I'm not sure how to start this article. I could start it with Lee, Halladay, Oswalt, or even Hamels. Obviously, this article will start with Cliff Lee, but as a Phillies fan I like to imagine all the possibilities.
That's my problem, I'm a dreamer. I occasionally mistake dreams for reality, and free agent signings like this blur my perception.
Maybe I've seen Inception too many times. Maybe I'm stressed out during finals week. Maybe Ruben Amaro is amassing a team ready for inter-galactic play. Maybe Ruben Amaro Jr. plays poker every week with a deck of Phillies playing cards, and he's getting tired of a faceless ace of spades (Every playing card joke is fair game right now, who knows how long the Phillies will keep four aces).
*Cliff Lee has signed a 5 year deal worth 100 million.
This deal is unprecedented. No team ever in the annals of time has had a starting rotation as talented as the Phillies. While this might be a slight exaggeration, I believe 29 lineups will not sleep easily tonight as they imagine a series against the Phillies' starting rotation.
Ruben Amaro Jr. is playing a game right now that no one else has attempted before. It sort of makes sense in a twisted way; starting pitchers are on the mound every 5th day and do not interfere with other starting pitchers, so why not maximize the team by gathering as many dominant starting pitchers as possible.
Money will come off the books next off-season in the form of Brad Lidge, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Oswalt, and Raul Ibanez. Joe Blanton is probably gone as soon as possible, and Raul could be traded this off-season as well if the Phillies can find a taker. Ultimately, Ruben may not have gotten approval for the deal unless he could unload enough money. Roy Oswalt could potentially be on the trading block though he does have a no-trade clause.
Philadelphia is more attractive than Texas and New York City. Lee spurned pinstripes coated with money and the South coated with money for.... a cheese steak. Lee is taking less money than either of the other offers because he enjoyed the environment.
He liked all his teammates, he loves Charlie Manuel, and he apparently buys into the Phillies and Philadelphia culture. This can't help but establish Philadelphia as a social butterfly, popular with all MLB free agents and envied by other teams.
I'll be honest, I was beginning to forget about the Fightin' Phils. San Francisco convincingly beat the Phillies in the NLCS playoffs and Michael Vick has turned a young Eagles team into Super Bowl contenders.
But Ruben Amaro Jr. seems to be living in a dream world and I'm just glad he's sharing it with me.