Cliff Lee Is Back
Here is the transcipt of the Cliff Lee news conference, courtesy of the Phillies:
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: Good afternoon and thanks for coming. I got another one of those best kept secrets. We’re obviously very pleased to have Cliff Lee back in the fold, to officially announce that Cliff is now joining us for five years with an opening for a sixth year. We’re pleased to have him back in the Phillies uniform and family. Cliff, congratulations and welcome back.
CLIFF LEE: Thank you. It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for me. It’s been a fun ride. This off season has been full of unknowns. It feels great to land back here in Philadelphia. I want to thank my agent and Ruben for working it out, my wife and kids for supporting me through all this, helping me with this decision. Here I am. I never wanted to leave this place in the first place. To get an opportunity to come back and be part of this team and this pitching rotation is going to be something that is historic, I believe. Can’t wait to get to spring training and get this thing going.
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: Before we open it up for questions, let me say a couple words here quick. To echo some of the things that Cliff said. I want to thank Darek Braunecker and welcome obviously Kristen back. Great to have you back. Darek, his wife Shelly. It was a tremendous effort on not just the Lee’s part, I don’t typically talk about the agents very much, but the relationship that Darek and Scott forged over the start of this process, even before that, played a huge role in this. I want to thank the Lees for accepting us back and obviously Darek, who had a huge part in this, as well.
Q. Ruben, when you had to trade away Cliff, I think it’s last year almost to the day, did you ever in the back of your mind say, You know what, I’m going to keep this open if there’s a shot at getting him back? For Cliff, I know you’ve texted teammates saying, I want to come back. Is this really where you’ve been the most comfortable and where your heart was
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: I’ll go first and tell you yes, actually. Fact of the matter is we all know what kind of impact Cliff had for us. He was extraordinary for us. We had an opportunity to do some different things and to acquire one of the best pitchers in baseball and keep him in our system for a long time. Frankly, did I want to move him? No. But I’m certainly pleased we had the opportunity to get him back.
CLIFF LEE: What was the question for me again (smiling)?
Q. You’ve texted some of your teammates since you left here about wanting to come back. Is this where you were most comfortable and is this where your heart is?
CLIFF LEE: I think for me to be here kind of says enough. I mean, I never held any grudges for being traded. I understand it’s a business and things like that happen. But from the moment I got here, from the first day, I knew it was something that was special, something that I enjoyed. You know, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get another opportunity to come back or not. The way things played out, I got that opportunity and here I am. When you sit back and evaluate your options, you get a chance to pitch in this rotation, with Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, I mean, that’s all I needed to see right there. Give me a real option to do that, that’s it. That was the main thing, getting a chance to be part of that rotation with this team and what they’ve kind of established in the NL East, being the leader there. With this team, it was kind of a no brainer for me.
Q. Cliff, the Yankees obviously offered you a nice deal, the Rangers. At any time in this process did you tell Darek, Try to get something done with the Phillies, make this happen, this is where I want to go?
CLIFF LEE: Obviously since I’m here, there was some point in the process where I decided to tell the Phillies, Let’s make something happen. But, you know, there were a lot of variables, a lot of things going on there. Obviously, I enjoyed my time in Texas. We had a really good team. We made it to the World Series. That says enough for that team. It’s tough. Sometimes making these kind of decisions are tough. But when you get your family involved, let them tell you how they feel about it, you weigh the pros and cons of everything, kind of sit back and look at it from a distance, let some time expire, you weigh all your options. For me it became an easy decision with this pitching staff and with this team and what they’ve done over the past few years. Getting a chance to play in the National League, I prefer the National League over the American League style. I like to hit. I enjoy hitting. I like to face the pitcher versus the designated hitter. There’s definitely an advantage to that. It’s just a good team. It’s a good environment. They sell out every game here. It’s a good group of guys. It’s a close knit group. That’s what you want to be a part of. It’s going to be a special team. None of that is going to be given to us. We still have to go out there and earn it. I think with what we’ve got on paper and with the personalities that are around, the guys on this team, good things are going to happen.
