As my colleague Glenn LaFollette pointed out yesterday, the Phillies have now assumed the role of the 13-year-old who's still in 4th grade, yet continues to dominate the daily recess kickball game—crushing the athletic hopes and dreams of every 10-year-old he bullies as he rounds the bases for his seventh home run of the day.
Adding a pitcher of Cliff Lee's caliber to a starting rotation that already consists of 2010 N.L. Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels, perennial Cy Young Award contender Roy Oswalt and Joe 'Something' is straight up ridiculous.
But who cares?
Baseball is the quintessential, win-it-on-the-field sport.
A 162-game regular season followed by the most unpredictable postseason in professional sports, baseball demands more from a 25-man roster than simply putting the best team on paper—by spending the most of it—and sailing to a championship.
As I've mentioned before, only once in the past 12 years—the 2009 New York Yankees—has the team with the best regular season record gone on to win the World Series in the same season.
I'm not saying that the Phillies shouldn't be the favorite to win it all, but I'd put my money on a team with less of a bulls-eye on its back and more of a chip on its shoulder.
Ya know, someone like the Atlanta Braves perhaps.
After all, it was the Braves who laid out the blueprint of how to be a successful regular season team that under-performs in the playoffs.
The projected 2011 Phillies pitching staff has been drawing comparisons to the rotations the Braves had in the mid-90s over the past 48 hours or so. And I wanted to go ahead and squash those comparisons right away.
The Phillies traded for already proven pitchers (Halladay and Oswalt) and threw a boatload of cash at another (Lee, $120 million to be exact).
The Braves built their dominant pitching staff with a little more grace than simply ordering the best players from a catalog.
Atlanta acquired Greg Maddux, a then 27-year-old ascending star, via free agency for a grand total of $28 million. Maddux went on to have the best years of his Hall of Fame career in a Braves uniform—winning three of his four Cy Young Awards.
John Smoltz was a 20-year-old prospect when the Braves traded for him in August of 1987. Smoltz went on to cement his Hall of Fame credentials in a Braves uniform as well.
And finally, Tom Glavine was drafted by the Braves and spent years in the Atlanta farm system before winning two Cy Youngs of his own.
Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine all earned their elite pitcher status while playing for the Braves. Atlanta didn't have to scour the free agent market and empty its bank account to sign guys who had already been successful with other teams.
Another interesting nugget: Lee's contract of $120 million is the fourth-highest ever paid to a starting pitcher. The two guys in front of him on that list are Mike Hampton ($121 million) and Bary Zito ($126 million).
How'd that work out for both of those guys? (Hint: not well)
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