Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The Four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse
OMG: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.
GLOWING AGAIN. I admit it. After last season, I was beginning to accept that the Phillies' day in the sun was coming to an end. A great hitting team had become average at the plate, or less, and even having three of the best pitchers in baseball couldn't get them to the World Series. Last night, Mrs. CP told me she was seeing rumors on the Internet that suddenly the Phils were being mentioned in the negotiations for Cliff Lee. I just laughed. The Yankees and the Rangers had a couple hundred million on the table, and whenever the Phillies are said to be in talks for a huge free agent, the odds are ten to one that nothing will come of it. They certainly don't have the bucks to compete with the Steinbrenner cartel in New York. End of story.
Except she woke me up this morning to tell me that the Phillies had signed Cliff Lee. She was giddy. So am I. MY TEAM HAS THE BEST STARTING ROTATION IN BASEBALL IN AT LEAST A DECADE. Four aces in a sport where most teams have only one, and two is the stuff of legend (Who pitched days 3 and 4 after Koufax and Drysdale?). Four stoppers. Two righties and two lefties who can pitch seven, eight, or nine innings with ERAs averaging under 3.00. Two Cy Young winners, a World Series MVP who got 20 percent better just by watching the incomparable Roy Halladay last year, and a warrior named Oswalt who pitched brilliantly in the darkness of Houston until the Phillies freed him a year ago.
So many delicious tidbits:
The ESPN lead this morning was essentially, "Yankees lose Cliff Lee." Ha.
Lee signed with Philly for less money; in fact, much less money than the Rangers and Yanks were offering. Why? More tastycake for our much libeled city. It was Mrs. Lee who vetoed New York. At the playoffs in NYC, a Yankee fan spit on her. Bad move, Big Apple-Holes. She also loved being in Philadelphia, as did her husband. Because we're the best and most supportive fans, and the Phillies organization goes out of its way to make the wives and families of players feel appreciated and taken care of. The word is now leaking out that Cliff Lee was heartbroken when he was traded a year ago and remained in email contact with his old teammates, telling them often he wished he could come back to... Philadelphia.
Even the New York-centric sports press is now conceding that it was Cliff Lee who approached the Phillies, encouraging them to make an offer, any offer, despite the mega-bucks he was being tempted with.
This morning, Mrs. Cliff Lee is the most popular woman in the Delaware Valley. The SportsTalk guys have already awarded her the Grand Marshal spot in the 2011 World Championship parade on Broad Street. (They're also talking , eerily, about alternate dream realities, because this particular reality is too good to be true.)
This morning, every Phillies fan is in a state of deliriously happy shock.
This morning, in Philadelphia, no one is talking about Michael Vick.
Is anything else happening anywhere? Never mind. It doesn't matter even if it is. For this to be happening in Philadelphia, the End Days are upon us for sure. But WE have the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. On OUR side for a change.
UPDATE. Hilarious. ESPN is now running a funereal segment called "Yankees Plan B." The poor dears don't know what to do. They still have all the money they wanted to give Cliff Lee, but there's no one really good left to buy. Awww. Lee's decision to accept less money is also reportedly regarded as a blow to the players' union, which is always in favor of free agents going after the biggest jackpot offered. Ha. Again.
Speaking of jackpots, the WIP SportsTalk guys had a pretty objective on-air discussion last week about the Jason Werth contract with the Nationals. They didn't begrudge him his big pay day and readily conceded there was no way the Phillies would or could have matched the offer he accepted. But they wondered, with genuine concern, what this well liked (in some quarters beloved) Phillie was trading away for the extra $30 million he scored. The tone of the discussion approached, well, sorrow. The Phillies clubhouse is one of the very best in baseball. The manager honors and protects his players through thick and thin. The Philadelphia fans are without peer; every game is sold out, and the boo-birds who used to harass Pat Burrell and even Mike Schmidt back in the day are a thing of the past.
For most players, Philly has become a kind of major league heaven. So what is Jason Werth giving up for the extra $30 million he'll be putting in the bank? He'll be playing for a last place team, and the weight of the world will be on his shoulders, with no Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, or Chase Utley to pick up the slack. The Nationals draw an average of 9,000 fans per game compared to the 50,000-plus in Philadelphia. Truth is, Werth gained less monetarily than Cliff Lee -- an inarguably greater star -- gave up to return to a team that may be the happiest home a player could have in major league baseball. It makes one wonder. Which is what the talk was in Philly long before the Cliff Lee deal. Why would you leave this? When you have $90 million, what's the cost in personal happiness you're willing to pay for another $30 million? As I said, they weren't mad. Nobody in Philly was mad at Werth. I think they're actually kind of sorry for him. The Cliff Lee deal seems to kind of drive that sadness home. Poor Jason. All alone in Palookaville with all that money and torrents of abuse and/or indifference to come. Sigh.
The Phillies do know how to fill a hole in right field without breaking the bank. It's called platooning. I remember a free spirit named Jay Johnstone (whom Werth always reminded me of) and a sometime slugger known as "Downtown Ollie Brown." They alternated righty and lefty in right field on the great Phillies teams of the seventies. Johnstone hit for average, usually .330 or better, and Ollie hit homeruns on his shift. The fans loved Werth a lot and wanted him to stay. What will it be like for him to be loved less and resented more, by far fewer fannies in the seats? Money isn't everything, as every wise man will insist. Another lesson of the Cliff Lee deal.
Like it or not, sports does say something about what we value and why. Sometimes the news is more good than bad. Here in Philadelphia, anyway.
P.S. btw, guys. You don't have to be a big baseball expert to come in and congratulate Mrs. CP and her lesser half on this day of all days. Especially you (er, us) Michael Vick antagonists. Mrs. CP's first message to me after telling me the glorious news was, "Thank God. Something to talk about besides Michael Vick. I'm so happy about it all."
I'm as happy for her as I am for the Phillies. How about you?