Q. I know things are very positive being here, there’s a lot of good things you’re looking forward to. Maybe this has been on your radar all along. What happened a little bit with your family in New York, not so much a one to one, but…
CLIFF LEE: Let me clarify that thing. That was way overblown. No one came up to my wife and spit on her. You go to any stadium, fans start cheering, especially in the post season, fans are going to say something, they’re going to do things like that. That story was way overblown, it was false, and had zero to do with anything. Hopefully we can put that behind us because it was a non issue.
Q. On the positive side, some folks have talked about the phrase ‘leaving money on the table.’ In a way, your contract ends here where you could sign another deal. Is that an accurate statement that you left money on the table because it’s a very good contract here as well?
CLIFF LEE: I guess I did. I mean, I could potentially earn this is a shorter term, so whatever. It’s plenty of money. When you hit a certain point, enough is enough. It’s a matter of where you’re comfortable, where you’re happy, where your family is most comfortable, what team gives you the best chance to win. At this point it’s about trying to win championships. That’s really the number one thing for me. I think that team gives me the best chance to do that. That’s really it.
Q. Ruben, obviously you said that you wanted to keep Cliff, Cliff said he wanted to stay here. Why couldn’t you have offered this contract last year, because it sounds like Cliff would have taken it? Cliff, the expectations in this town are to win a World Series. I want to know how you feel about that. It’s World Series win or bust.
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: I guess people continue to feel that the reason why we traded him was because of a money issue. It was not. We did have a preliminary discussion prior to Cliff being moved. At that time, at the very least, we didn’t feel we were comfortable we were going to be able to keep him. That was a very short lived piece of the deal. We had an opportunity to acquire a player that we had a little bit more leverage over, so to speak. And for us it was always about trying to make sure that we could extend our opportunities to have a championship caliber club and to, indeed, keep some talent into our system. As I said, I was not comfortable with how things had gone in the early part of the negotiations. But for me, it gave us an opportunity to get Roy Halladay on our club, gave us an opportunity to bring Roy Oswalt to our club and this gentleman back to our club. Ultimately that is what puts us in a position where we are today.
Q. (No microphone.)
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: We just didn’t feel comfortable at the time.
Q. (Question regarding expectations of winning a World Series.)
CLIFF LEE: That’s perfect. I think every player going into spring training should have those expectations. That should be every team in baseball, in my opinion. That’s what I expect. I mean, I’ve been close the past two years and haven’t got a ring. That’s what it’s all about. I think this team is more than capable of doing that. That’s what I expect. That’s what everyone on this team should expect. I don’t see it any other way. I don’t see why you would think of it any other way. That’s the ultimate goal. Like I said, that should be every team’s ultimate goal. That’s the nature of this game.
Q. Cliff, you obviously left a big impact in a very short period of time on the fan base here, the people in Philadelphia. Did you continue to hear stories about the fact that they were frustrated you didn’t get to stay? How much did the relationship you forged with this city in a short period of time play a part? Who were other people that played a part in making the decision for you to come back?
CLIFF LEE: I heard stories. Being in Arkansas, you hear stories about what goes on in Philadelphia, you don’t know what’s true and accurate. I’m not the guy that gets on the Internet and checks and sees what the fans are saying about me being gone. Once I was gone, I put it behind me. I was a Mariner at that point. I started focusing on being a Seattle Mariner. But obviously I was disappointed. I enjoyed it here and loved it here. Like I said before, those things happen. The people that had an impact on my decision were my family, my wife, my kids, my agent, and me. I mean, that was really it. There wasn’t really a whole lot of people that had that much input on it. It was just a small group of people. We decided this is where we were going to be the happiest and give us the best chance to win.
Q. Cliff, we’ve been hearing Rangers, Yankees for so long. At the end the Phillies come in and get this done. Was there a point in time where you were deciding between just those two teams or were the Phillies in it all along?
CLIFF LEE: Going into the off season, I wasn’t sure how serious the Phillies were going to be. I really didn’t know. So I guess there was a point in time where it was just, in my mind, the Rangers and the Yankees. This kind of developed just in the past four, five, six days I think. I mean, there were some preliminary talks and stuff, but nothing really serious up until just the end of last week. It kind of came together pretty quick. In the back of my mind, I was always hoping that was a possibility. I didn’t know how serious and how much of a possibility it was.
