LeeBron? Cliff Lee's Decision Was The Right One
Isn't it also ironic that both men are considered to be at the top of their respective sports in terms of talent and ability, and left via free agency to join teams that have a wealth of top tier talent?
Let's just tap the breaks on that last part for a minute.
Cliff Lee threw another one right by Major League Baseball on Monday night, as the southpaw from Arkansas agreed to terms on a contract from the Philadelphia Phillies.
As a result, Lee will now join a rotation that features the likes of Cy Young winners Roy Oswalt and Roy Halladay, as well as World Series MVP Cole Hamels and a not-too-shabby Joe Blanton. Further, Lee will backed by a lineup featuring sluggers Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, with a supporting cast that features Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez.
And we thought Bosh, Wade and James made for a formidable opponent.
But before the jilted mass of Yankee and Ranger fans begin to conjure up conspiracy theories or develop negative reasons for why Lee opted to go to Philly at the eleventh hour, perhaps it we should take a look at why Lee chose the Phillies.
Must be the money
In a sports world where egregious contracts exist—like the $250 million dollars Alex Rodriguez due to A-Rod, or the outlandish $100 million that Albert Haynesworth—its refreshing that Cliff Lee opted for less years and less dollars than the Yankees or Rangers were offering.
Throughout the entire process, Lee had said time-and-again that he was looking for a place that felt like home. Knowing that, is it too ridiculous to think he actually enjoyed his time in Philadelphia the way he did his time in Texas?
Lest we forget, Lee went to the World Series in 2009 with the Phils.
I, for one, think Lee's decision to go to Philadelphia is a breath of fresh air in time where the lead peanut vendor is going to arbitration.
For those of you who don't know, Cliff Lee's son Jaxon was stricken with myeloid leukemia when he was four months-old. During Lee's time in Philadelphia, Lee and his family found a hospital that they were quite comfortable with in treating their son.
Reports say that Jaxon Lee was only given about a 30 percent chance of survival, but after finding a bone marrow match and receiving treatment, that the boy is in remission and doing well.
While I'm sure there are a plethora of renowned hospitals in both the DFW and NYC areas, I'm sure it serves as great comfort to the Lee family that should they need immediate care, they are in close proximity to their preferred hospital.
Put a ring on it
This is where things could get a little LeBron-ish.
Cliff Lee has pitched in the last two Fall Classics in 2009 (Phillies) and 2010 (Rangers). Both times, however, Cliff Lee walked away as the bridesmaid.
Given the now intimidating nature of the Phillies starting rotation, as well as a lineup that could be the envy of almost any team in baseball, Lee has an ideal opportunity to achieve his ultimate goal.
Much like LeBron James, Lee has done most everything a pitcher can do—except win a World Series or toss a no hitter. But, unlike LeBron, Lee never gave the fans of the cities he has pitched in a reason to believe that he wasn't going to leave.
After the 2009 World Series, Lee likely had every intention of pitching in Philly the following season, but was eventually traded.
In 2010, Lee made it clear that he was going to test the free agency waters and that the ability to win would be a determining factor. If nothing else, Lee was adamant about not making promises to anyone.
Further, for a man as well traveled as Lee (four teams in three years), it was likely that he was going to have friends all over the league, and I highly doubt he colluded with any of them about where to sign a la the Miami triumvirate.
There's no place like home
As previously stated, Lee wanted a place that felt like home after essentially becoming a hired gun; and while Lee had hoped to land in a place close to his home in Benton, AR, Philadelphia wound up feeling like a place where he could put down some roots.
Lee is a soft spoken guy, who likely would rather share the spotlight than be in it. And while Philadelphia is known for being quite critical and unforgiving, Lee felt like that was the best decision for him and his family.
Emphasis on family.
Too often in professional sports we see athletes looking to market themselves, hoping to land in places like Chicago, New York or LA in hopes to make the most money and gain as much exposure as possible.
Don't believe me? Look no further than A-Rod or Texeira in baseball—is it any surprise they both play for the Yankees?
What about the NBA, why else would Amar'e Stoudemire walk away from a perennial winner in Phoenix? Why would Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul be so adamant about only signing with the "doormat of the last decade" Knicks?
All Lee wants to do is pitch and win. Whether that took place in New York, D.C., Dallas or Philadelphia, that's all the man wanted.
Will the Phillies wind up playing for the World Series in 2011? Will Lee's back hold up for the duration his contract (Lee will be 37 when it expires)?
There are too many unknown variables for anyone to know.
But, in a world where money talks and hand shakes walk, Cliff Lee proved to be the man he said he was: a family man looking to play for a winner.
And if that isn't consolation enough to the populations of New York and Dallas, perhaps a quote from Ranger manager Ron Washington is. . .
"That's the way baseball go."
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