So, Cliff Lee is a Philadelphia Phillie. Again. 5 years (not 7), a hundred-and something-million dollars, and just like that, the Phillies become the real-life NL East equivalent of the Nintendo RBI Baseball AL All-Star team, unbeatable on paper.
Carpenter-Wainwright? Not BAD, but Halladay-Lee...Oswalt-Hamels (or whatever order), now THAT'S a formidable rotation! I sent a text to my brother last night (several hours before the deal was announced) and said "If PHI lands Lee in this deal, they'd have Halladay-Lee as their 1-2...and the team leader in Ks will STILL be Ryan Howard!" Yes, pitching & defense wins championships, and yes, PHI is suddenly the team to beat on paper. But, if you've followed baseball for long, you know the games aren't played on paper. You've got to take the field 162 times and play every game, every inning, every at-bat, every pitch, and once all 30 teams do that, we'll see where everyone lands. (Think: 2004 Cardinals) Be honest, even when it was down to 4 teams, and the NLCS & ALCS started, just a couple of months ago, did you really pick the Giants to win it all, let alone get past Halladay and the Phillies? I didn't think so...neither did I.
Let's take a look at a few things worth noting. I want to take a fully pessimistic view, and play devil's advocate--so, just be aware that that's where I'm coming from as I break down some things to consider before just handing the Phillies the 2011 hardware before Christmas 2010 even gets here. First, a few things about some of the other 24 guys on the team...
- Chooch, Howard, Utley, Polanco, Rollins, - PHI Infield average age, 32+ heading into Opening Day. Not a huge problem going into 2011. But, Polanco will be 35, Howard will be 31, and everyone else on that infield will be 32. Incidentally, Cliff Lee just turned 32.
- This tells me that 2011 might be a solid year for PHI, but it isn't like they will be a dynasty for years to come, at least not solely because of this signing. In an aging infield, the youngest, Ryan Howard, averages more than 184 Ks per season over the past 5 years. By comparison, Halladay & Lee average less than 181 & less than 147 strikeouts, respectively.
You wanna crown 'em? Not so fast! Remember these "unstoppable" rotations?
- Maddux, Glavine, & Smoltz: Together from 1993-1999, 1 World Series Title
- Hudson, Mulder, & Zito: Together from 2000-2004, Lost every division series they made (snuck in as Wild Card team in '01, missed playoffs altogether in '04)
- 1954 Indians: Starting rotation (5) had the following W-L records: 23-11, 19-8, 23-7, 15-7, 13-3. Three of those 5 guys are in the Hall of Fame today (Wynn, Lemon, Feller). That team was SWEPT in the World Series by the last Giants team (prior to 2010) to win a World Series.
All I'm saying is that, while it's a big deal to have a rotation like PHI now has, I don't expect to see multiple 20-game winners on this staff (though it could happen). They're the clear favorites to win their division, and maybe even the National League. That said, I don't expect them to tie (or beat) the record set by the 1906 CHC & 2001 SEA of 116 wins in a season, it's thinkable that they don't even win 100 games. My guess is that whether they miss the playoffs, get into the playoffs & fall short of the World Series, or win it all, the Phillies fan are sure to, umm, respond.