It was only last year that the Mariners gave the city an early Christmas present, acquiring World Series ace Cliff Lee from my Philadelphia Phillies in a surprising blockbuster trade that had visions of pennant races muscling sugar plums off the mental dance floors of Seattle baseball fans. Twelve months later, the Mariners still suck, and Lee is back in a Phillies uniform.
How'd it happen? Why did this off-season's most sought after free agent choose Philadelphia over New York and Texas, when both the Yankees and the Rangers reportedly offered more guaranteed money?
No doubt the decision had something to do with the opportunity to join Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in potentially the most dominant pitching rotation ever. But according to Lee's wife Kristen, they had also simply fallen in love with Philadelphia and the urban amenities it provides:
Kristen simply liked everything about the city when they were here for those few months in 2009.
"We liked the easy travel on a train for our kids to other cities and the good cultural experience for them here," she said. "It was fun to live in a city and have a whole different lifestyle than in Arkansas."
The Lees liked the proximity from the city to Citizens Bank Park. And they liked that the city was different from their Arkansas home.
"It's very different, but different is good sometimes, taking taxis, living in a highrise," Kristen said.
Yup, first thing out of Kristen's mouth was praise for Philadelphia's advantageous location on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, where she and her family can conveniently visit New York, without having to live there, or tour the many museums and landmarks of Washington D.C., without having to play for the atrocious Nationals. The Arkansas natives also enjoyed being able to live in a center city highrise apartment, only a quick cab or even quicker subway ride away from the ballpark.
Who knew that building a functional rail infrastructure could play such a crucial role in building a winning baseball team?
The fact is, people choose to live and work in big cities like Philadelphia because they like 'em. They like the cultural amenities density affords, and they sure as hell like the convenient public transportation systems without which these cities could not function.
Yet here in the biggest U.S. metropolitan area for 700 miles to the south and 1,700 miles to the east, too many civic "leaders" continue to rail against rail, viewing it and the density it inevitably creates, not as a basic urban amenity, but as, at best, a necessary evil... something to be avoided where possible, and mitigated where not.
But not Kristen Lee:
"It feels so great to be back where we felt like we were not ever supposed to leave."
Huh. Wonder why we don't hear the Lees fondly recalling their equally brief stay in Seattle?