After hearing about Cliff Lee duping the entire world, forgoing destinations like Texas and New York and returning back to Philadelphia, I can’t help but find the similarities between this free agent signing and Lebron James. I’m not trying to say that Lee pulled something like “The Decision.” I am trying to say that what Lee did was find some running mates to help get him to the top. Most people seem to think that this is the route traveled by spineless men. Some of the most popular condemnations I have heard of LeBron center around the idea that he couldn’t get it done on his own. That he was afraid of taking on the challenge by himself. This is absurd. Any smart person, be it a professional athlete or a successful business leader, knows that to reach the highest levels of success, they must surround themselves with the best team.
Colin Cowherd expressed this very belief on his radio show this morning as I drove to work. He spoke about how what Lee wanted was to surround himself with winners. I can’t agree more. As a coach, I do the same thing. I establish a staff of assistants that I consider to be the best at what they do. To think that someone must go it alone, or carry the team on his own back to a championship screams insecurity. It is also one of the most audacious claims I have ever heard. As a matter of fact, it denies the very theory of team, of bringing together a group of individuals who can count on one another to get things done. Why should we expect a team to rely on just one person the whole way?
But the Rangers have guys like Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, and Neftali Feliz. How is this not surrounding yourself with a high caliber team? A fair point, but here is my rebuttal. Is there any player on that roster that has a history of making it deep into the playoffs year in and year out? Do those guys have a history of winning titles? One year is not enough to answer yes to those questions. Phila, on the other hand, does have that pedigree. Jimmy Rollins. Ryan Howard. Chase Utley. Shane Victorino. Brad Lidge. All of these guys have proven that they can win a World Series and get back to the World Series. And as a matter of fact, they have shown off this pedigree as much as any other team in the last decade. Again, true winners understand the concept of surrounding yourself with other proven winners; the Texas Rangers just aren’t made up of those guys yet.
And what about the financial uncertainties of the Rangers? Sure, they have new ownership that has people believing that they can spend with the big boys. Sure, Dallas is a large market. But none of this has withstood the test of time yet. It has yet to be proven that Dallas attracts big free agents. It has yet to be proven that this new ownership will spend vast amounts of money needed to bring in big time guys. And when you are talking about a man committing his services for the next half-decade (which will probably be the final part of Lee’s prime considering that he turns 33 this summer) there is no logical reason to commit to uncertainty. Lee has nothing left to prove as a pitcher (individual), all he has left to do is win. Winning is done with a team. It is done with a team of proven winners.
Over at the Royals Review, Will McDonald claims that by signing with the Philadelphia Phillies, Cliff Lee has destroyed his legacy. This is as harebrained of an opinion as I can imagine. This was the same knock on LeBron. It is laughable for a person to claim that by surrounding yourself with winners, you are doing yourself some sort of injustice. Dan Marino was never surrounded with great athletes for teammates and what is his one knock? Never winning the big one. So to say that Lee, a pitcher who has won a Cy Young and turned fringe contenders for playoff spots into World Series participants, is destroying his legacy is just wrong. He has shown year in and year out that on his own he is a great pitcher. But no single player wins a title. A team wins a title. Just ask anyone from the San Francisco Giants. And I am not even going to mention the fact that Lee turned down both guaranteed years and money. That is just icing on the proverbial cake. So as 50 Cent once said, I will say to Cliff Lee (and LeBron): “Go ahead and switch the style up/and if they hate then let ‘em hate and watch the money (in this case rings) pile up.”