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To be completely honest, I could not fully enjoy Doc Halladay's magical first season with the Phillies because I still missed Cliff Lee. There is no debate that Halladay is the superior pitcher and he is the best pitcher in the game, but Lee will always have a special place in the hearts of Philly fans.
Whether it was the non-chalant no-look catch of a pop-up, the behind-the-back snag of a line drive, the utter dominance Lee displayed in the biggest of stages against sports' most storied franchise, or all of the above. He has forever endeared himself into the hearts of Philadelphia.
The best fans in America felt cheated when the Phillies brass stated: "We needed to replenish the farm system."
Their intelligence felt disrespected as a clear case of salary cutting. They made a decision that they did not want to compete with the rest of the bidders when Lee became a free agent.
Philadelphia could not be silenced. Talk radio and television rang out during the entire 2010 season of the injustice which was the trading of Lee. Lee himself even spoke of his love of the town and his "utter shock" that he had been traded.
It is not often in sports when a franchise admits its mistakes (i.e Philadelphia Eagles) but credit has to be given to the Phillies ownership for breaking their own rule (no more than three years for a pitcher) and going all-in this season.They righted a wrong and brought back the player that the fans loved the most, the player that never should have left in the first place.
And plenty of credit needs to go to Lee and his family. They did not hold the trading of him away to the western part of the country against the Phillies. They went with their heart and chose Philadelphia over everywhere else. Sure the Phillies gave him a huge contract, but he still took at least $20 million less to play here, not chump change.
This will go down as one of the greatest love stories in Philadelphia history and it was rekindled Saturday night. The eighth-largest crowd ever at Citizens Bank Park roared (myself included) at every little thing Lee did. Whether it was his name being announced, striking out 11 Astros, a sacrifice bunt, or striking out at the plate, Philadelphia fell in love all over again.
One of the best pitchers in the game chose you Philadelphia. The atmosphere that you create is something that is unmatched in baseball.
Rob Maaddi of NBCsports.com reported Lee stating: ""I can hear the noise, hear the volume, It felt good to know fans are excited to see me back. You try not to focus on it too much and get hitters out, but I gave myself a minute to notice it."
If you looked around the stadium last night, there were signs saying "Welcome Home Cliff" and "Brother Lee Love." No, the guy has never won a World Series here, yet, but there is no denying that Cliff Lee and Philadelphia is a true love story.