The Yankees, have always been able to get their man. With little exception, they target a free agent, throw the biggest contract at him and then land him. This has been characterized as the Yankee way. One must wonder though, with the Knicks unable to lure LeBron, and the Yankees unable to attain Lee if indeed New York has lost some of its mystique. For, not only did the Yankees and other New York teams obtain top free agents because they had the financial flexibility but also because of the “bright lights where dreams are made of.” New York offered greater exposure both nationally and internationally making an ordinary star into and icon.
When Cliff Lee signed with the Philladelphia Phillies on Tuesday, he left both the opportunity to play for the most historic franchise in all of sports and a year and $34 million of guaranteed money on the table, all to return to the city he fell in love with in the 2009 playoffs, when he led the Phillies to the World Series. It was in this playoff push, in which Lee went undefeated, and beat the Yankees twice in the World Series, that defined Lee as one of the best postseason pitchers since the Cardinals righthander Bob Gibson.
The Yankees must then wonder if they should have made a bigger splash before the July 31st deadline to aquire Lee. Yes, the Yankees may have had to deal top prospect Catcher Jesus Montero, and a couple others, and would have had no guarantee Lee would return after 2010, but they could have shown him what it means to be a New York Yankee. You have to believe that the Yankees could have made a serious bid for a repeat title, if it was them not the Rangers to whom he provided a playoff surge.
Instead Lee’s team once again did not get the job done. But now by joining the Phillies he will set up the best rotation in baseball and according to Jon Heyman, “the best rotation since the 1954 Indians.” He also gets to pitch in the N.L. East, in which Roy Halladay experienced even more success than he did in the A.L. East, where Lee would pitch if he picked the Yankees.
Cliff Lee proved to the world that his number one priority truly is to win a title. Unlike what Buster Olney said on “The Leadoff Spot with Ryan Ruocco”, that Lee would go to the highest bidder, even if that bidder were the ESPN softball team, Lee truly weighed the pricelessness of a title more important than fame or [more] fortune in New York.
Greg Maddux and Barry Bonds are two other notable free agents who decided to take less money to sign with another team besides the Yankees. Therefore, I do not believe it is New York that has lost its cache, but the character of the individual who is either motivated most by winning or is intimidated by the bright lights of the camera lens of the New York Media.