Cliff Lee

At the Yard podcast: The scoop on Phillies' biggest trades and signings of last few decades

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At the Yard podcast: The scoop on Phillies' biggest trades and signings of last few decades

On a special, Thanksgiving week edition of At the Yard, Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman relive some of the Phillies' most memorable trades and signings, with key inside details from Jim.

These are not the most important trades and signings in Phillies history but rather the most interesting ones from the last few decades with first-hand accounts of what went into each trade and what resulted.

• The Scott Rolen trade created a huge baseball 'What If?'

• Big Freddy Garcia trade doomed from the start

• An incredibly unsung, underrated trade from the 2007-11 era

• The surreal four months with Pedro Martinez

• The night the Phillies signed Cliff Lee and broke Twitter for the first time

• Phillies finally make the trade for Roy Halladay

Hitting the road this week, or wasting away on the couch in a food coma? The perfect time to binge your favorite NBC Sports Philadelphia podcast! Click here for more.

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Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee, Scott Rolen headline polarizing list of ex-Phillies on Hall of Fame ballot

Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee, Scott Rolen headline polarizing list of ex-Phillies on Hall of Fame ballot

MLB's 2020 Hall of Fame ballot was released Monday and it included six former Phillies of varying degrees of popularity. In fact, it's hard to even say which of the six is the most beloved in Philly. 

Bobby Abreu
Raul Ibanez
Cliff Lee
Scott Rolen
Curt Schilling
Billy Wagner

• At first glance, you might say Lee. He had great moments with the Phillies, memorable playoff games, and that low-key swag that drew fans to him. But things ended in a clunky way when he came back the second time. An elbow injury caused Lee to miss the final 1½ years of his contract and he was pretty much invisible during that time. He was also noticeably absent when the 2009 NL Championship team got together at Citizens Bank Park this past summer. The answer is still probably Lee, but it was a sour end for plenty of folks.

• Abreu is very well-respected around the game for being an ahead-of-his-time player with gaudy, well-rounded stats, but he was and still is polarizing around here. A portion of the fan base will always look at Abreu as an overrated compiler who was scared of walls. The other portion — it may be an even 50-50 split these days — appreciates the player Abreu was and realizes he'd be worth $200 million today.

• Phillies fans haven't forgotten Rolen's elite defense. Rolen was truly one of the best defensive third basemen of all time. But he orchestrated his way out of here and that is remembered equally, if not more so. 

• Schilling ... not delving into that one beyond an acknowledgment that his playoff performances were legendary, he had four excellent seasons and his post-playing career has been very strange.

• Ibañez was well-liked here and everywhere else he played. He may manage in the majors some day soon. He had an incredible first half in 2009, his first year with the Phillies, then was just slightly above average the rest of his three-year career with them.

• Phillies fans don't feel especially attached to Wagner, who was great here but lasted only two seasons. Unlike the other five on the list, Wagner should be in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion. Wagner was a more dominant reliever than Trevor Hoffman or Lee Smith. He had six seasons with an ERA under 2.00. He saved 422 games. He could have hung around for three more seasons to hit the arbitrary number of 500, which would have made him a Hall of Famer. Instead, Wagner retired on his terms after posting a 1.43 ERA for the Braves in 2010.

It will be interesting to see whether Abreu, a first-time candidate, gets the groundswell of support we've seen in recent years with players like Tim Raines.

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As Phillies' storied 2009 team reunites, one can't help but wonder where Cliff Lee might be

As Phillies' storied 2009 team reunites, one can't help but wonder where Cliff Lee might be

Most of the 2009 Phillies were on hand Saturday to reunite on the same night Bobby Abreu, a Phillie from 1998-2006, was inducted into the team's Wall of Fame.

The big question, though, was "Where is Cliff?"

Cliff Lee, who had another commitment, was notably absent. He's gone radio silent since vanishing after 2015, his final season under contract with the Phils. He never formally retired, just kind of faded away.

That '09 season was the one that made Lee a household name. Sure, he won the AL Cy Young the year before with the Indians, but it was in 2009 that he was traded at the deadline, went on a dominant regular-season run and then mowed down his competition in the postseason. Lee was masterful in the 2009 playoffs, going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts against the Rockies, Dodgers and Yankees.

Every Phillies fan remembers Lee's complete game in Game 1 against the Yankees, the game in which he had the smooth, casual catch of a pop-up back to the mound. How cool a customer Lee was on the mound resonated as much with Phillies fans as his effectiveness.

And yet Lee, who is still thought of fondly in this city even after the way his career ended, hasn't been heard from. Toward the end, you could tell Lee just wanted to "take it to the house," his euphemism for walking away from baseball and living out a peaceful life of retirement.

It's not as though you can blame him. Lee earned the estimated $143 million he made as a player, and any player is within his right to fade away. Lee was never a big personality. He went about his business and didn't much like to break down or analyze his performances after games. He was an old-school baseball man, a guy from Arkansas who enjoyed simplicity.

Still, Lee's absence Saturday stood out as Charlie Manuel, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibañez, Pedro Feliz, Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs, Eric Bruntlett, Paul Bako, Ben Francisco, John Mayberry Jr., Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, Brett Myers and Tyler Walker congregated in the media room at Citizens Bank Park.

There was a lot of, "So what have you been up to lately?" Some guys have remained around the game. Some are selling commercial real estate. Some are enjoying watching their kids play. Some, like Myers, haven't watched much baseball over the last decade.

Myers said that the 2019 Phillies reignited his desire to watch baseball. He talked about how much fun he has watching Harper, and how much he used to hate facing Jean Segura.

Ibañez spoke eloquently about the electricity Phillies fans provide. "It's not like this anywhere else," he said. 

It would have been nice to hear Lee's recollections of that run. He was responsible for so many Phillies memories. Who could forget Lee's Phillies debut in 2009, a complete game in San Francisco? Who could forget those first five starts with the Phillies, when Lee allowed three earned runs in 40 innings and looked like he might be on his way to a Greg Maddux-like peak.

Few Phillies fans will forget the ill-fated trade of Lee to Seattle in December 2009, when the Phillies sought to replenish their farm system with Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez. Few forget the night 12 months later when Lee shocked the baseball world by signing with the Phillies over the Yankees or Rangers.

In 2011, Lee had two of the best months a starting pitcher has ever had. He allowed one run in 42 innings for a 0.21 ERA in June. He allowed two runs in 39⅔ innings for a 0.45 ERA in August.

The 2011 playoffs were a different story. With the Phillies leading 4-0 after three innings of Game 2 and on their way to a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Cardinals, Lee gave away the lead by surrendering five runs in the middle innings. The Phillies, who won a franchise-record 102 games that season, were eliminated in five games by St. Louis, the eventual World Series champion.

Unfortunately, that playoff game and Lee's injury-filled final two years diminished some of his overall story with this franchise. But there is no denying that from 2008-13, Lee was one of baseball's best pitchers. And there is no denying that the story of the 2007-11 Phillies cannot be told without him.

It's a shame the fans haven't had a chance to feel more connected to one of the most important Phillies of the last 15 years.

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