In mid-December 2010, I was a little downtrodden. I was at a bar called Jersey’s, the same place where, just two months earlier, I’d watched Ryan Howard take strike three from Brian Wilson to send the Giants to the World Series and the Phillies packing for warmer weather than southern New Jersey would offer in the winter. I was in between jobs, mired in year two of post-graduate work rockiness that drove me and almost everybody associated with me a little bit nuts. Plus, it was cold and dark. It was a bleh time.
Naturally, all it took was one of the greatest surprises in 21st century baseball to turn all (well, most) of that around in a heartbeat. That night at Jersey’s, I and the rest of the internet learned that Cliff Lee was going to sign with the Phillies as a free agent, nearly a year to the day after he was traded to Seattle in one of the worst trades made by any club in recent memory.
That was a different time; Phillies baseball was about optimism, and Ruben Amaro’s brazen disregard for conventionality and common sense seemed more endearing than endangering. Fast forward to 2013, and though those circumstances have changed and the golden aura around the Phillies logo has been muted and desaturated, Cliff Lee remains rust-free and a persistent bright spot, a beacon in the miasma.