Q. Ruben, given baseball’s business nature, getting Roy Halladay last year, the length of his contract, the amount, was he consulted in any way? For you, Cliff, all year were you thinking in the back of your mind, if The Phillies come after me, that’s the place I’d like to be?
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: Kind of glad that you asked that question. I did end up talking to Roy before we ended up moving forward. We went out of our element a little bit here. It’s something that, frankly, when you get into this realm of years and dollars, it gets a little (indiscernible). But I think this is a special circumstance. We put ourselves in a position with the staff that we had already kind of assembled to be able to add to it in this way, that they could make it pretty special. We felt that with his physical condition, I guess the nature of the marketplace, that this was the right thing for us to do ultimately. It was not an easy decision to get here. It took a lot of poking and prodding and introspection. But at the end of the day, I think we felt this was going to be the right thing for the organization and hopefully the right thing for Cliff and his family.
CLIFF LEE: Something like that. I know I really enjoyed it here. I know that getting to watch this team from afar, with the addition of Roy Halladay and Oswalt, Polanco, I mean, this team got better after I left. I felt like if I could be a part of that, it would make this team that much better. It was definitely something that I felt like if I got an opportunity and it was a fair opportunity that I would capitalize on it, for sure.
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: I could take you through a little bit of the chronology. Shortly after the World Series, I guess Darek and Scott had some dialogue about kind of keeping things alive in some way, shape or form. As far as getting deep in this, there were ebbs and flows, as what happens in many negotiations where at some points during the course of that short period where we were really kind of into it, we thought the deal was dead. It was really Kristen and Cliff and Darek coming back to us and saying, Listen, this is the place we want to be. That kind of got us over the hump, so to speak. They really, truly expressed to us I think this is the place they wanted to be, and that helped things move forward for us.
Q. Cliff, if the Phillies hadn’t come along in the last week, where do you think you would be?
CLIFF LEE: There’s no way to really know that. I don’t really know. You can ‘if’ and ‘but’. The fact of the matter is I’m here, I’m a Philly. I’m not going to look back, second guess anything, what if this, what if that. I’m here. I’m happy to be here. I’m excited and anxious to get this thing going. I’m not going to look at it any other way.
Q. Ruben, you talked about going out of your element to get this done. How much of the reason you were able to do it is because you have a personal knowledge and comfort level with Cliff that you just cannot typically have with a typical free agent?
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: I think part of that is that. But really for me we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have the fans supporting us the way they supported us. It’s really plain and simple: we don’t sell out games, we don’t give ourselves a chance to be even in this stratosphere. The support we’ve gotten with our fans, the support I’ve gotten from David and our ownership group to be able to kind of go past where we would typically comfortable doing, I mean, and the fact that this can put together a pretty darn special rotation, I think those are the kind of things that pushed things forward for us.
Q. Cliff, when you were evaluating the Yankees’ offer, was there something that gave you reservations about playing or living in New York to wait to see if the Phillies would get involved?
CLIFF LEE: No. More than anything, I wanted to make sure that I had every option in front of me before I made a decision. I didn’t want to rush into anything. Once the Phillies got involved and I could tell that it was serious, it really could happen, it was a relatively easy decision to make, so… There wasn’t anything that scared me away from New York. I wasn’t scared to play there. I wasn’t any of that. It was just I wanted to have all my options in front of me. Once the Phillies were there, it was relatively close to everything, it was a no brainer for me.
Q. Ruben, a lot of people have wondered about your budget and everything off season, how much flexibility you had and such. How much more did you go beyond the call to get this done? What kind of flexibility do you have here fulfilling other needs on this team?
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: Well, I’ll answer the second part first. We’re no longer flexible (laughter). We’ve reached our flex point. But, again, after having talked internally, and obviously with David, this was a special circumstance. Frankly, I don’t want to speak too much to this. When you talk about checks and balances, for us it’s the absolutely right thing to do. If your strictly talking business, it may not. This is too important to the organization and I think it was too important to the present and future of our franchise not to go forward and do it.
