I first fell in love with Cliff Lee in the 2009 World Series. While pitching for the Phillies, a Yankee batter hit a quick “chuck & duck” back to the mound. Cool Cliff stuck his gloved hand behind his back and effortlessly caught the ball. He then proceeded to stroll around the mound, smirk in the direction of his third baseman, and shrug his shoulders as if to say, “Just another day in the World Series”. How cool was that?
In 2010, Cliff was back in the World Series, this time wearing a Texas Rangers uniform and pitching brilliantly to the Giants. Although the end result did not go his way, he was still cool as a cucumber.
When Cliff became a free agent in the winter of 2010, I hoped against hope that he would be wearing red socks in 2011. Alas, it was not to be. (Not the right red socks, that is.) If only the Red Sox had not signed Lackey last winter… (Don’t get me started!!!) However, being true to his cool guy persona, he did something almost as great as signing with the Red Sox. He shocked the baseball world by turning down lucrative deals with the Yankees and the Rangers to follow his heart and return to the Phillies … for less money. In December of 2009, the Phillies tossed him aside to make room for Roy Halladay. Like a scorned lover, he expressed his shock, hurt and disappointment to the press – he loved the Phillies — but always kept his cool, of course. By turning down the Yanks, Cliff reportedly left over $28 million dollars on the table. Although not exactly chump change to you and me, how does that $28 million significantly change your life if you are already making money hand over fist? How many big leaguers choose dignity over dollars? How many will choose happiness over their ego-driven quest for “more – bigger – better”? How many can turn their back to the “Evil Empire” of Gotham City?
By following his heart, Cliff Lee gave Red Sox Nation a Christmas gift that could have far-reaching consequences. He took himself out of the American League and out of the Red Sox road to the 2011 post-season. Should we thank the New York fans that spit on Mrs. Lee during the 2010 playoffs? Maybe. Will our glee over his stunning shunning of the Yankees come back to haunt us next year? Possibly. We can only hope to see you in the 2011 World Series, Cliff Lee! Bring your friends, Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt (a.k.a. “H2O”). In the meantime, stay cool, and know you have a place in the heart of at least one Red Sox fan … for now.
December 15, 2010