The first thing I thought about when I heard that Cliff Lee had signed with the Phillies was Strat-O-Matic. That’s normal, eh?
That’s because I go back to my Strat-O-Matic days every time I hear of instances where the baseball gods or merely an enthusiastic front office have conspired to put together a starting nine or a pitching staff that appears to be on paper something extraordinary and ranking among baseball’s historical best.
For me, the link to the tabletop game – now counting down to its 50th anniversary – gave sharp focus to the story because you could assemble that kind of group with your Strat-O-Matic cards and see what happened without all those pesky real-world concerns that typically upset this kind of grandiose daydreaming.
So the idea of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt for a starting rotation is mind boggling, even if they do play for the Phillies, for whom I have been constitutionally unable to champion since they bid adieu to Richie Allen in the 1960’s.
With Strat-O-Matic, you would have little to worry about as you designed a four-man rotation; with actual modern-day MLB clubs and the millions of dollars invested in our brethren, nobody is going to divide 162 starts four ways. Still, the idea of sending that quartet to the hill with such regularity must be quite the treat if your preferences don’t lean towards the Metropolitans just up the road, but the reality is likely to be at least somewhat different than the current Phillie Phantasy.
I suppose the more relevant speculation will be if they can come up with four 20-game winners, but even that is probably a long shot despite the amazing credentials of their starting four. When the Orioles pulled it off with their remarkable 1971 crew, Mike Cuellar had 40 starts, Jim Palmer and Pat Dobson had 37 each and Dave McNally somehow managed to pull it off with only 30 starts.
It’s the kind of thing where our big-time sports fetish about numbers means we heap adulation – quite properly – on that foursome, while yawning about another aggregation that might have three 20 gamers and one guy with 19.
Let’s Go Mets.