I'm already hearing a lot of people say that the Cardinals have been relegated to second class citizen status in the National League thanks to the Phillies swooping in from out of nowhere to sign Cliff Lee...
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I'm not going to deny the fact that it was a bold and splashy move. Their fan base has to positively be foaming at the mouth with excitement.
It's true, Philadelphia has the best looking rotation on paper since the Braves could throw Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz at opponents when they were all in their primes. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. The Cardinals don't have to beat the Phillies to get into the playoffs. They have to beat the Reds, Brewers, Cubs, Astros and Pirates. Until they complete that task -- which we all learned last season wasn't an easy one -- there is no need to worry about what the Phillies are doing.
But suppose that the Redbirds meet up with the Phillies in the National League playoffs. Then what? Well, if I was Tony La Russa, I'd say that I would have to like my chances.
Philadelphia has incredible depth with Lee, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and (at least for right now) Joe Blanton rounding out the rotation. But who goes five deep in the playoffs? Usually it's your best three ... Sometimes a fourth starter works into the mix... But usually it's the top three.
So, frankly, I would be more than willing to take my chances with some mutation of these match-ups (with the pitchers' record over the last three years in parenthesis):
Carpenter (33-14, 2.74) vs. Halladay (58-31, 2.67)
Wainwright (50-22, 2.68) vs. Lee (48-25, 2.98)
Westbrook (22-21, 4.14) vs. Oswalt (38-29, 3.44)
and possibly... Garcia (14-9, 2.96) vs. Hamels (36-32, 3.46)
I'm less perplexed by the fact that the Phillies have Cliff Lee than I am by the fact that they can afford him with a very similar revenue stream to the Cardinals.
How can Philadelphia afford to pay Ryan Howard and Lee $25 million a year, Oswalt $20 million per season, Roy Oswalt $16 million per year, Chase Utley $15 million a season, Brad Lidge and Raul Ibanez $11.5 million, Jimmy Rollins $8.5 million and Cole Hamels $9.5 million while the Cardinals supposedly can't afford to pay Albert Pujols market value while spending $17 million annually on Matt Holliday?