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The Decision 2.0: Valuable Business Tips from Cliff Lee

“It’s plenty of money. When you hit a certain point, enough’s enough. It’s just a matter of where you’re comfortable, where you’re happy, where your family’s the most comfortable, what team gives you the best chance to win. At this point, it’s about trying to win championships. That’s really the No. 1 thing for me. I think this team gives me the best chance to do that. That’s really it.” – Cliff Lee, 12/15/2010

Earlier this week, baseball’s most sought after free agent pitcher, Cliff Lee, signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. All the speculation was that he would go with either the New York Yankees (who offered him a deal worth $150 million) or the Texas Rangers. Instead, Lee accepted a $120 million deal that will keep him in Philly for the next five years. “It feels great to land back here in Philadelphia,” Lee said at a news conference at Citizens Bank Park.

Lee pitched for the Phillies during the second half of the 2008-09 season, leading them to the World Series, where they would ultimately lose to the Yankees. After the ’09 postseason ended, the Phillies decided they would not re-sign Lee. He was shocked and saddened, almost in tears when he appeared on TV a day later. Philadelphia fans were upset as well. Lee was beloved by the fan base from the moment he arrived. Not only was he a workhorse on the mound, but he had a good personality, no-nonsense attitude, and an unquestionable desire to win. Even though the Phillies would sign Roy Halladay (arguably baseball’s best pitcher) later in the offseason, fans still mourned the loss of Lee… until Monday night.

The Phillies seemed to come out of nowhere in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, but that might not have been the case. At the news conference on Wednesday, Lee said, “I never wanted to leave here in the first place.” For me, Lee’s signing with the Phillies reinforced two valuable business concepts. They are:

Relationships mean everything (It’s not all about the money).

One of the biggest reasons Cliff Lee returned to Philadelphia was because of the positive relationships he developed here in 2009. In his half season with the Phillies, Lee formed a close bond with a lot of the players, coaches, and Phillies staff, many of whom were unhappy with Lee’s departure. They wanted him back as much as he wanted to be back. Lee also developed a great relationship with Philadelphia fans. When Lee nonchalantly caught a sky-high pop up during Game 1 of the World Series, the entire stadium (and Phillies fans around the world) erupted with joy. Lee has a swagger Philadelphians love. And he’s a winner. Fans have always wanted Lee to be a part of this staff, and you’ll see that this year when he pitches. Finally, this year during the playoffs, Lee was vocal about the fact that Yankees fans harassed and spit on his wife. Even though Lee says the incident had no impact on his decision, who would want to pitch in front of fans who once showed hatred towards him and his family?

All of these factored into Lee’s decision to come back to Philadelphia and reinforce a valuable aspect of business. Relationships mean a lot. People want to do business and work with others they get along with and trust. That’s why developing a sound network is so important. Even though Lee was offered $30 million more by the Yankees, his positive relationships with the Phillies organization and fans, mixed with his negative relationship with Yankees fans, led him to do business with the Phils. Similarly, any business deal can be affected by positive and negative relationships. People like doing business with friends.

Surround yourself with people and situations that allow you to thrive.

Another major reason Cliff Lee returned to Philly was because of the starting rotation the team had already assembled. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels are all high-quality pitchers. By adding himself into the rotation, Lee was giving the Phillies one of the best starting rotations of all time. Who wouldn’t want to pitch with other great pitchers, who in turn give him the best chance to win? Who wouldn’t want some of the pressure taken off of them if they could? Also, by pitching in Philadelphia as opposed to New York, Lee would be playing in front of a crowd that already was in love with him, as opposed to a crowd he’d already had some negative experiences with. More than that, even, he’d be pitching for baseball’s most elite team in baseball’s biggest media market, with a less-than-great pitching staff around him, and a ton of pressure.

We are naturally more productive and effective in situations that are comfortable for us. When there are less nerves involved and when things feel more natural for us, we are more able to focus and more confident. Lee’s decision was partially driven by the fact that he’s happier in Philadelphia and believes that the Phillies give him the best chance to succeed personally and to win a championship. Similarly, we’re likely going to choose situations that allow us to be the best we can be personally, and succeed the most. It’s just the way it is. Businesses and business people make devisions like that all of the time.

What do you think about Lee’s decision to come back to Philadelphia? Have you seen the comparisons of Cliff Lee to Lebron James (Cliff Lee-bronJames)? Do you think there are ANY similarities? Personally, I’m a Phillies fan and could not be happier about Lee coming back to the team. Spring training can’t come soon enough!


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One Response to The Decision 2.0: Valuable Business Tips from Cliff Lee

  1. DrewMGriffin December 16, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    I may be a bit biased as I am originally from Philly. YO! I still live in the area and follow the Philadelphia Teams. I am thrilled that Cliff Lee signed with the Phils for both selfish reasons and for the reasons you mentioned above. I agree with the sentiments that you’ve mentioned about relationships and the money. After you get to a certain point, does it really make a difference? The next logical reasoning would be where you and your family are most comfortable. It makes sense that the relationships matter and in this situation, it was a major reason he chose to come back to Philly. Next Time you’re in Philly during the season, let me know, and we’ll catch a game!

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