Going back to Philly: Cliff Lee chooses Phillies over Yankees and Rangers

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Wow. In one of the most surprising free agent signings in a long time, Cliff Lee has turned down longer, more lucrative offers from both the Yankees and Rangers to return to the Phillies.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Lee’s deal is worth approximately $100 million for five seasons. Obviously that’s far from chump change, especially if reports about a vesting sixth-year option are accurate, but it’s significantly less than the Yankees’ reported final offer of as much as $154 million over seven years.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has a policy against speaking about free agent negotiations and somehow managed to remain under the radar until tonight, when rumors began swirling that the Phillies were the “mystery team” Jon Heyman of SI.com had been speculating about without knowing (or at least revealing) their identity.

Sure enough, Amaro swooped in and now Lee re-joins a pitching staff with fellow aces Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels for what has a chance to be one of the best rotations of all time.

Lee spent a half-season with the Phillies in 2009, going 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 regular season starts and dominating in five playoff outings as the team fell to the Yankees in the World Series. He was under contract for another season, but Amaro traded him to the Mariners for prospects last December 16 and filled his spot atop the rotation with Halladay.

Lee repeatedly spoke about enjoying his time in Philadelphia, but with the Phillies seemingly having little payroll room to get into a bidding war for him after adding Oswalt’s hefty contract at midseason the Yankees and Rangers emerged as the presumed favorites. Turns out, Amaro was doing his work without leaking any information to the media and Lee was shockingly willing to leave as much as $50 million on the table to return to Philadelphia.

The Red Sox AL East championship banner fell off a truck and is being held hostage

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The Red Sox haven’t won the AL East just yet. They will. For them not to, they’ll have to lose the rest of their games while the Yankees win the rest of theirs. It’s just a matter of time.

Knowing this, the club can plan some things in advance. The can begin postseason ticket sales, for example. They can decide what sort of festivities they will undertake for the first game of the ALDS that is guaranteed to begin at Fenway Park. They also, of course, can raise a banner for the division championship.

There’s only one problem with that: the banner, already printed up, fell off the dang truck that was delivering it and is being held hostage by a guy named Louie Iacuzzi from Malden. From the Boston Globe:

Iacuzzi said Wednesday by phone that he and his buddies spotted an object wrapped up on McGrath Highway in Somerville Monday morning. So he pulled over and crossed multiple lanes of busy traffic to retrieve it. Inside was a massive banner that read “ ‘2018 American League East Champions’; it’s the banner,” Iacuzzi said.

One can presume that Iacuzzi is a big Sox fan so he’s willing to do the right thing without hesitation, right? Well . . . kinda:

“We want to return it, we’re trying to do the right thing, but I’m not just going to hand it to them, know what I mean?” Iacuzzi said.

Asked if he wanted cash from the Red Sox, he said, “Yes, financial [compensation], maybe some tickets, we want something. We don’t know what we want. We want to return it, 100 percent, but we would like to get something.”

Iacuzzi didn’t have a specific asking price in mind as of Wednesday morning.

“We want to find out what the thing’s worth,” he said. “We don’t know.”

You have to click through to the Globe story to check out Iacuzzi and his friends. You also have to hear what his dad told him to do with the banner. Frankly, his dad sounds like my dad, and I’m not entirely sure that’s a compliment to anyone involved.

What’ll the Red Sox clinch first? The AL East or the return of their property? And will the movie version of this be more like “The Town,” “Celtic Pride” or “The Friends of Eddie Coyle?”

UPDATE: Oh man, there’s video: