If there were any doubt about what a first-class operation the Phillies have become, the signing of Cliff Lee ends the argument.
As everyone now knows, Lee passed up about $30 million when he decided to join the Phillies instead of the New York Yankees. Free-agent athletes don't often shortchange their bank accounts deliberately.
But Lee, who pitched the Phils into the World Series in 2009, actually liked playing in Philly. After he pitched for the Texas Rangers this year, he and his family wanted to come back.
For Philadelphians, Lee's decision is less of a shock than it would have been 10 years ago. For New Yorkers, it is an inconceivable bubble-burster. They were counting on acquiring Lee to lead them to yet another championship. Instead, the Yankees got a Bronx cheer.
Phils' ace Roy Halladay came to Philadelphia last year for similar reasons. He could have obtained a longer contract with another team, but he wanted to play here.
Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr., manager Charlie Manuel, and their staffs have created a destination not only for fans, but for world-class players as well. Sellout crowds at Citizens Bank Park are the norm, and top players want to be part of the winning tradition.
The starting rotation now reads Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. Of course, the team did lose its rightfielder to the highest bidder a few weeks ago.