Posted by: mdegeorge | December 14, 2010

Lee signature gives Phillies historical stockpile of arms

The 1920 White Sox. The 1971 Baltimore Orioles.

That is how select of company the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies could enter with their pitching acumen.

With the signing of Cliff Lee tonight, the Phillies present the National League with a nightmarish arsenal of arms rivaling anything the Soviet Union could muster even at the height of Cold War tensions. If ever in the modern era there was a foursome who could challenge its 1920 and 1971 counterparts with a quartet of 20-game winners, it’s Lee, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels.

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee is congratulated by catcher Carlos Ruiz after he pitched a complete game to win Game One of the NLDS against the Colorado Rockies 5-1 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 7, 2009. UPI/Pat Benic Photo via Newscom

Think about the dynamic. They can hit you left-right, left-right, aces all. Halladay, the consummate workhorse, is the opening jab. Lee, the quintessential clutch pitcher, the right cross just when you think you might get an opening. Then Oswalt, relaxed as the third option after a decade of number-one pressure. And finally Hamels, farther from the limelight that so troubled him, as the fourth starter.

They could have the ghost of Robin Roberts as their fifth starter and still manage to win 95 games.

There’s an obvious parallel to be drawn here in 2010, beyond the one to Palmer-Cuellar-Dobson-McNally and Kerr-Williams-Cicotte-Faber. It’s the similarity this staff bears to the best team money can buy assembled in South Beach.

But for all the Heat’s struggles to start the season, the Phillies embarrassment of riches comes with the understanding that only one can hold the ball at once.

Luckily, the issue of which of them holds the spotlight won’t be hotly contested. The mild-mannered Lee has never been one to crave attention at any of his surprisingly abundant ports-of-call, as evidenced by the $60 million he left on the table to return to Philly. Halladay is one of the most driven players in Major League Baseball. Hamels, for all his Comcast commercials, has been brought down to earth by recent struggles, and Oswalt appears to be simply grateful to be delivered from the baseball purgatory that Houston has become.

There’s still the issue of clearing the $17 million price tag attached to Joe Blanton, but that’s accessory at that point.

Either way, the Phils have broken their own rules on offering term to pitchers to reverse the stigma of being an organization sitting on their hands in the wake of Jayson Werth’s departure.

A week after Werth’s Washington mega-deal, the answer as to Jayson’s worth has diminished significantly. If it means that the Phillies, offensively challenge last season anyway, have to win more 3-2 games…well, it’s possible that there is no team in the last four decades as well equipped to emerge victorious from those.

It’s premature to book the tickets for the parade down Broad Street in ten and a half months time. Health—though all four of the horses in the Phils’ stable have a remarkable history of resilience from injury—and other mitigating factors must be taken into account.

But if the Phillies aren’t the favorite to win it all this season, I’d be terrified to see who is.

<div style=”text-align:center;”><a href=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/sports/game-one-nlds-colorado/image/6742257?term=cliff+lee+phillies&#8221; target=”_blank”><img src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/6742257/game-one-nlds-colorado/game-one-nlds-colorado.jpg?size=500&imageId=6742257&#8243; border=”0″ width=”500″ title=”Game One NLDS – Colorado Rockies at Philadelphia Phillies” height=”383″ oncontextmenu=”return false;” ondrag=”return false;” onmousedown=”return false;” alt=”Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee is congratulated by catcher Carlos Ruiz after he pitched a complete game to win Game One of the NLDS against the Colorado Rockies 5-1 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 7, 2009. UPI/Pat Benic Photo via Newscom” /></a></div><script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://view.picapp.com//JavaScripts/OTIjs.js”></script&gt;
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