We Phillies fans don’t seem to let go easily, do we?
No, before the 2008 World Series found its way into the City of Brotherly Love, we were a hard-bitten bunch. Ex-players who won titles elsewhere drew our scorn. Frontrunners from our area (Yankees, Cowboys, Lakers, Patriots fans fit the bill) left us wondering if there were any witnesses to the brutal murder we were contemplating committing.
Our defeats have sour tastes. Mitch Williams allowing Joe Carter to play the hero. Donovan McNabb puking down in Jacksonville. Cole Hamels’ self-absorbed exaggerated gestures in the 2009 World Series, followed by his comments that he couldn’t wait for the Series to be over. Allen Iverson single handedly trying to defeat the Lakers, only to get crushed for his efforts.
In the middle of last season, as the Philadelphia Phillies were gearing up to try and repeat as champions, several acquisitions were made. Pedro Martinez came to town, looking to bring his versatile panache to a proven winner looking to win again.
The Phillies, however, needed another sure thing to compliment Cole Hamels on the mound.
They attempted to trade for some Blue Jays pitcher, whose name you may be familiar with, but with the deadline looming, the Jays weren’t budging on their counter demands.
Instead, the Phillies turned to Cleveland, and as many teams do, used The Indians as their personal farm system, sending them decent prospect Jason Donald and the contents of Charlie Manuel’s glove compartment for ace pitcher Cliff Lee.
Hey everybody, remember Cliff Lee?
Lee became the source of many man crushes in the Philadelphia area, as the man simply blew opponents away.
After helping guide the Phillies through the 2009 playoffs and into the World Series, in which he played great but almost nobody else did, we took solace in the fact that Lee was going to be our guy.
Yeah, about that.
Lee and the Phillies had apparently reached an impasse on contract extensions, and the Phillies certainly wanted to lock Lee up for as long as he could walk without medical assistance. However, with only one year left on his contract, the Phillies considered trading him for someone more willing to sign long term.
Remember that deal with the Blue Jays I’d mentioned?
This is where it pays off.
In a decision largely maligned at the time, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro traded Lee in a multi-team deal, sending him to the hapless Seattle Mariners. As the wheel of the trade turned, the Phillies got that player they were hoping for from the Blue Jays…..
But wait, how could that deal be ‘largely maligned’? How is that even possible?
Well, the Phillies fans had grown attached to Lee in the same fashion that CC Sabbathia grows attached to the post-game catering spread. The female Phillies fans had pretty boy Cole Hamels and his adorable little tantrums, but the guys’ guys had, as I mentioned, begun secretly writing mash notes for Lee.
He was, simply, the best Phillies pitcher since Curt Schilling, perhaps even since Steve Carlton.
That’s pretty heavy company.
And now we as fans were asked to get behind a man who had never appeared in the post-season, who was a year older than Lee, who had pretty much never played for a winning organization (twelve years with the Blue Jays, yeesh), and may not adapt to a hitter’s ball park like Citizen’s Bank Park.
This was truly the biggest risk of Ruben Amaro’s young GM career, as he put all of his beans into the Halladay basket, in the hopes that he would not only make them forget Lee by playing as good, but by playing far better than the previous ace.
Did I mention that Amaro got him to sign a deal worth over $60 million?
Suddenly, Phillies fans lit up message boards, blogs, and social network sites. The doom and gloom Philadelphia attitude of pre-2008 had returned.
You watch, they said. Lee will go to Seattle and have a Cy Young year, while Halladay will slip in the bullpen before the opener and suffer a stroke.
Well, they didn’t ACTUALLY say THAT, but that’s a nice package of what the consensus was.
Would this $60 million go down the drain?
How about the first twenty game winner in nearly thirty years?
How about the Phillies first perfect game since a senator named Jim Bunning had done it years before?
How about the second no-hitter in post-season history?
Instead, he immediately won over the fans as the 2010 season began. Halladay had his share of bad games, like all pitchers do, but he also had the ability to throw many great games.
Many of those games complete.
Many of those games shut outs.
Two of those games were no-hitters
One of them was perfect.
It remains to be seen if the Phillies can win the remaining ten games needed to reclaim their World Series title, but after the events of October 6, 2010, there’s good reason to be optimistic.
There was plenty of negativity after the events of December 15, 2009, the day in which Ruben Amaro traded a known sure-thing for a possible question mark, and then unloaded the payroll on him.
Any hatred lobbed toward Amaro by zealous Phillies fans is long gone.
Scratch that, actually.
The hatred will be dead and buried in a six foot grave if Roy Halladay is measured for his World Series ring come November.
Phillies fans will no doubt line up to thank “Doc” for his contribution.
But if Ruben Amaro’s holding the World Series trophy while covered in champagne, be sure to thank him first.
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