Cliff Lee, 37, likely threw his last pitch as a Phillie on July 31, 2014 in the third inning of a 10-4 win over the Washington Nationals. The confident lefty that nearly willed the Phillies to the 2009 World Series appears to be calling it quits, according to a tweet by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, those pitches against the Nationals likely his last.
It is hard to quantify what Lee meant to the Phillies as his 48-34 record, 2.94 ERA, and his near-flawless 2009 postseason tell just a sliver of the story. Lee was acquired by the Phillies from Cleveland on July 29 in one of the great deals in club history. Down the stretch, Lee led a battered starting rotation with a 7-4 record and a 3.39 ERA, helping the Phillies secure their third-straight NL East crown. Lee dazzled in the postseason, pitching, and hitting, his way into the hearts of Phillies’ fans, earning the wins in the two Phillies wins over the Yankees in the 2009 World Series.
But with the joy came confusion. Lee was dealt in the offseason on the same day that the Phillies acquired Roy Halladay from Toronto. The Phillies fell short of the World Series in 2010 without Lee while Lee would reach the World Series with the Texas Rangers. It is certainly debatable what kind of impact Lee would have had but trading Lee, or rather keeping him, has become the move looked to the most when trying to determine what could have kept a potential Phillies’ dynasty rolling along.
When it appeared Lee would be signing with the Yankees or Rangers following the 2010 season, rumors emerged right before Christmas that a mystery team had shown interest. Offering a larger contract, the Phillies secured Lee’s talents for five seasons with a player option for a sixth. In his first year back, the Arkansas native delivered in spades with a 17-8 record and a 2.40 ERA, earning his first of two All-Star births as a Phillie. In his first three seasons back with the Phillies, Lee was a model of good health and durability, starting 93 games.
But, like Corey Seidman points out for CSN Philly, Lee became the perfect example of just how fragile pitchers are. Lee would start 13 games in 2014 before throwing what looks to be his last Major League pitch. Lee had 15 or more teams interested in his services for 2016. But it appears that is is it according to his agent. Lee, who did not pitch in 2015, will collect a $12.5 million buyout in 2016 from the Phillies, which, according to Phillies Nation TV’s Seidman, is likely the richest in Major League history.
Among all-time Phillies’ greats, Lee’s dominance in a short period of time earned him the rank of 25th in the 100 Greatest Phillies of All-Time.
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