So, Lee signs with the Phillies for less money and years than the Yankees and Rangers were offering. It’s OK. It really is. Texas did not lose the free-agent jewel to the Evil Empire. Today the Rangers are still better than the Yankees. And Lee’s surprise move reminds us that, sometimes, it can be about more than just the dollar signs. Excellent.

Look, we knew in July that Lee was only a rent-a-player. We had no expectations that he would be here in 2011. It was out of the realm of possibility. It wasn’t even worth talking about. The only reason any of us believed he might even possibly consider re-signing in Arlington is because he did help take Texas to the World Series.

The fact that he did that is enough to be thankful for. There’s no whining or crying today over losing Lee. None. Only gratitude. Only thanksgiving. Only appreciation.

Jamey Newberg says it best in his daily column:

Thanks, Cliff.

Thanks for the four greatest sports months of my life.  Thanks for the greatness, the dominant precision, the artistry.  The way you pitched, the way you competed.  The occasional transcendence. Thanks for October 6.  And for October 12, and the Don Draper cool of that march toward Bengie Molina and everything that happened in the three hours that led up to it. Thanks for October 18.  Man, thank you for that. 

Thanks for doing your part to make a playoff team a World Series team.  Maybe more than once.

Sure do appreciate you not signing with New York.  A lot.

I wasn’t surprised when I read last night that you called Jon Daniels yourself to tell him you were signing with Philadelphia.  I was entertained that you had your agent call Brian Cashman to deliver the same message.

I wanted you back in Texas, but the years and dollars that the bidding had gone to scared me.  Still wanted you here, but when the offers got as crazy as they did, I found myself more preoccupied with you not ending up with the Yankees.

Emotionally, it does stink that Texas reportedly offered the most lucrative contract and that, despite every indication that Lee loved his Texas teammates and despite proximity and lifestyle and tax laws and the strength and promise of the team around him and December hunts with Tommy Hunter while everyone else was on the edge of their Winter Meetings seats, it wasn’t enough.

But unemotionally?  (And sorta emotionally?)  I don’t blame Lee at all, and really I’m not all that torn up.  The biggest sports moments in my lifetime have been adrenaline rushes and kicks in the gut.  This one was really different, has an oddly surprising calm to it.  Hearing that Lee chose Philadelphia, that Lee didn’t choose Texas and didn’t choose New York, struck me as good news.  I would have never expected that reaction (and, despite the fear over the financial commitment, would have never had the same reaction if he chose pinstripes).

I’m not trying to rationalize this.  I realized two days ago, as we’ve talked about, that it was starting to feel more important to me to see the Yankees not get Lee than for Texas to sign him to what many of us – and I bet some of the Rangers’ decision-makers – knew deep down was a bad baseball contract.  I’m content with this, until we see what the Rangers do next.

Whoever Plan B is, will he be as good as Lee?  Probably not, but we’ll see.  Some think Greinke, in particular, will produce more over the next five years than Lee.  Far more unknowns with Greinke, though. Will Plan B leave Texas more money to address other needs, now or in July?  Yes. Will Plan B come off the books himself in two years, maybe three?  If so, then we go get the next young ace.

I love Cliff Lee.  There’s never been a pitcher quite like him in Texas, and there’s never been a season in Texas anything like 2010, which without Lee would have ended sooner.  The Rangers’ opportunistic move to get Lee in July, and his part in the four months that followed to give us that season, will stand forever among the greatest rewards I’ve had as a sports fan.  Forever. For that, Cliff, no matter what happens from here on out for you or for Texas, let me just say, once again:

Thank you.