The Orioles almost traded for Lee in the winter of 2003. They couldn’t work out an extension, the talks with the Marlins fell apart and Lee was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for Hee-Seop Choi and Mike Nannini.
How close did Lee come to being an Oriole?
“Very close,” he said today during a conference call with reporters. “I was sitting in the offices at Camden Yards with my family and we were literally going back and forth on the numbers. We were extremely close, but it didn’t work out that day. I didn’t know if it was over when I got back on the plane, but it didn’t work out that time.
“I guess I was meant to be an Oriole because here I am, seven years later, coming to Baltimore.”
And he’s admittedly carrying a chip on his shoulder.
One season after driving in a career-high 111 runs and finishing ninth in the National League MVP voting, Lee batted .260 with 19 homers and 80 RBIs while splitting time with the Cubs and Braves.
Does he view 2011 as a redemption year?
“I do,” he replied. “I have a little chip on my shoulder. I hear people say I’m old, I’m declining. I want to prove that theory wrong. I’m getting up there, I’ve played the game a long time, but that doesn’t mean I’m getting worse because of age. I had a bad year, but that’s behind me.
“I’ve had some pretty productive years. I feel like I’m kind of getting thrown by the wayside cause of this one year, so yeah, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder and I’m anxious to prove these people wrong.”
Lee also has a new ligament in his right thumb after undergoing replacement surgery on Nov. 5. He sustained the injury while diving for a ball on Opening Day.
“I went to brace myself with my right hand and bent my thumb back,” he said. “I’ve been out of a cast for two weeks now and it feels great. I’m just doing rehab every day and I expect be 100 percent and it not to be an issue once I get to spring training.”
Lee, who will be re-examined next week and determine when he can swing a bat, can’t say with any certainty how much the injury affected him at the plate.
“I keep getting asked that question,” he said. “I guess the only answer is I’ve had injuries before and played well, and I’ve been healthy before and played bad. Injuries don’t help, but I think a lot of guys play with injures and that’s part of the game and you adjust the best you can, and the numbers are what they are.”
To read more of the interview with Lee, click here.