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Posts Tagged ‘free agency’

Cliff Lee. Say no more.

December 20, 2010 2 comments

How many times have you walked up to a friend this week and greeted him or her with these two words: Cliff Lee.

It’s now a legitimate alternative to hello, hey, or what’s up when you see a fellow Philadelphia friend whom you haven’t seen in a couple weeks or months. I went to a party on Saturday night, hosted by friends I specifically know from Sunday afternoon Phillies tailgates in the Linc parking lot. I walked in the door, gift bottle of booze in hand, and rather than greet each other with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”, it was just a matter of who could say “Cliff Lee” first.

Have you ever seen someone so happy to drink Powerade. That's how much he likes being in Philly.

The signing floored the entire city, and began what turned out to be one of the most epic weeks in Philly sports. I awoke last Monday morning, did the old reach for my phone, and waiting in my SMS and BBM inbox were messages that once again simply said Cliff Lee, and nothing more. Every person in town tried to shake themselves out of dream mode when they awoke to the news. Those Philadelphians who battle an inferiority complex in the face of New York, went into clean up mode. For them it was a wet dream.

The question is whose dream was the wettest in town? It could have been Ruben Amaro’s, but the orchestrator couldn’t have been surprised enough to pee his pants. Charlie Manuel is a great candidate, but it would be tough to definitively attribute such an accident to the Lee signing as opposed to general aging. I think Carlos Ruiz has to take the prize here. While I’ve seen plenty of t-shirts on the market already referencing Lee and the rest of the juggernaut rotation, I’ve yet to see one that reads: “Mi sueño mojado“, with Ruiz’s Panamanian punim centered among the faces of the four starters. I think it would sell.

There’s no point in actually analyzing the Lee acquisition in this piece. Plenty has already been written about this remarkable move, and still none of it has such an eloquent ring to it as simply saying the guy’s name.

Cliff Lee.

As much as this cushions the Jayson Werth blow, some of the Phillies offseason talk is now shifting to the one gaping hole to address, right field. But I’d honestly rather the team spend the money they have allotted for that slot on a World-Class massage therapist with a shoulder/arm concentration. Keeping these four arms healthy is now the team’s most important challenge. But even if one of them is hurt come playoff time, we’ll still have the best rotation out there, especially because Cliff Lee won’t be suiting up for the opposition.

Forget a middle reliever. Can we just get someone who's really really really really good at taking care of these?

A couple star players have now demonstrated their affinity for putting on the same red and white pinstripes that fill the stadium seats game after game.  Sure we purposely throw up on other people from time to time. Sure we occasionally need to get our naked bodies on the field of play, but Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have collectively said “Who doesn’t?” with their eagerness to forgo cash for this fan support. Some skeptics may have been able to diminish the role of the fan base in landing Roy Halladay, pointing to the chance to win as the major factor in his move to Philly. But considering the Yankees current roster and successful history along with the Rangers 2010 World Series appearance, Lee has really made it seem to the national audience like it could actually be about us, in a good way for once.

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A Piece on Jayson Werth That Doesn’t Use a Play on Words with Werth in the Headline

December 7, 2010 2 comments

Jayson Werth is ninth on the all-time postseason home run leaders list, a list he doesn’t seem to have much interest in climbing. Only Babe Ruth has made that list with fewer playoff plate appearances, but now it seems David Justice has a better chance of coming out of retirement and climbing that list with the Braves than Werth does ascending it with the Nats. Etching his name all over baseball-reference.com seems less important to Werth than having it printed on some fat checks. It’s understandable, especially for a guy who, before landing with the Phillies, had his career threatened by injuries.

Rank Player Postseason Home Runs Plate Appearances
1 Manny Ramirez 29 493
2 Bernie Williams 22 545
3 Derek Jeter 20 679
4 Reggie Jackson 18 318
Mickey Mantle 18 273
6 Jim Thome 17 251
7 Babe Ruth 15 167
8 David Justice 14 471
9 Chipper Jones 13 412
Alex Rodriguez 13 276
Jim Edmonds 13 263
Albert Pujols 13 239
Jayson Werth 13 182

So what will the outfielder’s $126 million defection to the Nationals mean to the Phillies? The facelift is official now. The Phillies outfield will undoubtedly have a new look. I’m bummed about it. I was holding out hope for the slim chance of keeping him in the lineup this year. Now that he’s gone, our team is less powerful, slower, worse defensively, not as clutch, less balanced in terms of hitting from both sides of the plate, and certainly more lacking in beard prowess.

I guess Werth is sick of getting free hats and cigars at the end of every season

The truth is Chooch can’t carry the club in October, and he sure as hell can’t grow a good beard on that Panamanian baby face. H2O will need some power behind them next fall, and as long as Ryan Howard keeps deciding to be Casey At the Bat for Halloween each year, the departure of Jayson Werth’s stellar postseason track record is a threat to our club’s autumnal makeup.

Werth had a remarkable run with the Phillies, coming out of role player obscurity to become an everyday stud, and a key character in what many think could be the best era of Phillies baseball in their long history.

His emergence coincided with the resurrection of the franchise, in a similar fashion to Donovan McNabb’s impact on the Eagles when he arrived. Werth’s stay here was much less controversial and not so much a solo act as McNabb’s, but I think we should be legitimately worried that he is the first of the core members to say adios to the franchise. Will his departure be the tipping point that starts the team’s decline?

Werth's departure leaves the Phillies lineup beardless....and without right-handed power. Polanco's ginormous head is now the team's most prominent feature.

For anyone who talks Phillies with me regularly, or has read this blog, namely this piece, knows that I would rather have seen J-Roll be the first to move on. But Rollins remains, on the heels of two poor seasons in a row and one poor, aging hamstring. J-Roll and the lineup that he will likely continue to lead off, had a down year. The pitching is what got the team as far as it got, and now we are left hoping that Rollins, Victorino, Howard and Utley all have bounce-back years. Anyone else uncomfortable with that and uncomfortable with losing the only player that lived up to expectation last year offensively, leading the league in doubles, scoring 100+ runs and contributing 27 HRs?

Like Donovan McNabb, Werth will now suit up for a division opponent. I’m careful to use the word opponent instead of rival here, because we all know the Nationals only true rival is the record book of futility. As becomes the question with any popular Philadelphia athlete who leaves town, how will fans receive him upon return?

I happened to be eating breakfast at Honey’s in Northern Liberties, the morning after the Phillies ended the city’s 25-year championship drought, when J-Werth strolled in with his family. Man, this guy was instrumental to winning the World Series, and he’s got great taste in brunch spots, I thought. With no hesitation, everyone in the restaurant rose to their feet and applauded him.

He deserves the same reaction when he takes right field next year at CBP on May 3. When he gets that recognition as a visiting player, one has to think it won’t be long before he misses that kind of fan support in the lonely pastures of the Nationals Park outfield. And anyone who’s been to Honey’s knows he’s damn well going to miss that too.

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