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Phil-Lee: New York No Longer the Center of the Baseball Universe

FANTA-LEE: Cliff signs with the Phillies

Carl Crawford didn’t want to play in New York and opted for Boston instead.  Now Cliff Lee has spurned significantly bigger bucks to play in Philadelphia.

Love over money! You gotta’ love it.

Lee left $30 million on the table in spurning the Yankees.  The left-hander could have had $150 million and a spot on the biggest stage in baseball with the Yankees, winners of 27 World Series.  Instead, he chose Philadelphia–a team that traded him after beating the Bronx Bombers twice in the 2009 World Series, but have only 2 World Series titles to its name and the most career losses in the history of Major League Baseball.

Why did he leave so much money on the table?  Apparently, because he felt more comfortable in Philadelphia compared to New York where ugly Yankee fans spat on his wife Kristen during the 2010 ALCS at Yankee Stadium.

SPITTING IMAGE: Cliff and Kristen Lee are home in Philly with their children.

SPITTING IMAGE: The Lee kids feel at home in Philadelphia with Mom and Dad.

“The fans did not do good things in my heart,” Kristen said. “When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it’s hard not to take it personal.”  That being said, both Kristen and Cliff took the high road when discussing the issue and said that the incident in New York was not a big factor in their decision to go to Philly.

“Players seem to like living here,” Phillies chairman Bill Giles said. “There’s nice housing – and not as expensive as some other places if you want to buy or rent. The schools are good. I think our front office and manager and coaches have a good reputation around baseball right now as being good people.”

The Yankees are the financial bully on the MLB block and are used to flexing their financial muscle to land free agents of their choosing. Baseball’s top four salaries this year belong to players in pinstripes: Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, whose combined $100.5 million exceeded the entire payrolls of all but eight major league teams!

The Phillies are no chumps when it comes to spending either.  After leaving dingy Veteran’s Stadium in 2004 for Citizen’s Bank Park, Phillies attendance has exploded.  The Phillies have enjoyed 125 consecutive sellouts and the team is not afraid of re-investing those profits back into the team and back to the fans.  The average salary on the Phillies starting 25 this year was $5.7 million with only the Yankees’ $7.6 million per player being higher.

The ticket prices increased by $5 for infield seats this year, but most Phillies season ticket holders are regularly selling tickets to ordinary games for $200+ per ticket.  That’s the demand that exists now in Philadelphia to see their hometown heroes.  Much different than the early 2000′s days in cavernous Veteran’s Stadium which didn’t have real grass, decent food, scores of college students tailgating in the parking lots, or Dollar Dog Days.

Perhaps it was cheesesteaks wit or fresh Tastykakes. Perhaps it was the big city with the small town feel. Perhaps it was a chance to rejoin a pitching rotation that now is the most talented group ever assembled. Perhaps it was the famous clubhouse camraderie and the lovable country bumpkin manager.  Perhaps it was the general manager who plays the best opossum in the league.  Perhaps it was just one bozo’s spit that caused Cliff Lee to drive 90 miles down the Jersey Turnpike.

So, move aside New York.  The City of Brotherly Love is now the place where the top free agents want to play.

Maybe now people will stop talking about throwing snowballs at Santa Claus.

See you in the World Series Red Sox.

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