Ratto: Lee's signing is Phils' direct response to Giants

December 14, 2010, 5:35 pm
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See what the Giants went and done? See how it works? They reinvented the wheel, and now someone went and re-re-invented it.

The Philadelphia Phillies just signed Cliff Lee at the crypto-home-town-discount price of 120 million (well, Ok, Philly was his hometown for a little while), for one reason and one reason only.

To close the Madison Bumgarner Gap.

NEWS: Lee signs with Phils, spurns Yankees

The Phillies got beat in the National League Championship Series by The Battling You-Know-Whos because their hitters got outpitched by a team that didnt really hit all that much. So what does Ruben Amaro go out and do with Dave Montgomerys money?

Fix the problem.

The key here being Dave Montgomerys money. The Phillies are big spenders on baseballs timespacemoney continuum. They dont seem like it because they arent the Red Sox or Yankees, but since 2004 theyve been among the heaviest hitters, and particularly since tying up Ryan Howard.

Now, with Lees five-year, 120M deal, their payroll will nudge, if not actually exceed, 170 million. They have nearly doubled their payroll in four years.

All because they didnt have Madison Bumgarner.

Thats our theory anyway. I mean, theyve already got more hitting than the Giants, and thats even allowing for Jayson Werth going to the Washington Nationals. Thus when they invested in Lee, they were going toe-to-toe with those dysfunctional, misshapen, weirdo, all-arm-and-no-wood, costumed geezers in San Francisco.

Put it this way. Cliff Lee or Tim Lincecum? Except for age, its a wash, and Lee is at the top of his powers right now. Roy Halladay or Matt Cain? Again, Halladay, for the same reason.

Now it gets interesting. Roy Oswalt or Bumgarner? Any fair-minded person would have to say that Oswalts track record gives him the edge, but if you want to put Cole Hamels against Bumgarner instead ... well, the edge is smaller but its still there.

And in the four-slot, you have Oswalt or Hamels against Jonathan Sanchez. Go on, make a case for Sanchez. Weve got all the time in the world.

Yeah, thats what I thought.

We wont go fifth starter against fifth starter, because in a short series, nobody uses the fifth starter except as an innings-eater in a rout, and there, Joe Blanton or Antonio Bastardo is more valuable than Barry Zito. So even if you want to include the five, the Phillies win there, too.

In short, the Phillies have the starters and the batting order covered, and they are willing to let the Giants have the bullpen edge, knowing as we all do that bullpens are particularly volatile year to year, and that last years Jeremy Affeldt becomes this years Javier Lopez only if youre very very lucky. You can buy closers, yes, but finding setup guys who can get you to the closer -- now thats an art form.

All of this happens because the Phillies charmed Cliff Lee despite coming in lower on the money than the Yankees. All because the Yankee fans were mean to Mrs. Lee. All because New York isnt for everybody.

And maybe thats the lesson here. Maybe when you are confronted by a opposing players WAG (wife and girlfriend for you acronym junkies) at the ballpark, you should show extraordinary-without-being-creepy kindness. If you must heckle her significant other, maybe it should be something classy, like, How does a bum like you get a wife like her? or You really overclubbed with your spouse, you mullion! Women love it when you dog their dates, as long as they are spared.

Or maybe not. We hate to generalize.

But the Phillies had an edge with Lee here, and it was familiarity. If down the road there is a Cliff Lee you would like your team to acquire (and this advice goes for the As as well, in case they ever decide to invest in something pricey and in his prime), you should have already shown them your very best behavior.

In the meantime, know that the Phillies just responded to the Giants World Series rings in a huge way, and by check-raising Madison Bumgarner with Cliff Lee. Hey, its the circle of life. Get over it.

And then, get on with it.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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