The Rotation

The Rotation by Jim Salisbury

Book: The Rotation by Jim Salisbury Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jim Salisbury
on the phone and exchanged countless emails and text messages with his agent, Darek Braunecker, over the past 120 hours, but remained agonizingly short of an agreement that would return Lee to Philadelphia to form one of the greatest rotations in baseball history. Proefrock, Montgomery, and other Phillies officials had been at Citizens Bank Park that Monday night for the annual Phillies Charities dinner when Proefrock returned to his office to talk to Braunecker on the phone. Braunecker was pissed. He had better offers on the table from the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers, but had kept them in limbo for days while he tried to finalize the last-minute, cloak-and-dagger negotiations with the Phillies, the team his client so badly wanted to join. And now, just inches from the goal line, the deal was falling apart over a few million dollars.
    Contracts crumble in baseball every day, but feelings had entered the equation as the two sides talked money, club options, and performance bonuses.
    This had become personal.
    â€œYou broke my heart once, Ruben,” Lee’s wife, Kristen, told Ruben Amaro Jr. in a conference call a day earlier. “Don’t break it again.”
    But on that Monday night in December, heartbreak hung in the air as Braunecker expressed his frustrations to Proefrock.
    â€œI can’t believe you’re going to allow this thing to slip through your fingers over a few million dollars!” he said. “We knew this would happen!”
    â€œLook, Darek,” Proefrock said calmly. “You’ve got two very competitive people and they’re each trying to play last hit. Don’t fly off the handle. It’s not going to help.”
    Montgomery listened as Proefrock tried to soothe the agent’s nerves. The two parties had painstakingly rebuilt their relationship following bad blood that developed when the Phillies traded Lee to Seattle in December 2009. Nobody wanted things to fall apart again. Not now. Not when they were so close to performing a baseball miracle.

    Proefrock hung up the phone. Montgomery sighed.
    The gravity of the situation had weighed on him. The Phillies were astoundingly close to bringing a fantasy rotation into the real world, and Montgomery knew he had the power to make it happen. He just had to say yes. But Montgomery, a Roxborough native who had risen from the ticket office to the club presidency, also had to think about the long-term viability of the franchise he had run since 1997. He had to consider the risks, which were considerable, of handing a 32-year-old pitcher a five-year contract worth $120 million. As his inner businessman weighed the wisdom of the deal, the lifelong Phillies fan inside him said: Do it. Make history happen.
    He looked at Proefrock.
    â€œI can feel the waves crashing over me,” he said with resignation.

    Clifton Phifer Lee—Clifton is his maternal grandfather’s name; Phifer is his mother’s maiden name—had made a fine Plan B.
    Ruben Amaro Jr. had doggedly pursued Roy Halladay for weeks, but as the July 31, 2009 trade deadline approached he could not part with Domonic Brown, Kyle Drabek, and other prospects to bring him to Philadelphia, when he could get Lee, who had won the American League Cy Young a year earlier, for considerably less. So instead of catching his Moby Dick, Amaro caught the next biggest fish in the ocean on July 29, when he sent prospects Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Jason Knapp to the Cleveland Indians for Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco.
    In a fairy-tale debut, Lee threw a complete game July 31 against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. He went 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA in his first five starts and 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts—including a complete game, 10-strikeout victory in Game 1 of the World Series against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium—to solidify his rock-star status in Philadelphia. Fans embraced Lee like they had Jim

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