If you were cruising the Philly headlines in December, all was lost. Cliff Lee had been ripped from our bowels, leaving a trail of guts from CBP to Safeco Field. An iceberg had struck the hull. A dingo ate the baby.
All we fans see are players coming and going, not the cauldron of numbers and contracts from which assignments and offers are ladled. So when the “just business” mantra was used to explain Lee’s trade and the ushering in of Roy Halladay for at least three years, we learned, like shooting a man in the back of the head, baseball isn’t personal. It’s just business.
Out in Seattle, they wanted a serious, but laid back, nucleus from which could sprout a squad of talented, spry players who were excited to be on the same team. And if they were looking for an ace from whom they could build a loose, hardworking clubhouse… they got the right guy. Lee will do wonders for that philosophy, and here in Philly, we need to accept that he’s gone.
But more than just that one thing happened in the Phillies vibrant 2009-10 offseason.
NOVEMBER: Okay, well, that sucked.
After Shane grounded out to end it, I wandered outside the bar and joined in a local conversation regarding the merits of jumping in somebody’s car and road tripping it into the Bronx for the sole purpose of burning down Yankee Stadium. Nothing stung more than having to walk in my front door and see Roommate’s smiling face as his precious Yankees defiled the game of baseball to another World Series. It felt like an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” but at the end, the sex criminal gets away to live and molest another day.
God, I hate the Yankees.
Ruben Amaro hits the ground running and kicks Pedro Feliz and his flaccid bat to the curb, while snatching Cliff Lee’s $9 million option, which receives a “Duh,” reaction from Phillies fans, completely unsuspecting of the chorus of “WTF?!’s” about to shit-fit their way across Philadelphia the following month. Two crispy new free agents are ejected from the roster; Brett Myers feels bad for himself and Pedro Martinez is way too sure that he’ll get picked up by another team.
DECEMBER: There were so many “Halladay/holiday” puns this month I almost screamed a hole in my computer screen, and I fucking love puns.
You would have thought Citizens Bank Park was crashing down with Chase Utley trapped inside from the wave of melancholy “Whoa now!” that hit the Phillies Phaithful, as Cliff Lee bid adieu to his short stint in red pinstripes. In fact, you would barely have been able to recognize that Roy Halladay, a guy who habitually slaughterhouses MVP lineups on his way to almost 20 wins in a division galaxies ahead of the NL East, is now taking up permanent residence in Citizens Bank Park.
Rumors of Chone Figgins filling out the infield are totally ruined by the signing of Placido Polanco, and Figgins winds up joining Cliff Lee in Seattle. Not that we’re displeased with the return of Polanco and his dual wielding Gold Gloves.
Meanwhile, nobody notices that Ruben Amaro signs an entirely new bench in Ross Gload, Juan Castro, and Brian Schneider, along with keeping Jimmy Rollins a Phillie through 2011.
JANUARY: And the pitcher-shuffling begins anew. Danys Baez is in, Scott Eyre is out. Right knee surgery for Brad Lidge, Clay Condrey is signed by the Twins. Cliff Lee bitching continues. Wishes and dreams of a Lee-Halladay rotation explode in a cloud of speculation and tears. Hal Bodley has an opinion. Everybody’s pissed. But not Shane Victorino, who gets himself a $22 million extension to bulge his eyes out in Philly for a further three years.
People begin to wonder what the hell Ruben Amaro plans to do about the bullpen, now that there’s nothing but loose change left to fund it of the estimated $140 million payroll. The answer, of course, is Jose Contreras, and the aforementioned Baez, both of whom could fill the late relief role left behind by Chan Ho Park, who swore he’d be a starter somewhere by the end of the offseason. Antonio Bastardo, Sergio Escalona, and Ryan Vogelsong look to fill out any holes left by the wounded Lidge and J.C. Romero.
FEBRUARY: “Screw you!” winter screamed, and reared back, firing a couple of blizzard-loogies all over the northeastern United States. Ryan Howard completes his motion capture duties for MLB ’10: The Show. Prospect and 7th round Phillies draft pick Brody Colvin is stopped by police officers in New Orleans for being piss wasted, and makes the rational decision to start punching them. The point blank range of baseball season has Hal Bodley reminiscing about typewriters.
Brad Lidge throws off a mound for the first time since he exploded and “feels good.” Little does he know, he will be getting a cortisone shot in his elbow nearly a month from now.
Charlie and Ryan both appear to have lost weight, and J-Roll, while confident, keeps his mouth shut regarding the Phillies 2010 finish. Spring Training descends on a Philadelphia that is sick, wet, and frigid from an eternal winter of darkness, depression, and the Sixers.
Ryan Howard says it first: ”We’ve got unfinished business.”