Cliff Lee Thinks Phillies Are Better Than New York Yankees: Why He’s Right

February 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

To make things plain and simple, Cliff Lee thinks that the Philadelphia Phillies are a more talented team than the New York Yankees, and after a moment’s thought, we realized he may be on to something.

To the disdain of Yankees fans who hoped they had heard the last of Lee, at least until the World Series in 2011 at the earliest, Lee made a scheduled guest appearance at the Philadelphia Auto Show on Wednesday, and as they usually do with all things Philadelphia sports, CrossingBroad had Lee’s appearance covered.

During the interview, the host asked Lee why, out of all of the teams in Major League Baseball, he chose to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Lee responded by telling the media the same story he’s told them all offseason: He liked playing in the National League, if the Phillies offered him a chance to pitch in Philadelphia again, he would take it, and most importantly, his family was happiest in the City of Brotherly Love.

That snippet wasn’t enough for the passionate Phillies fans in attendance, however. They wanted to know something a bit more specific—why he chose to spurn the Yankees and sign with Philadelphia.

In response to some chatter from the crowd in attendance, Lee jokingly made a bold statement: “The Yankees do not suck.” As many people already know, he quickly pointed to the fact that the Yankees have more World Series titles than any other team in the history of major league baseball, and not by a slim margin.

After dispelling the popular thought earlier in the offseason that a rowdy fan spitting on his wife in Yankee Stadium played a part in his choosing Philadelphia, Lee made a rather bold prediction of his own, saying, “I think this is a better team than the Yankees. I think the Yankees are always going to be a very good team, but at this point in time, I feel like the Phillies are the better team.”

Ouch. As if signing with the Phillies wasn’t a dagger in the heart of the Yankees fanbase already, he just had to twist that blade a little further.

But is it true? Have the Phillies done enough over the course of the past few seasons to push them past the Yankees in baseball’s power rankings?

A position-by-position analysis would give us a good idea of just how good these teams really are, but it would be very close. Without delving too far into the statistical debate, it’s fairly obvious to see that offensively, the Phillies and the Yankees both have some players that would come out on top, as well as a ton of question marks that make this a tough call.

For instance, if you were drafting a team and could only choose players from the Phillies and Yankees, you’d be debating with yourself for a long while. Carlos Ruiz would probably go unanimously first at catcher, but outside of that, where are the obvious choices?

Are Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco significantly better or worse than the infield of Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez? Each of those players has significant question marks, and some have an air of uncertainty surrounding their level of production next season.

The outfield shapes up in much of the same way. The Yankees have a slight edge with their trio of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher, but if Domonic Brown lives up to his potential in the major leagues, you may have to swing the outfield in favor of the Phillies, who already feature quality major league sluggers Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino.

Offensively, there is no clear-cut favorite. In the long run, it may just be Lee’s decision that makes the Phillies the overall better team.

Looking at each team’s bullpen, the Yankees come out on top. As of right now, their setup man/closer combination of Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera is practically unrivaled.

With that being said, however, are Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge all too far behind?

Absolutely not. Over the final two-plus months of the season, the Phillies closer was practically untouchable, registering an ERA of just 0.76. Madson was just as good, and for longer, and entering a contract year, he may be prepared for the best season of his career.

With Lee’s addition, it is the starting rotation that gives the Phillies the overall advantage. With all that has been made of the rotation in Philadelphia, I don’t think that much needs to be said about that. In short, a rotation of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova/Freddy Garcia/Bartolo Colon could not come close to matching the Phillies rotation of Roy Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton.

In this regard, the Phillies are an overwhelming favorite.

In a short series like the World Series, that could be all that matters. Even if the Phillies and Yankees were to meet in the World Series and the Yankees offense entered with the edge, think about this. Which four starters would you be more comfortable with given the task of shutting down a tough offense: Sabathia/Burnett/Hughes/Flavor-of-the-Day or Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Hamels? I’m pretty sure we’re on the same page here.

While it may not be as apparent as he made it sound, Lee is certainly right. With this rotation that’s shaping up here in Philadelphia and a complementary offense that’s set to rebound, the biggest question mark is a bullpen that was remarkably good over the final months of the season.

If anyone agrees with Lee, it’s the odds in Vegas—the Phillies and Boston Red Sox have been the favorites ever since Lee signed.

Let’s not forget, the Phillies’ last player to make a bold prediction was Jimmy Rollins following the 2007 season, when he told the media that he thought the Phillies were “the team to beat in the NL East.”

All in all, the 2011 season is shaping up to be an unforgettable year in Philadelphia, and the Yankees may not even come close.

Right on, Mr. Lee. Right on.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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