The Philadelphia Phillies ended last season with a streak of 123 consecutive sellouts at Citizens Bank Park. If this week is any indication, the Phillies will have no problem at all racking up another 81 sellouts in 2011 and running their streak to 204.
The Phillies, the four-time defending National League East champions, shocked all of baseball Monday, December 13, when news leaked out that they were about to reunite with left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee, who was the clear-cut top player on the free agent market this winter.
The addition of Lee, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2008 before he helped the Phillies reach the World Series following a midseason trade from the Cleveland Indians in 2009, gives the Phillies one of the best quartet of starting pitchers in memory — reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, Lee, former 20-game winner Roy Oswalt and former National League Championship Series MVP Cole Hamels — and makes them the immediate favorite to return to the World Series.
The signing paid dividends for the Phillies before it was even official. On Tuesday, December 14 — a day before Lee signed his five-year deal worth a reported $120 million — the Phillies reportedly sold 15,000 tickets by shortly after noon.
Making the sales even more impressive is the fact the Phillies only have one ticket-buying option for fans — any of the five “six-packs” offered by the team. The Phillies have already sold out their season ticket allotment and won’t put single game tickets on sale until February 17.
Not surprisingly, the Lee signing was also good news for ticket brokers. “It’s extremely hot and heavy,” Jeremi Conaway of Wanamaker Ticket Office told TicketNews. “We’ve sold maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars in season tickets the last two days. It’s been really good.”
The swift pace of sales Tuesday ensures there will be a scarcity of tickets available once single game ducats go on sale. However, Phillies vice president of sales and ticket operations John Weber told the Philadelphia Inquirer the team will likely save up to 1,000 tickets for each game for single game sales.
“Going out and signing one of the top four pitchers in baseball people get excited for sure,” Conaway said. “With that rotation — Oswalt, Hamels, Lee and Halladay — every game’s a must-see.
“In hindsight, I should have bought a couple hundred more [season] tickets. But you never know.”
The Phillies were not even expected to be on the periphery of the Lee bidding after trading him to the Seattle Mariners last December, a mere four months and change after they acquired him from the Indians and less than two months after Lee earned the Phillies’ two wins in their six-game defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees in the World Series.
It was widely expected the Yankees would sign Lee, especially after they almost traded for him this July and then watched as he once again tormented them in the playoffs when he struck out 13 batters over eight brilliant innings in Game Three for the Texas Rangers during the American League Championship Series, which the Rangers won in six games.
But Lee chose the Phillies over the Yankees, who reportedly offered him a guaranteed $154 million — a six-year deal worth $138 million plus a player option for a seventh year that would have paid him $16 million. Of course, Lee will not have to worry about filling out financial aid paperwork for his children, or his grandchildren, or his great-grandchildren: The Phillies deal also includes a $27.5 million option for a sixth year in 2016 that will vest if he throws 200 innings in 2015 or 400 innings combined in 2014 and 2015. And if the option doesn’t vest? Lee still gets a cool $12.5 million buyout.