Q. Ruben, if Jayson Werth takes your offer, are you able to make this signing? Cliff, you were friendly with Jayson. Have you spoken to him in the last few days about the kind of ironic way this has worked out?
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: I would probably say that I don’t think I’ve been smart enough to be able to do both things. At the same time, you know, we did have discussions about this internally with our scouts, the baseball people. Frankly, I don’t say this to slight our former rightfielder, but I think to a man we felt like this would have much more of an impact on our club moving forward because frankly I believe in pitching and defense winning championships. We’ve seen it over the last several years, that’s what wins World Series. If it comes down to a choice, frankly I’m pleased with the one we made.
Q. Cliff, you have been in a few cities in a short amount of time. What is it about the city here, Philadelphia, maybe not so much the team, but the city itself, that brought you back?
CLIFF LEE: I think the how do you put it intensity that you can feel when you get in the game. You can feel the volume. Every game has got an elevated feel to it compared to everywhere else. It’s completely different. I don’t know what the fans do to create that much more volume and excitement in the stadium, but it’s definitely something extra here. I don’t know what it is, but it’s something they’re doing. They get excited. They’re passionate fans. They understand what’s going on. They don’t need a teleprompter to tell them to get up and cheer, to do that. No, it’s exciting. It’s an historic town. I didn’t realize until I got here how interesting the city is. My family really liked it. I mean, that played a big part in it. Yeah, you know, the feeling of playing on the field feels different than anywhere else. I don’t know how to explain it other than you can feel the volume that’s created by the fans and their intensity.
Q. Cliff, most of us never know the life of a baseball player. How daunting to be able to settle down in one place, and what is it like having that task ahead of you, moving everybody up here, finally sort of unpacking?
CLIFF LEE: It’s a good feeling to know you’re settled, be in one spot for a while after bouncing around for a little bit. That’s what we were trying to do today, find a place where to settle. That’s going to be fun in itself, too. Finding a place, figuring out where to be. Obviously, I know we’re going to be here for five years. We have to make that decision about where we’re going to stay. That’s fun in itself. It’s part of the process. But I’m definitely glad that I know that this is it. Hopefully this is where I end my career. It’s no more getting traded and getting traded again and getting traded again. I enjoyed that, too. It was great to get to experience different organizations, how they go about things, play with different players in the world from Victor Martinez and C.C. in Cleveland, and to here with Utley and Howard, to Seattle with Ichiro and Felix Hernandez, and then Texas with Josh Hamilton, Mike Young, Vladimir Guerrero. I got an opportunity to play with the best players in the world. Now I get a chance to come back to the place that I felt like was the right fit for us. It’s been a fun ride, but I ended up back here. I’m looking forward to it. I think we’re going to do a lot of really good things here. I’m excited about it.
Q. Ruben, you mentioned the flexibility. Last week at the Winter Meetings you said you had conversations with Chad. Is that door closed now? Is the door closed for being out and getting another right handed bat?
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: I’ll never say ‘closed.’ Probably open it with a tooth pick. But we have to keep our eyes and ears open. But I would say I’m pretty comfortable, very comfortable, with the club going into spring training.
Q. Cliff, did you talk to Jayson at all?
CLIFF LEE: Yeah. I don’t know if I can say exactly how that conversation went down here, to be honest with you. I know once we both got on the free agent market, we talked about trying to get on the same team. Obviously when he signed with the Nationals and I signed here, it didn’t happen. When he found out I was coming here, he wasn’t the happiest person in the world. I’ll put it that way (smiling).
Q. Ruben, the flex point, you committed $300 million to three guys in Cliff, Ryan and Roy Halladay. Next year you have some decisions to make. Do you have the ability still to take care of business later on next year?
RUBEN AMARO, JR.: Yeah, that’s a great question. That’s one of the boxes you kind of put yourself into. Now you have to make choices. But I think it was one of the important elements of this. We felt again, starting pitching, I don’t know if there’s a more important element of the game. We felt if we were going to be stable in one area, try to work around that, that starting pitcher would be the thing. I think we put ourselves in a position to have as good a rotation as there is in the game. So for our long term success at the Major League level, we felt like this was the right thing to do.