Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cliff Lee signs with Phillies

The most desired free agent of the 2010 off season has signed with the team he went to the World Series in 2009. This development makes the Phillies' trading of Lee to the Seattle Mariners in December of '09 even more of a headscratcher. They decided to trade him because they thought they wouldn't have the money to re-sign him, and then do so the following year. Huh?

But the bottom line is, with the addition of Cliff Lee the Phillies now have the best starting rotation in baseball, the likes of which we’ve not seen since the Braves juggernaut of the ‘90s. If it’s any consolation to the teams in the NL East, the Braves only got one championship out of that formidable Maddux-Smoltz-Glavine beast, albeit with plenty of division titles and a few pennants to show for it. But boy, they must be bummed in Flushing...

In missing out on Lee, the silver lining for the Rangers and the Yankees—the other two teams chasing after him—is they won’t have to face him except when it matters, if that happens to be the case.

As for the money thing…

Much has been made about Lee rejecting the $148 million and $138 million contracts offered by the Yankees and Rangers, respectively, and accepting the $120 million offer made by the Phillies. Yes, Lee did leave money on the table in the long run, but he took the contract that pays more per year. So this whole "he turned down the big bucks" thing is disingenuous.

Personally, I see respecting a free agent for taking less money the same as deciding not to respect him for taking more money. In other words, I don’t agree with either stance.

Want to accept less money to play with X? Good for you.
Want to accept more money to play with Y? Good for you.

Respecting players that accept less or criticizing those who go after more money is a romantic notion I do not share. (It’s quite selective, too: we didn’t hear anyone say they respected A-Rod when he was willing accept less money to play in Boston, right?) It’s also perpetuated by folks who would leave their jobs in a heartbeat if they got offered a $100/wk increase in salary elsewhere, so I’m not inclined to take ‘em seriously.

Because a baseball career has quite a finite duration—Bo Jackson, anyone?—players have a limited window of time to make the kind of money no one in their right mind would turn down for doing what they love. I say go for it. If not, that’s cool too. To each to his own. But this vilification/deification nonsense has got to stop.

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