The chance to win a championship is usually at the top of every athlete’s list when it comes to choosing with whom to sign during free agency, but the chance to be back with a favorite mascot is rarely cited as a reason. That’s why it was surprising to hear that the biggest reason Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies over the Yankees and Rangers was because their mascot, the Philly Phanatic.

“The money; what’s best for my family; winning a championship; those all factored into my decision,” said Lee in his introductory press conference. “But it was the opportunity to hang out with the Philly Phanatic every day again that really made the decision for me.”

Players were baffled by Lee’s and the Phanatic’s friendship during his first go-round with the team a season ago. When Lee was first traded to Philadelphia from Cleveland, it was the Philly Phanatic who took him site seeing to such places as the Liberty Bell and the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They were often seen dining together in Philadelphia’s most exclusive restaurants and the Phanatic was often trusted to baby sit Lee’s kids during his nights out with his wife.

Now Lee has left the current roster confused as he again reveals his excitement to be reunited with the Philly Phanatic. The pitching staff, which now is being haled as one of the best ever assembled, is particularly put off by the snub.

“I just won the Cy Young Award and he’s excited to hang around a walking sock puppet,” said an angered Roy Halladay. “Tell him when he’s having trouble with his fastball to see the Phanatic about that, too.”

Michael Kloempken