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Cliff Lee to the Phillies Puts Them Into Greatest Rotation of All Time Conversation

The Philadelphia Phillies have been one of the best teams in baseball over the past three seasons, reaching the NLCS three times, the World Series twice, and putting on one big fat ring.

This past season they were the favorites to emerge from the National League for the third straight year, but ran into a destined Giants team that dominated them from a pitching standpoint. The Giants had a very mediocre offense, but their superb pitching was able to get them over the hump. The Phillies clearly took note.

With the addition of Cliff Lee to a staff that already includes Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, Philadelphia has now constructed a pitching staff that is better than San Francisco. It is crazy good. One NL GM summed it up pretty simply: “Oh … my … God.”

He is obviously not looking forward to a four-game series in which he will have to face these four aces on back-to-back-to-back-to-back nights. I don’t blame him. The Phillies essentially chose to pay Cliff Lee rather than Jayson Werth. In a post-steroid era, one which has seen pitching regain its prominence, their decision seems like a wise investment.

The Phillies know that winning leads to ticket sales and ticket sales lead to revenue. By signing Cliff Lee to pitch alongside their other aces, they will ensure that they compete every year thus ensuring fans walk through the gates on a nightly basis. Philadelphia is not a small market by any means; their new stadium, Citizens Bank Park, is among the nicest in baseball and fans are excited to go see a game, especially when they win. The team has developed into one of the big boys, one with the big checkbooks and they are not afraid to push their weight around. Think of them like the Mets, only with intelligent baseball personnel who have a slight idea what they are doing.

Not only does the addition of Cliff Lee give the Phillies the best rotation heading into the 2011 season, but also puts them into the conversation of greatest rotation of all time. Leo Mazzone, the pitching coach behind the Braves dominant pitching threesome of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, had some kind words for the “Phour Horsemen.”

“I think it can be as good as anybody’s rotation in the history of the game. There’s not a better staff in major league baseball than that staff. I know the Giants can run three guys at you that are pretty damned good, and the No. 4 [Madison Bumgarner] is going to be real good, too. … But I really feel like, ability-wise, these four guys in Philly could match up with anybody in the history of the game.”

It is pretty rare when on any given night a pitcher can go out there and single-handedly win a game, but all four Philly aces are capable. All four had ERAs of 3.18 or lower last year. They had WHIPs of 1.041, 1.179, 1.025. 1.003. Two of them have won Cy Young awards, two of them have won NLCS MVP awards and one has won a World Series MVP. However their most impressive stat has to be: 20-8, their collective record in the postseason. If they continue that trend they will be popping champagne come next October.


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