Upon reading the headline of this article, you are sitting there saying to yourself that I’m an idiot.
I’m sure most are only reading this to merely find out how stupid I possibly could be that I would have the audacity to say a middle reliever leaving is going to have more impact than the loss of a former Cy Young winner.
Just hear me out on this.
Cliff Lee was, and is, great. The guy had a low-three ERA last season and posted a 1.56 postseason ERA. Phillies fans quickly fell in love with him and quickly forgot about the man they originally wanted, Roy Halladay.
Lee's dominance came with a price, of course. The elephant in the room was the fact that Lee would be entering 2010 on the final year of his contract and was likely to command a big contract, one the Phillies could not afford.
Now whether or not you believe the Phillies could afford him, the fact is the Phillies shipped Lee off to Seattle in a deal that saw them acquire three prospects and also Halladay.
Many fans screamed in outrage that the player that had become so many fans' new favorite player was shown the door so quickly, and for what? A few prospects no one has ever heard of? "Absolutely ridiculous," said most fans. "You could have kept both," said some.
Look, the fact is that the people who complained about the deal are flat-out ignorant. I’m not trying to be mean, but you were scared of the uncertain and wanted your favorite player.
You will surely thank Ruben Amaro for this trade after Lee has signed with god only knows, Brad Lidge has signed to be the closer of the Rangers, and Raul Ibanez retires, and in their places you will have Roy Halladay, Phillippe Aumont, and Tyson Gillies.
The fact is the Phillies have made three big trades in the past two years (Joe Blanton, Lee, and Halladay), and that wrecks your farm system. The Cliff Lee deal gave the Phillies replacements for both Lidge and Ibanez, who are most likely on their way out when their contracts are over.
Do a little research, and you will realize that Aumont projects as a future closer and Gillies had the second highest batting average among all minor league hitters last year and also has 40-plus SB speed.
For those who say, "Yeah, but that’s the minors," I respond by asking you if you were the guy saying they should trade Ryan Howard and Chase Utley because, while their minor league numbers were great, they were in the minors.
I could debate about this all night, but I will look to move on.
Now you put Lee in the Phillies rotation and it’s obviously better, but they replaced Lee with possibly the best pitcher in all of baseball. Those who knew nothing about baseball were asking for Halladay last July, and when they got him they just focused on the loss and not the gain.
Roy Halladay is a guy whose work ethic is already showing dividends (see Kyle Kendrick for an example) and immediately becomes a favorite for the NL Cy Young. Have you ever seen a 10-inning complete game? Neither have I, but Blue Jays fans have seen a few from Halladay these past few seasons as he does what he does best: Eat innings and do it effectively.
Posting an ERA in the twos in arguably the best division in baseball with the DH, you can only imagine what he will do in the weak NL East.
Lee, on the other hand, is reminding me more and more of Freddy Garcia. Look, I could be dead wrong on this, but so far the similarities are frightening.
Both went from one league to another (Lee from the NL to the AL again and Garcia from the NL to the AL). Both were expected to be the aces for their teams, and both were expected to be the difference-makers that would get their respected teams back in the playoffs. Both were on the last year of their contracts, and both cost a lot of money (Lee $9 million, Garcia $10 million).
Like Garcia, Lee has had one rocky start in his new city. After getting suspended for five games (one start) he has been sidelined with an abdomen injury. Granted, Garcia's was shoulder, arm, leg, you name it, but so far the season is young, and Lee has the abdomen and is coming off foot surgery.
Once again, I’m going to have people tell me I’m crazy, but nothing has gone right for Lee in Seattle, much like nothing went right for Garcia in Philly.
Okay, so let’s look at that middle reliever Chan Ho Park. Park won the Phillies' fifth starter spot out of spring training last season but then ended up pitching terribly in seven starts and was allocated to the bullpen. Out of the bullpen he had a 2.52 ERA while allowing no balls to leave the yard.
He was arguably the best pitcher out of the bullpen last season for the Phillies, and this year, instead of wearing red pinstripes, he will be donning the Yankee blue.
Lee was replaced by the best pitcher in the game. Park, however, was replaced by Jose Contreras. Contreras pitched in just 17 innings last season for the Colorado Rockies. He did have an ERA of 1.59, primarily out of the bullpen, but I’m just not convinced that 17 innings pitched is enough to judge a guy, especially when you consider his paltry 5.42 ERA with the White Sox.
The Phillies' weak point right now is the bullpen, not the rotation. Brad Lidge is coming off an awful year and will start the season on the DL with fellow reliever J.C. Romero. Scott Eyre and his 1.50 ERA have retired, and in steps rookie Antonio Bastardo. Ryan Madson is the mainstay who is a lock for an ERA in the low threes, but he will start the season as the Phillies' closer, a role he has never had success in.
Replacing Park's 2.52 ERA this season will be a tough thing to do, much tougher then replacing Cliff Lee's ERA, because the guy replacing Lee is probably going to post a better ERA than Lee, while the guy replacing Park would have to have a great season to duplicate Park's 2009.
For a more detailed look at the Phillies' weak bullpen, check out my other article.
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