Phillies fans have been in love with Cliff Lee from the start, but he really sealed the deal when he turned down a $148 million contract from the Yankees and opted for a smaller contract with the Phillies. In fact, the first time I drew Lee in a cartoon, it featured him being covered with female fan's panties, Tom Jones style.
Fast-forward to 2013. With the Phillies facing the possibility of a losing season, the rumors swirling around the team's interest in trading away Lee have resurfaced. Being traded isn't new for Lee (he's probably the best pitcher to be traded four times), but I was surprised how cold he viewed the current situation when asked about it on Tuesday night.
“I definitely want to win. I want to be on a winning team,'' Lee told CBS Sports. "That should be what it's all about.''
That seems like a far cry from Lee's feelings following his return to Philly in 2011, when he said, "I never wanted to leave in the first place." Maybe Lee's looking to position himself as the first rat to try and escape a sinking ship. Currently, there are nine teams he can be traded to without his approval, and at some point, it might be worth dealing the 34-year-old lefty to help replenish the team's barren wasteland of a farm system.
Lee will always be a hero to Phillies fans who remember his complete shutdown of a potent Yankees lineup in Game 1 of the 2009 Wold Series. That was the reason Lee came back to the Phillies - to be part of a team on the upswing with the potential to challenge for a championship every year.
With Halladay out, Ruiz ailing, Utley and Howard banged up, a manager close to the exit door and a streaky but uninspiring offense, the prospect of leaving town might genuinely be appealing to Lee. If the Phillies can't turn this season around, Ruben Amaro might have to face the prospect of dealing Lee and doing what he didn't have the guts to do in the offseason - starting the rebuilding process.