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.

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9 comments

  1. Jason @ IIATMS

    December 18, 2009 08:47 AM

    why, yes it IS about the money.

    Although, not as much for Halladay. He passed over the chance for a 5-6 year deal at Sabathia $. Good for him and good for you guys.

    Enjoy him. I’m happy as hell to see him out of the AL East. He’ll be a beast in the NL East.

  2. Pingback: While We’re Waiting… The Need for a GM, Cliff and the Phillies, and Chinese Investment | WaitingForNextYear

  3. Dan

    December 18, 2009 10:13 AM

    Even if Lee hadn’t made that statement, I don’t feel bad for him. I’m glad he loved to pitch for the Phils. I do not think he was moved because he hated it here and didn’t want to be here. He was moved because, rightly or wrongly, the FO thought it was the right thing to do.

    Considering that the FO just landed one of (if not THE) best starting pitchers for the next 4 to 5 years at less than his full market price, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt on who they got for Lee.

  4. JohnMcG

    December 18, 2009 11:46 AM

    Don’t know about you guys, but in my job, I wouldn’t accept a “hometown discount” to remain with my current employer if I knew I could make 20% more elsewhere. And we’re talking about a lot less than $20 million.

    That doesn’t mean I feel bad for him. But I don’t blame him, either.

  5. Dick Allen

    December 18, 2009 03:22 PM

    I’ll always love Cliff Lee, loved him when he was in Cleveland. But there’s a big difference between Cliff Lee & Roy Halladay (whom I’ve also always loved). Best of luck to both.

  6. DKulich

    December 18, 2009 10:53 PM

    Let’s not forget some of the questions asked in that same interview with Lee. Philly fans are really leaving that out. Phillies approached Lee with a deal, Lee countered, Lee was traded. It didn’t even get past step two. Let’s stop blaming Lee, stop blaming Seattle. It’s been Ruben’s mission to get Halladay all along, and Philly fans should be happy with that. This nonsense about Lee being moved, and now him not taking a Philly discount are cheap shots at some one who doesn’t deserve it. Either Lee was lying a ton on the radio interview (where he was asked some really unfair questions), his agent lied to him (which is 100% entirely possible), or we just let this thing go, no one is the bad guy, and we call it business. Leave it to my hometown, Philadelphia, to make this a lot more than it truly is. I wish Lee could have stayed here and been happy, but that’s not in the best interest of either team, and that’s why what happened happened.

  7. MikeC

    December 19, 2009 11:33 AM

    While I don’t expect a lot of players to sign on to the “hometown discount” concept, that is kind of the point here; and it is not an apples to apples comparison to say that I wouldn’t accept such an offer. I work harder than any professional athlete; I don’t have an “offseason” for play; and I can barely pay my mortgage each month. That 20% is life and death for me and most other Americans. These top-tier professional athletes make enough money in 1 year that, if well-invested, should take care of their families for multiple generations. Regardless of what we think about the owners, it’s a question of the players’ priorities: for the Halladay’s, the chance to train near home, to become part of a positive organization, and to win were enough to justify a “paycut” (I can’t help laughing calling $20M / 4-yrs a paycut). Who knows what position Lee would have negotiated to, but it doesn’t sound like he would have accepted those terms; he’s clearly looking to maximize his contract. I can’t blame him for pursuing his “fair market value”, but that is a different set of priorities. Based on his comments (admittedly in the heat of the moment), he’s not lamenting that he didn’t take the paycut; he’s lamenting that he didn’t have a “no trade” clause. I thoroughly enjoyed Lee’s short tenure with the Phils, and I’m bummed that there wasn’t a way to keep him short of wiping out the farm. But I’m happy the Phils were able to secure the best pitcher in the game and that they were able to get him on a deal consistent with their philosophy. Even before this past 6 months I was impressed with how well the organization was working, and the fact that top players were starting to see Philly as a destination. I just hope it doesn’t get to their heads. What are the odds?

  8. Laura

    December 22, 2009 02:43 PM

    While if it came down to a choice because of money, Halladay was a great deal. That said, Lee was a sure thing who handled the pressure and kept the Phils from being embarrassed in the Series (Ryan Howard, who?)

    It’s a shame there was no way to keep them both- man, imagine how a team would quake at a series against both of them…

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