philadelphia phillies

Shock and Awe

Cliff Lee doing work at Citi Field.

Just like that he was gone and I don’t like it. I’m fully aware the Phillies grabbed the most dominant right handed pitcher of the decade in the majors but something just doesn’t seem right. It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

The Phillies acquired Cliff Lee on July 29th and quickly it came to pass that he was going to be the man that saved the season. Unable to nab their true target, Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay, the Phillies made a trade to grab the southpaw Lee.

During the course of his first five outings, Lee went 5-0 with an 0.68 ERA. After hitting a bit of a rough patch in September, the 2008 AL Cy Young winner buckled down. By the end of the ’09 season, Lee proved exactly why the Phillies got him.

A third straight division title, back to back National League pennants, and their second straight appearance in the World Series made the Phillies more than just a one year wonder and it was Lee who helped prop up a pitching staff that never fully settled in last season.

In the postseason Lee turned out to be just as dominant as his regular season self with the Phils. He was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA including two wins in the World Series and as it turned out, the only two wins of the series for the Fightins.

Here’s what stings though. Despite putting up outstanding numbers with the Phillies, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and the rest of the Phils’ brass thought it was a better idea to deal Lee instead of keeping him and Halladay to build a staff that if held together would pose baseball’s most devastating 1-2 punch for a starting rotation.

Nope. Instead, we get last year’s team with a dominant righty instead of a dominant lefty. Will it make that big of a difference? I’m guessing no. After all, the top guy wasn’t what cost the Phillies back to back World Series titles. They were undone by a faulty closer (Brad Lidge), a head case in the rotation (Cole Hamels), father time (see Pedro in Game 6) and a slightly lower baseball IQ than the Yankees (see Damon, Johnny).

Does having Lee and Halladay fix all of your problems? Nope. However, here’s what it does. You don’t have holes in the rotation for Games 2 & 6 in a series, which as we all know are important swing games in a series. It gives your team a significant chance to win and provides flexibility. That wasn’t important though evidently.

The Phillies will now try to go blindly into the season hoping Hamels can regain his 2008 form and that J.A. Happ will continue to develop.That’s three pitchers including Halladay. Joe Blanton as the fourth starter? Ok. I’ll deal again. He was somewhat acceptable in the postseason and pretty solid during the regular season.

Then, what about the fifth? Moyer? Too old. Pedro again? Probably will not see him with a team until July. John Smoltz. Thanks but no thanks. Questions, questions, questions.

Goodbye my friend.

While Amaro said keeping both Lee and Halladay would mean the Phils would have lost seven of its top 10 prospects in the farm system it just doesn’t add up. Isn’t the time now for this team and not two or three years from now? Wouldn’t you want to have the duo for a potential showdown with the Yankees again? Should the Phillies meet the Yankees or even the Red Sox, they’ll be faced with the ’09 Series issues once more perhaps.

Ugh. It’s just frustrating and disappointing. Lee fit in well here. Now, all of a sudden he is in Seattle. I’m not sure about how well Halladay will perform but here is what I know.

Lee: 4 postseason wins

Halladay: 0 postseason wins

Just because Halladay is “better” than Lee does not guarantee his success for the Phillies. The Phils need flexibility and options with its starting rotation; not a wing and a prayer. We’ll miss you and the spiked curve, Cliff. Thanks for the memories. You deserved a better ending than this. Take it easy on us when you’re pitching for the Yankees in the 2011 World Series.

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