Does the acquisition of Cliff Lee give the Philadelphia Phillies the best rotation in baseball history?
That’s a little premature, but you can certainly make a good argument.
Right now, Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels certainly look to rank with the 1954 Cleveland Indians (with HOFers Bob Lemon, Bob Feller, Early Wynn, and Mike Garcia), the 1966 Dodgers (Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Claude Osteen), the 1971 Baltimore Orioles (with four 20-game winners, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, and Pat Dobson), and the 1998 Atlanta Braves (with three future Hall of Famers, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.)
(Curiously enough, none of those four teams won a World Series; the ’98 Braves didn’t even win the National League pennant. Even weirder: the ’54 Indians and ’66 Dodgers were swept in the World Series.)
The best argument is made today in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Frank Fitzpatrick: “Given good health and a paucity of miracles, it’s already difficult to envision a scenario in which the 2011 Phils don’t advance to their fifth straight postseason and perhaps a second world championship since 2008.
The more intriguing question from a local standpoint is what Lee’s going to the Phillies does to Yankees and New York prestige. Addressing the former, the Yanks are in deep manure. They’re an old team with a bumbling, ineffective front office that has left the Red Sox streaking past them in the off-season acquisitions race. While Boston signs All-Stars, New York must be satisfied with keeping their 41-year old reliever, Mariano Rivera, and 36-year old, .270 hitting shortstop, Derek Jeter, and now look to the resigning of 38-year old left hander, Andy Pettitte, as the team’s salvation. (Just like he saved them last year?)
LeBron James and now Cliff Lee. The top athletes no longer want to come to New York, even if they’re offered more money. That’s bad enough. The real blow to New York’s pride is that we’re now losing the top guys to, of all place, Philadelphia.