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December 16 Philadelphia Daily News:
“Kristen Lee understands the perception. Given the reports, you might think she was a target of Yankees fans during the American League Championship Series and that might be the reason the Lees did not take all that New York money.
She explained back in October that there were some taunts and obscenities directed toward the Rangers family section in Yankee Stadium. There was some spit that rained down from above.
“Those incidents did happen,” Kristen said yesterday after her husband Cliff was introduced as a Phillie for the second time. “But they weren’t directed towards me. No one knew who I was. It was just fans being fans.”
In fact, it could have been fans at just about any stadium when they spied the visiting family section.
“That was way overblown,” Cliff Lee said. “No one came up to my wife and spit on her. Nobody poured anything on her. You go to any stadium, the opposing team’s fans start cheering, especially in the postseason, fans are going to say something to them. They are going to do things like that. That’s part of it. That story was way overblown and it was false and it had zero to do with the whole thing. Hopefully, we can put that behind us.”
The Lees both said they did not spurn the Yankees because of any issues with New York. They chose Philadelphia. Cliff wanted to be part of a rotation that is baseball’s answer to the Miami Heat. And Kristen simply liked everything about the city when they were here for those few months in 2009.
“We liked the easy travel on a train for our kids to other cities and the good cultural experience for them here,” she said. “It was fun to live in a city and have a whole different lifestyle than in Arkansas.”
December 16 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann:
“THEY GATHERED at Citizens Bank Park for the final time in 2010 – club executives, rows of media, Cliff Lee and his family. The ostensible purpose was the announcement of Lee’s return to the Phillies and the assembly of the greatest pitching rotation in the history of the franchise, and one of the greatest in the recent history of the game.
It was an organizational celebration, their pride and their anticipation simulcast on all manner of television and Internet outlets. But it was more than that, for anyone who has lived here for any period of time. Because if the hopes of the 2011 season were born on this day, something else passed away at the same time.
It was the death of a stereotype.
The Philadelphia fan – edgier than most, oftentimes outrageous, sometimes obnoxious – has been defined for decades by the times when he strayed over the line. Well, that ended yesterday.
The next time someone brings up snowballs and Santa Claus, there now is only one proper reply:
Booing Michael Irvin?
Shooting off a flare gun?
Jail cells at the Vet?
Tasers in the outfield?
Besides joining this starting rotation, Lee has slain the Philadelphia albatross. He said it and so did Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phillies‘ general manager; that is, that both financially and atmospherically, it was the paying customers who brought Lee back to Philadelphia, spurning more money and more years offered by the New York Yankees.
December 16 Philadelphia Inquirer:
“Cliff Lee and agent Darek Braunecker kept planting seeds.
The lefthander who never wanted to leave Philadelphia kept telling his former teammates that he wanted to rejoin them even as he played for Seattle, moved on to Texas, and reached a second consecutive World Series in October.
Shortly after Lee’s Rangers fell to the San Francisco Giants, Braunecker had a conversation with Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock. The agent’s message: Lee really wanted to sign with the Phillies.
Ruben Amaro Jr., the general manager who traded Lee to Seattle and acquired Roy Halladay from Toronto exactly one year ago, liked the idea but realized he was dealing with serious budget constraints. The Phillies‘ payroll already was bursting at the seams, and they had an offer on the table to rightfielder Jayson Werth, their own free agent, who signed with the Washington Nationals earlier this month.
“We kind of stayed out on the periphery because we knew there was going to be some aggressive suitors [for Lee] out there and we were dealing with the Werth issue,” Amaro said Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park after the Phillies made Lee’s stunning return to Philadelphia official. “A couple of weeks after the World Series, we made an offer to Jayson and we waited for a while to see how that would pan out.”
In the meantime, Amaro and the Phillies‘ decision-makers held a series of meetings to discuss which way they would go if they had a chance to get either Werth or Lee.
“Frankly, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t think we had a snowball’s chance in hell of bringing [Lee] back, as far as the contract,” Amaro said.
That feeling still existed a week ago when Amaro and the rest of the Phillies‘ brass departed from the winter meetings in Florida, but Braunecker kept planting the seed even as the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers pleaded for his client’s services.
December 16 Philadelphia Daily News:
“SO CHARLIE MANUEL and Rich Dubee are talking the other night and they’re so happy that Cliff Lee is coming back that the Phillies‘ pitching coach gets a little carried away. “We could hit Lee fifth behind Ryan Howard,” he said.
