Results tagged ‘ Cliff Lee ’

Thoughts of Spring

Every single February, the sights and sounds of players returning to their respective Spring Training homes to prepare for the upcoming season of baseball is pure bliss. It means that one day, very very soon, we will break free of winter’s icy clutches. We’ll be able to break out the shorts, head to the ballpark, eat some deliciously unhealthy food, and bask in the glow of the greatest game in the world. Eventually, we’ll tire of the oppressively hot and humid days and eagerly await the crispness of fall and hopefully… for our team to be playing in such weather. Then we do it all again. Beautiful.

For Phillies fans, especially me, this particular Spring Training is very special. Even after four straight divisional championships, two World Series appearances and one Ring, anticipation for the 2011 campaign could not be any higher. Unless you’ve been living under three feet of snow this winter, you know exactly why.
(Oh, a lot of us have been under three feet of snow… ok, sorry)
We got Cliff Lee back.
But in addition to all the hope I feel as a fan for my team to make another serious run for the World Series, what is really putting the goosebump factor off the charts is the plethora of photographs and videos of these players at the Carpenter Complex; the same Carpenter Complex me and roughly 140 other Phantasy Campers were at only a month ago…
Phillies players stretching and having catches in the outfield of Schmidt Field… just as we did  the very first morning.
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Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt throwing off the pitching mounds… the same ones I threw off of in front of Legends Mitch Williams and Dickie Noles.
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Charlie Manuel and Cliff Lee making their way to the fields from the walkway in back of Bright House Field… the same path us Campers took each and every day.
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(photos by Yong Kim)
I can still feel those fields under my cleats. I can still smell the dirt, grass, and leather. I can still hear the snap of gloves, the crack of bats, and the rustling of the palm trees.
No matter what happens this upcoming season, I will always remember the 2011 Spring Training. I think every Phantasy Camper will…
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This winter, the MLB Network has been running a special focusing on the 20 greatest baseball games ever played in the last 50 years. Yesterday, they broadcast the most recent edition, #14 on their coveted list: Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.
For an hour and a half, hosts Bob Costas and Tom Verducci broke down the game with Mitch Williams, and the ultimate hero, Joe Carter. It was a fantastic analysis of the game, even though I knew how it would ultimately end. What really got me were the replays of each inning, and watching all these Phantasy Camp Legends on the field at the same time, playing in one of the most famous games in baseball history. Eight Phillies on that field were on the same field as me one month ago… Eisenreich, Stocker, Morandini, Hollins, Andersen, Williams, Kruk, Thompson… and who came in for Milt later in the game? 
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This was the first time I had seen these guys in action from there heydays since I left Camp. What an absolute treat. I have watched video upon video of that ’93 crew, but now it took on a whole different light. I shared the diamond with them. I hung out with them. I played against them. I was made fun of by them!

If you told me when I was 17 years old that I would be doing everything I experienced with THOSE guys, I would have told you how insane you sounded.

Well, it wasn’t a dream. It was real… it will always be real.

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I want to thank the MLBlog Phabulous Phillies Phun for posting this picture of Legend Kevin Stocker in one of the franchise stores for his Emerald City Smoothie company, which he spoke about the night of our Bull Session during Camp. Smooooth…

12/16/10 – “We’d like to introduce…”

At three 0’clock yesterday afternoon, I got very excited. At 3:01, I had the chills. Cliff Lee was back, wearing a Phillies uniform again. This time, for good. At the end, I became a giddy schoolboy. I don’t think I’ve been this excited for an upcoming baseball season… and this is after four straight years of baseball nirvana. Excellence on the diamond has almost become old hat for the Phillies, but with the addition of Lee, this just turns it up to 11.

You could see it everyone’s faces. The moderator, Phillies Public Affairs Director Scott Palmer, stood in front of the podium to introduce Ruben Amaro Jr. and Cliff Lee. Scott has a very distinctive smile, one that all Philadelphians know from his days on Channel 6. I saw that smile firsthand the night of the Phantasy Camp Orientation. It’s a truly genuine smile…. So there he stood, in the corner of the press room… the same room I started my Orientation in… and beamed. He beamed like a little kid on Christmas morning. His joy over the return of Cliff was clearly obvious.

Ruben spoke first and had the exact same smile. This was more than just landing a big free agent. This was bringing pure elation to a loving and devoted fanbase. Amaro has been a Phillie from birth: From his father, a former Phillie, to growing up in the area, to having two tours with the team as a player, to working his way up through the front office to General Manager… today, he was simply a fan.

