$30 Million Down the Toilet

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Filed Under:   Goals & Priorities

Have you heard of pitching ace Cliff Lee? He is a Cy Young winner, formerly one of baseball’s hottest free agents in recent history, and probably the dumbest man in America.

Or maybe the smartest.

Lee was offered $150 million by the New York Yankees. He could have played on the biggest stage in baseball with arguably the most successful team in sports history.

Instead, he will be taking a $30 million pay cut to play for the Philadelphia Phillies, winner of just two titles in almost 100 years.

$30 million. That’s $6 million less each year for the next 5 years. I can’t even think about that much money without getting goosebumps. And yet Lee got up from the table, letting everyone know that the Yankees’ bigger budget couldn’t buy him.

This might be the most amount of money any player has walked away from in sports. According to Mets general manager Omar Minaya, “It’s unprecedented.”

Now why would ANYONE leave that much money on the table? Is Cliff Lee suffering from a self-harm condition, or is he just a better pitcher than an accountant?

I think the answer is simple: some things are more important than money.

You see, Lee has a history of rejecting the quick buck for doing what he thought was the right thing. When he was drafted by Major League Baseball in the 8th round straight out of high school, he turned it down. He went to a community college instead. When he was drafted again the next year, he turned it down. Went to University of Arkansas. Guess he wanted to go to college.

Apparently they didn’t teach him the “time value of money” at the University of Arkansas. I mean, my business degree taught me that $30 million will be worth $380,281,489.05 by the time he’s 65.

So why he’d do it? According to Lee, because his family liked Philadelphia. They liked the other families, the players, the housing. Lee’s wife complained about the Yankees fans who spat at the Rangers’ wives during the playoffs.

Living in a place where your wife feels comfortable and your family is happy is probably pretty important when your son has had leukemia from the age of 4 months.

Cliff Lee has all he needs, and in a pleasant surprise coming from the world of sports–he knows it. I’m impressed, Mr. Lee. Stick it to the Yankees and their big budget. You do your thing.