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This is goodbye: The Cliff Lee era is officially over

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We have long known that Cliff Lee would never throw another pitch for the Phillies, but the official announcement that came down earlier this week made things final.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

If you're looking for negativity, I'm sure you've been able to find it in various ways on this very website over the past few months. Well, it's not just us, we can assure you of that. Closing in on 100 losses isn't fun.

There's only so much focus you can place on Severino Gonzalez, David Buchanan, Ryan Howard's various injuries, Chase Utley's weird BABIP (No wait! Let me explain this t... ah nevermind) etc. before you're prepared to absolutely lose your mind.

The news that the Phillies earlier this week declined Cliff Lee's option for 2016 comes as no great surprise. It's long been known he wouldn't pitch for the Phillies next season. He likely won't pitch for anyone else. The end of the road is no fun for any Major Leaguer.

When you have a season that just may end in 100 losses, it's nice to look on the bright side every now and again.

More specifically, it's fun to remember just how awesome Lee was. If you want negativity or in-depth statistical analysis, you should probably go somewhere else right now. If you're prepared for the closest possible thing to a puff piece, strap in! You're in the right place.

We were first introduced to Cliff in 2009, when Ruben Amaro, Jr. pulled off a deal near the deadline that brought the left-hander to Philadelphia. It was at that time when everyone believed Roy Halladay was just that close to being in red pinstripes. Then, at nearly the 11th hour, the focus turned to Lee. (This was also the time when saying the name "Amaro" hadn't quite resulted in expletives yet.)

Lee wasn't exactly a household name coming in to Philadelphia. Using the word "obscure" seems somewhat awkward in retrospect, but for all intents and purposes, being in Cleveland was the closest thing to it. But, he was coming off a Cy Young season in 2008 in which he went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA. Yet, somehow, he still felt like the obscure choice, probably mostly because many had their eyes fixated on other available pitchers.

He was essentially as advertised after the Phillies acquired him. There was the magical Game 1 of the World Series in 2009 that will never be forgotten. And then, he was gone. That flurry of moves in the off-season brought Halladay to Philadelphia and sent Lee to Seattle. Lee even switched teams again in 2010 when he was shipped by the Mariners to the Texas Rangers. He had a chance to pitch in the World Series, and we don't care to repeat how that season ended.

And then, amazingly, he was back. Yes, Cliff Lee chose to come back to Philadelphia in an attempt to win a World Series. It was one of those nights that's easy to remember where you were when it happened. Lee seemed all but gone to just about any other team in baseball. Heck, out of the potential destinations for Lee, you probably could have ranked Philadelphia 20th and that would have seemed too high.

Then, the #mysteryteam tweets hit sometime around 7:00 on a cold December night. Hours later, Lee was a Phillie once again. For this writer, final exams were secondary. I wasn't going to do well on that chemistry test anyway.

The Phillies had just doled out $120 million for Cliff Lee, and the numbers just didn't seem to matter. The Phillies had an ace to go with their ace. And that other ace, too.

We all know by now how the story ends. Lee never won a World Series here on that second try. The last couple of seasons were no fun for anyone involved.

But it was just a few years ago that one man brought joy to a city not so much for the fact that he was a good pitcher, but for the fact that he decided to come back to a city that had embraced him. Someone wanted to pitch in Philadelphia. My god, was this really happening?

Maybe we'll be fortunate enough to get back to that point some time soon. It's been a delicate time trying to figure out how to approach these last two or three years when it comes to thinking about what happened six or seven years ago. Of course, we've had to continue watching many of these guys over this past calendar year, including Howard, Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins. It has been hard to feign interest and still think the same way about these guys when apathy is the only feeling one can muster.

On the flip side, you don't want to continue living in the past and thinking too much about what winning was like and how time has slipped away. It's a lose-lose situation, really. But you caught me. I suppose I did just that here. Such is life.

There are those who would say that the Phillies should take that TV contract money and just spend away this off-season. Personally, I'm not getting my expectations up that the Phillies come away with Jason Heyward and David Price, although that would be kind of fun.

Things will be built from within, just like they were about ten years ago when those names mentioned above were just starting to come through and make an impact. Then, a few years from now, maybe the Phillies will have their opportunity to bring a Lee type of guy into the fold, whether it's via trade or free agency, to go along with the Nolas, Francos, and Crawfords of the world.

Then, we can all pack in like sardines on a crisp fall day and do that whole thing on Broad Street once again.