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A Tiny Violin Plays for Cliff Lee

The Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee trades have been officially completed. The Phillies have a new former Cy Young winner, this time one that throws with the right arm. The Mariners have a new pitcher to complement phenom Felix Hernandez. The Blue Jays got what they consider to be fair value for their superstar pitcher. Oh, and the Athletics got a decent prospect out of it too: former Phillies farmhand Michael Taylor, who was shipped immediately from Toronto for Brett Wallace.

We know everyone’s new address now. We’re back to speculating and projecting, counting the days until pitchers and catchers report. The news from the mega-deals has not ended, though. Cliff Lee expressed his feelings during a conference call with media types yesterday. Andy Martino has the choice quotes:

“My initial reaction was shock and disbelief…Initially, I was disappointed because making it to the World Series was a lot of fun, and I was looking forward to making a third run at it.”

“At first I didn’t believe it, because I thought that we were working out an extension with the Phillies and I thought that I was going to spend the rest of my career there…This goes to show this is a business, and you never know what’s going to happen until you have a full no-trade clause.”

Cliff Lee's great catchWith that, Lee plucked at the heartstrings of Phillies fans everywhere. Not only was he utterly dominant in the post-season, and not only did he make one of the best catches in baseball history, he really, truly wanted to be here in Philadelphia pitching for our Fightins!

Not so fast. Jon Heyman reported not so long ago, December 14th, that Clifton Phifer Lee:

[…] will be taking “no discount.”

[…] is expected to seek about $23 million a year, which is the annual pay of Johan Santana and CC Sabathia.

The baseball media isn’t exactly in the business of making up players’ contract demands out of thin air, so either or both of Cliff Lee and his agent Darek Brauneker let it be known that those were the parameters. During negotiations to reach a contract extension, surely Lee and his agent were made aware of the Phillies’ budget concerns and how the $23 million per year expectation did not mesh with the team’s plans.

If Lee truly wanted to be in Philadelphia — as Roy Halladay did — then he would have given the organization a discount, as Halladay did. Everything Halladay has done and said is exactly what Lee could, should, and would have done if he truly wanted to be with the Phillies. But as Jason Rosenberg will tell you, “It’s About the Money, Stupid!

Since the Lee quotes have hit the Internet, there has been a good amount of sympathy sent in the direction of the new Mariner based on these new quotes. Don’t feel bad for him, folks — he’ll be fine. What else do you expect him to say about a team with which he reached Game 6 of the World Series?

It was totally not enjoyable. No fun. Teammates sucked. Chase won’t share his hair gel. That Jared dude from Subway keeps following Ryan Howard around. Cole Hamels kept talking about going to Bed, Bath & Beyond with his wife. And — oh, my God — Jayson Werth kept mentioning something about something being ‘hydroponic’, whatever that means.

Cliff will go to Seattle, and he’ll like it. He won’t like the rain, but overall he’ll enjoy his time there as Jamie Moyer did. In fact, Jamie will probably give him some advice about the city: good restaurants, nice neighborhoods. He’ll pitch his home games in Safeco Field, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball. With baseball’s best defense behind him. In a weakened AL West division.

If Lee doesn’t work out a contract extension with Seattle, he’ll test free agency, and he’ll probably get that $23 million per year he and his agent mentioned. He can go to any contender he wants, maybe even the Phillies if they can fit him back in the budget. But as of right now, there is no reason to feel sympathy for Cliff Lee.

The ball was in his court and he double-dribbled. He fumbled. Faulted. Rolled a gutter-ball. Hope to meet you in the World Series, Phifer.

Credit to The Fightins for the clip of Cliff Lee above.