Cliff Lee Lost in Philly during "Halladay" Season

Michael KirshenbaumContributor IDecember 15, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 02:  Starting pitcher Cliff Lee #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in Game Five of the 2009 MLB World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 2, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies won 8-6.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

If last July you were to tell me that the Phillies would acquire Cliff Lee for marginal prospects, make a big run to the World Series only to get stopped by the powerhouse, money driven, New York Yankees, I wouldn't believe you. 

Not amidst a season in which our closer had one of the worst years on record.  Not amidst a season in which our so-called "ace" had been marginal at best, going through a ton of freak injuries due to him not ever wanting to leave the banquet room for the training room. Not amidst a season in which our shortstop was about as much of a threat at the plate as Desi Relaford.

But all changed when the Phillies got their man, granting the second choice to the now incumbent ace Dr. Roy Halladay.

There has never been a pitcher that I had such an immediate love for other than Clifton Phifer Lee.  Everything about him, his "ghost throw" to centerfield before he began his warm-up pitches, his personality that seemingly put him on a Greg Maddux plane, wherein you knew he only thought of one thing on the mound and that was pitching.

Unlike our "ace" twice reseeded in Mr. Hamels, Lee is not out there thinking about his son Jackson, who has overcome many obstacles in his short, yet stressful life. He is thinking about pitching and succeeding for his team.

On the eve, or whatever you may call it, of the Phillies trading Lee for Doctor Roy Medicine Man, I cannot help but think of what could have been.  A 1-2 tandem of Lee/Halladay would have reigned supreme over baseball. The entire league would fear this Phillies team.

Granted, the Phillies have now been in the World Series for two consecutive years and won in 2008, but the Lee/Halladay tandem would have simply been even more of a growth for a franchise that has done nothing but that since its miraculous division championship in 2007. 

Ruben Amaro has done a great job of upgrading his ball club over the first two years of his tenure as Phillies general manager, replacing Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez, after Burrell, his wife Michelle, and dog Elvis, led the parade down Broad Street. Even more recently Amaro has replaced defensive wizard, yet poor contact hitter Pedro Feliz, with a more sure thing at the plate in one-time Phillie Placido Polanco. 

But this is a first for Amaro, and almost a never for most GMs—trading your recently acquired Cy Young Winner for another Cy Young Winner. Obviously, Halladay has been Amaro's obsession since becoming GM prior to the 2009 season.  I typically agree with Amaro, fixing what is not broken, but in this case I just feel a void.

I know everything there is to know about this story. Lee supposedly would not accept an extension and wanted to test the market, fine. Halladay, however, has never played for a winner in his near Hall of Fame career, and wants the chance to win, which is why he'll accept a "discounted" contract at three years/$60 million with two options for 2014 and 2015.

What really gets me most is hearing about the Phillies not wanting to go over the $140 million payroll that apparently was set by the anonymous ownership group who nobody has ever met, heard of, or seen.

These anonymous owners can't break the bank even though just 10 short years ago the Phillies were playing in front of about 11,000 people a game in a gigantic, concrete mess of a stadium. They now play in a beautiful modern stadium, with 45,000 a night, even in games again the lowliest teams such as the Nationals.

I refuse to take this as an excuse for not being given at least one year of heaven with Lee and Halladay together.  I break the bank to buy Phillies tickets, take trips to Clearwater, buy shirts and other assorted gear, but the Phillies can't do the same for me?

Maybe I'm being selfish, but I just think I am being realistic. For the Phillies to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox for the near future, they truly need Lee teamed up with Halladay to bring another parade down Broad Street.  In order to keep me coming back and spending my hard earned money on the franchise, they will need to offer me more than a rotation of Halladay, Hamels, Happ, Blanton, and Moyer/Kendrick. 

These days Hamels is about as much of a sure thing as Carlton Loewer, and Happ is still somewhat unproven. Finding a way to go above and beyond competition is something the Phillies have never done.  By losing Lee, while gaining Halladay, you have not progressed at all for 2010. The only thing certain is that I will quietly be rooting for the best tandem in baseball, King Felix and Cliff Lee, pitching in Seattle in 2010.

Cliff, I hardly knew ya, but I know one thing is for sure, you will be missed.