After the press conference was over and Amaro had handed Cliff his old number 33, MLB Network’s Matt Yallof and Phantasy Camp Legend Mitch Williams (both Comcast Philadelphia alumni) interviewed Lee. Mitch, who makes no bones about the fact he is still a tried and true Phillies fan, also fell under Lee’s spell. As comfortable he was questioning him and being as objective as possible, you could see how excited he was about his return… the whispering, the joking around… A truly special time in the franchise’s history has been taken to a whole new level.

Other than his constant reiterations about how much he wanted to be in Philadelphia and play for this team, the one statement that actually got me to say out loud, by myself, “yes”, came after a question about Lee “leaving money on the table” and not taking the much bigger contracts offered to him by the Yankees and Rangers:

“I guess I did. I mean, I could potentially earn this in a shorter term, so whatever. It’s plenty of money. When you hit a certain point, enough is enough. It’s a matter of where you’re comfortable, where you’re happy, where your family is most comfortable, what team gives you the best chance to win.”

Two hours earlier, about 90 miles south of Citizens Bank Park, Jayson Werth was introduced to the Washington Nationals. If you saw the press conference or have been reading Werth’s comments, you know that the Phillies-Nationals games will be very interesting now.

But my favorite quote of the day from Werth easily had to be this:

“I’ve been to the postseason a lot the past few years, and that’s what it’s all about.”

*thud*

12/14/10 – Cliff Lee


I eagerly woke up this morning to watch the MLB Network’s coverage of last night’s absolutely shocking signing of Cliff Lee by the Phillies. Instead, I was treated to a replay of Game 1 of the 2009 World Series… the game that solidified Lee’s folk hero status in Philadelphia. Because of the circumstances that revolved around this World Series with my father passing away the morning of the last game (and the fact the Phillies lost the Series), I have refused to watch any of the games again. This time, it was completely different. When I turned on the TV, the game was in the third inning, Phillies up, no score, Chase Utley at bat. Home run. All the excitement and emotion from that night came flooding back. Lee’s complete domination that night, combined with his cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor, brought such incredible hope to every fan. We could win our second World Series in a row. Even better, we could do it against the Yankees.

As was the routine, my dad and I called each other as soon as the game finished. Just like he did to every Phillies fan, Lee won over my dad almost instantly. In fact, I don’t think there was ever another Phillie my dad was so thrilled about to don the red and white pinstripes. He LOVED Cliff Lee. On this night, my dad’s voice had as much excitement in it as he had after Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. We could not stop lauding his performance that night.

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A little more than a month after my father’s passing, the Phillies traded away Cliff Lee in a three-team deal that brought Roy Halladay to Philadelphia… the original plan for the ’09 trade deadline. This was easily THE most bittersweet deal any Philadelphia sports team had manufactured. I was thrilled to have Halladay, but my baseball heart was absolutely broken over the departure of Lee. I thought about my dad and how deeply disappointed he would have been over this move. I was able to hear every word of his hypothetical tirade. Even with Halladay living up to every dream of Phillies fans, I know my dad would still be watching Cliff Lee’s progress with the Seattle Mariners, and later the Texas Rangers. And I know his performance in the postseason with the Rangers, who went further than the Phillies, would get him cracking open a couple extra cans of Coors Light to ease the pain.

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What happened last night was magical. 

A week ago, the Phillies were the victim of a free agent signing that rocked the GM Winter Meetings. Jayson Werth left an incredible situation in Philadelphia to simply go where the money was… his sole intention. The Washington Nationals’ massive contract to Werth was eye-opening. Werth’s decision to commit to a less-than-stellar baseball club was head-shaking (I had plenty of opinions about this, so I’m not going to bother wasting more time on that subject).

Last night, the Phillies were involved in an even more Earth-shattering transaction… something practically no one saw coming. At the 11th hour, Cliff Lee gracefully declined the two extremely generous offers given to him from the Rangers and Yankees, both considered the favorites and only two teams in the running, and signed with a “mystery team” that spun the rumor mill to dangerous speeds. That team? The Philadelphia Phillies. 

Unlike Werth, he chose a team that he wanted to play for, not who gave him the most lucrative contract. Lee and his family adored Philadelphia during his first stint with the club, and he made it very clear that he was disappointed he was being shipped out. Now he had the chance to return and he took it. Yes, he still got paid very handsomely (5 years/$100 million with a 6th year option. Total: $120 million). However he left upwards of $41 million on the table by not accepting either of the offers from the Rangers or Yankees. This was not completely about the money. This was simply about being happy. Cliff Lee was already a legend to Phillies fans. This decision just upgraded him to “mythical god” status. 

Apart from the obvious thrill that comes from this reacquisition, what is really making this move emotional for me is knowing that somewhere, my dad is jumping up and down in joy. His favorite player has returned to the Phillies. And he returned for all the right reasons. 

Now I can watch Game 1 again… not with sadness, but with eternal hope and a very warm heart.

Welcome back Cliff.

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