2012 at 10:22 pm

        Papelbon is “overpaid” based mostly on the number of years. The average of 12.5 per year really can not be considered “Overpaid” based on several closers (some of his caliber, some not at his caliber). For instance in 2010…

        Mariano River – $15Mill
        Brad Lidge – $12Mill
        K-Rod – $12.16Mill
        Francisco Cordero – $12.1
        Papelbon – $12Mill

        Obviously that is still a lot of money per year (ranging from 11.1 to 13Mill per year) but he is not the highest paid per year like many would lead you to believe. It is the 4th year at that price that is a head scratcher.

        Ryan Howard? LOL. 5 for $125 is overpaid anyway you shake it. If it were 5 for $100 for $20 Mill a year would be understandable, but probably a tad overpaid for his AVG and lack of durability (games played). While there are not many other 1st basemen I would rather have, the contract was still atrocious. As for other first basemen which may or may not be able to do similar things at a better price? Well obviously Fielder and Pujols signing for 9+ years is stupid as well, but Votto comes to mind. His current contract is 3 for $38, all while hitting above .300 for the past 3 years with a SLG above .500 for his career and an OPS above .900 every season except 2008. For those wondering if Cincinatti is a “hitters ballpark”. It is ranked 8th for hitters, while CBP is ranked 11 in 2011. Outside of Votto in the NL though, I am not sure who else out there could get the job done. Jury is still out on some of the younger players as far as productivity outside of the Homer (like Freddie Freedman).

    • Manny

      January 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      The way I see it: Any new deal with Cole will only overlap with Halladay for one year (or two if the 2014 option vests). With Halladay gone/older in a couple years, Hamels really becomes an absolute necessity. It’d be foolish to let him walk or trade him at any point.

      • Don M

        January 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm

        I would agree wtih that …. from what ive heard they are basically printing their own money down at the stadium, and the team has never been more popular… gear, ratings, etc. . . . so if it means eating some extra payroll for a year or two – to ensure that Hamels stays here long term – which would help make extra playoff runs/ keep the team competitve to keep the stadium full, etc ..

        I think that’s an investment they would and should be willing to make … but we’ll see.

        If they let Hamels walk, they’re going to get BURRIED by the fan base.. I can’t imagine he’d turn down 5 years- $100 M if you offered it right now .. he could become a FA again at age 32, and secure another similar deal, hopefully with another WS MVP on his resume

  23. Don M

    January 25, 2012 at 8:42 am

    That’s a tough call… Lee is better right now, but Hamels is ridiculously close, and younger … I’ve wondered if it meant keeping Hamels – and trading Lee after this season, would anyo e do it. If you can only keep one, at something close to the same contract (I think teams will be stacking piles and piles of cash in front of Hamels), would it be better to have Hamels and any close prospects from trading Lee.. Or better to have Lee and adios Cole, gaining draft picks or whatever the new cba grants us

    I think starting soon… Next year, year after, Hamels is the guy you’d rather have signed to a multiyear deal… Of course I’d happily take both of them if Ruben can find a way

  24. Chuck A.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    “Spending like a drunken banshee on other periperal guys” is an overly dramatic statement. Plus, I wouldn’t classify your starting first baseman and your closer as “peripheral”

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