And the WWF Plot Thickens…

Do you hear that?  If you listen carefully you can hear it off in the distance.  That my friends is the sound of jaws hitting the floor.  More specifically the jaws of the New York Yankees and their fans hitting the floor.  They have been bamboozled… and it’s awesome.

I make no apologies.  I don’t live in New York, I didn’t grow up in New York, therefore, I hate New York.  More importantly, I hate the Yankees.  Seeing them and their fans not get their way and the subsequent shocked denial is about as entertaining as watching a 4-year-old throw a temper tantrum in the toy aisle of Target.  I love it, I relish it.  Granted, this is going to make my home life a living hell.  The Yankee Loving Fiance is none to pleased about the recent developments.  If I’m not careful over the next 24 hours I might take a fork to the forehead… or worse.

If you’ve been paying any attention, you woke up this morning to the news that Cliff Lee signed not with the Yankees, but with the Rangers.  WOO!!!!  Let’s hear it for the little guy!  The crowd has officially erupted.  Take that New York.  Congratulations Nolan Ryan.

Wait… what’s that?  (cue up the Jim Ross impersonation)

GOOD GOD!!! That’s Ruben Amaro’s Music!!!

Cliff Lee just hit Nolan Ryan with a Stone Cold Stunner and a middle finger!  He’s signing with the mystery team!  The Phillies are the mystery team!  Ruben Amaro has just put together the best stable of pitchers in baseball!  Halladay!  Oswalt!  Hamels!  And now Lee!  Good God, the humanity of it!

If the Yankees are Degeneration-X and the Red Sox are the Nation of Domination, the Phillies have officially become the NWO.  Baseball’s ever evolving wrestling story line is getting that much more interesting.

The Yankees and Rangers were offering Cliff Lee the world in terms of dollars and length of contract.  In the end Lee decided to forfeit upwards of $30 million dollars of guaranteed money in order to go back to where he was comfortable, back to Philadelphia.

Despite the fact that the Phillies traded Lee about a year ago after making a run to the World Series, he decided to put all of that behind him as business and rejoin forces.  In doing so the Phillies officially swung the balance of power in the National League.  They were arguably already the best team in the National League.  Now it’s set in stone.  Now the talk is whether or not they are the best team in baseball.  With this set of starters and one of the most potent line-ups in baseball, even without Jayson Werth, it’s hard to argue against them.  Name me one team that’s better on paper as of today.

A case could be made for the Red Sox given their recent free agent haul.  Their line-up will be more than challenging for opposing pitchers.  Unfortunately good pitching always seems to beat good hitting and the Red Sox are lacking in the pitching department.  Josh Beckett is constantly hurt.  Dice-K is a question mark on a weekly basis in terms of effectiveness.  John Lackey was miserable in 2010.  John Lester has been solid but lacks the track record that makes you feel 100% comfortable.  Tim Wakfield and Clay Bucholz?  No thanks, give me Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels.

The most surprising thing about all of this is that Cliff Lee said no to the Yankees.  No one says no to the Yankees.  Is this a sign of changing times for Major League baseball?  Are players beginning to tire of the ridicule and fish bowl like atmosphere of playing for the Evil Empire?  By blowing the Yankees off, that’s pretty much what we can gather.  If I’m a betting man, Old Man Steinbrenner is rolling over in his grave thanks to this news.  Also, memo to Yankee fans: Don’t spit and throw beer on the wife of a player you want to sign the following offseason.  Remember, wives always make the decisions.

But while this is a victory for baseball over the Yankees, it still is a loss for the little guy.  The Phillies are a large market team and even without overwhelming Lee with a ridiculous offer they were able to pry him away from Texas.  Texas is a small market team and was running a risk by offering up so much to Lee.  In a way Lee might have just saved the Rangers from themselves in the long-term, but short-term this has to be a blow.  For Lee to turn down the Yankees, only to sign with the Phillies seemingly out of nowhere has to hurt.  But we shouldn’t feel sorry for the Rangers.  They still have a good team built around AL MVP Josh Hamilton.  They were a playoff team without Lee and they can be again without him.  It’s just going to be harder.

As for Cliff Lee, it was a refreshing move.  So often we’ve seen free agents sign for the most money.  In this instance Cliff Lee really did go where he felt he could win, he went where he was comfortable, and it wasn’t about the money.  We don’t see that nowadays… ever.  It just goes to show that Cliff Lee really is special.  He’s a different breed of pitcher and pro athlete.

But make no mistake, the Philadelphia Phillies just won the offseason bidding war between the powers that be.  Come October they may very well win the world series.  Baseball’s WWF plot line just got a whole lot more interesting.


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