Christmas came early for the city of Philadelphia when LHP Cliff Lee agreed to a 5-year, $120 million dollar contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, virtually enabling Lee to finish out the remainder of his career with Philadelphia. For a majority of the time leading up to Lee’s signing, the Phillies were not considered a front-runner for the “catch” of the off-season. In the end though, Philadelphia got its man, Lee left millions of dollars from the Yankees on the table, and the city of Philadelphia drooled over thoughts of a rotation that will soon be considered amongst the best that have ever existed.
Although baffling to some, this decision came as no shock to me. Lee wants to be a winner. He wants a ring. This is part of the reason he has chosen the Phillies. But this unstoppable, lineup-crushing pitching rotation is not the only reason he thinks his next World Series appearance will be a successful one. Having been a Phillies fan my entire life, I can tell you there are some perks to playing at Citizen’s Bank Park other than the talent that surrounds you.
As a Phillies fan, I have witnessed first-hand the sheer power of this Philadelphia crowd to power their team through an inning, game, and even a playoff series. Their support is as unending as the sea of white towels that fly every game. As of the end of the 2010 regular MLB season the Philadelphia Phillies have sold out 123 consecutive home games, and if Cliff Lee starts the season home opener, it will be 124. Signing with the Phillies allows Lee an unending supply of pats-on-the-back, and a man with confidence is a man who wins ball games.
This Phillies team has players like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins that have been playing together for many years, and during his time with the Phillies in 2009, Lee formed a bond with his teammates that has drawn him right back to where he started. Sitting in the stands of a Phillies game, I can tell you I’ve never seen more laughs from a dugout than the Phillies have from theirs. Creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and friendship does more toward the efforts of a World Series victory than any ace that comes their way.
I’m betting the 2011 baseball season will most likely be remembered by many as the season that the Hamels-Halladay-Oswalt-Lee rotation hurled their way into the history books, but the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies World Series victory will be owed to more than just a couple of backdoor sliders. The Phillies success in 2011 will come from this winning atmosphere that the Phillies seem to carry with them everywhere, an atmosphere that the best pitchers in baseball can’t seem to refuse.