“Oh, no we can’t,” the manager replied.
Manuel laughed when he told the story yesterday, but he understands that there’s more to baseball than assembling a quartet of starting pitchers that, on paper at least, could be one of the best ever. Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels are going to give up some runs and the Phillies will still have to score more on any given night to win.
The Phillies were held to three or fewer runs 75 times last season. They were shut out 11 times. And since the season ended, they lost their primary righthanded power threat, Jayson Werth, to free agency.
Not only that, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted yesterday that the $120 million that Lee is guaranteed over the next 5 years has pretty much used up all his financial wiggle room.
Manuel insisted that the situation isn’t as dire as it might appear.
He noted that, for all the attention given to their offensive inconsistency, they still finished second in the National League with 772 runs scored.
Fair enough. Offense was down across baseball last season, but that’s still the lowest total since 2002 and a whopping 120 fewer than they scored in 2007.
The manager said a string of injuries that allowed him to field his regular lineup for only a handful of games is part of the reason. And he expects some of his stars to bounce back after subpar years in 2010.
December 16 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Sam Donnellon:
“”They got their boy back, I guess,” Jayson Werth said a little after 1 p.m. yesterday, finally exhibiting the bitterness that Cliff Lee would reference in a similar press conference a few hours later, as he accepted the kind of contract the Phillies were unwilling to offer their departed rightfielder.
“When he found out I was coming here, he wasn’t the happiest person in the world,” Lee said a few hours after the Nationals introduced Werth in a sponsored and orchestrated affair that took the “press” out of press conference.
Fondues, upscale food, and Lexus-sponsored goody bags were handed to well-dressed men and women as they entered a downstairs restaurant at Nationals Park. Aired live on their flagship station and the MLB network, the event began and ended inside of a tightly planned 23-minute package, as the well-fed and well-dressed watched and listened to the proceedings through a wall of glass.
Werth was accompanied by the notorious Scott Boras, forever known in Philly for his obstinacy in the Phillies‘ contentious and fruitless negotiations with J.D. Drew. Asked later about the speed in which Werth’s 7-year, $126 million deal was struck, Boras would quip, “I’m just the kind of guy who gets things done out of the blocks,” but the truth is the Nationals offered Werth almost twice as much money and years as the next highest bidder.
The Phillies reportedly offered a 4-year, $66 million deal – or just over half of what Lee will receive in both years and compensation. But that was back in the day, 2 weeks ago, when Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke of hard choices and tough decisions as it pertained to increasing payroll, when everyone, including him, thought Lee was choosing between two suitors, not three.
December 16 Philadelphia Inquirer:
“No one will question the quality of the Phillies‘ starting rotation now that Cliff Lee is on board.
The offense, with the departure of Jayson Werth, is a different matter. That’s fine with Charlie Manuel, even though he’s a manager in love with the offensive side of the game.
“I talked to [pitching coach] Rich Dubee [Tuesday] night,” Manuel said after Wednesday’s news conference to officially announce the signing of Lee. “He was so excited. He said we can hit Lee fifth behind [Ryan] Howard. I said, ‘Oh, no, we can’t.’ I love offense. At the same time, when you get in big moments, the big games, the pitching stands out more.”
That’s true, but the Phillies still must replace Werth’s bat in the middle of the order, and with the $120 million addition of Lee, it’s not likely that a hitter will come from outside the organization.
With Lee set to make $11 million in 2011, the Phillies‘ payroll stands at $161.45 million for 19 players. They also have two players – outfielder Ben Francisco and pitcher Kyle Kendrick – who are eligible for salary arbitration.
“We’ve got options,” Manuel said. “I think Francisco can hit. I think Domonic Brown has a lot of talent. When we go to spring training, Domonic is going to play a lot. We’ve got six weeks to get on him and teach him as much baseball as we possibly can. He needs to play more and [get] more knowledge of the game. We’ve got ways that we can fill our holes. I’m not afraid to send a young kid out there and get him a chance.”
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was asked if he was trying to make a trade to reduce the payroll. Pitcher Joe Blanton, who has two years and $17 million remaining on a three-year contract he signed last December, is the most obvious candidate.
“We’re still discussing it internally,” Amaro said.
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