Cliff-hanger to remember

Six weeks. That’s how long it has been since the Phillies did the unthinkable. Six weeks ago today, they gift-wrapped a postseason hero named Cliff Lee and express-mailed him to Seattle.

Why am I bringing up something this painful again? Because the fans won’t let me drop it.

Because no issue has haunted the recent sports scene, including the Eagles’ meltdown, more than this incredible lapse in sanity by our most popular team.

The wounds opened again last week when baseball writer Jim Salisbury of had the foresight to phone Charlie Manuel during the manager’s annual drive up the coast from his offseason home in Florida. Manuel is the ultimate team guy, but even he couldn’t explain the thinking behind the deal, which happened just hours after the Phils had acquired ace Roy Halladay.

So why did Ruben Amaro, Jr. talk himself into such a lopsided trade? He has explained it many times, and it still makes no sense.

Money? At $9 million in the last year of his contract, Lee is one of the biggest bargains in baseball.

Heck, the Phils will be paying Joe Blanton $7 million next year and Jamie Moyer $6.5 million. Lee will easily record more wins than both of them combined.

Young talent? The Phils got three prospects not even ranked among the top five in the Seattle system. With Lee at a bargain salary, shouldn’t the Phillies at least have gotten the best young kids from the Mariners? And wouldn’t the Phillies have received two top draft picks as compensation when a new team signed him as a free agent after the 2010 season?

Ireached a milestone at WIP last week, 20 years of sports radio in the same morning time slot at the same station, and so I feel more qualified than ever to make these bold predictions:

1. We will be talking about the Lee trade all season, and we will not be saying nice things.

2. If the Phillies do not win the World Series in 2010, the Lee deal will be the biggest reason for another near-miss.

3. The Cliff Lee trade to Seattle will go down as the worst move in Phillies’ history, and one of the worst in baseball history.

Six weeks of pain and confusion is just the beginning, I’m afraid. The name Cliff Lee is going to bring a pang of regret to every Phillies fan for a very long time.

– Angelo Cataldi is a Metro columnist and host of WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays from 5:30-10 a.m.

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