Off A Cliff

With Carl Crawford already under the Red Sox Christmas Tree, Jayson Werth inexplicably paid as if he’d had the durability of a lesser Albert Pujols, the Yankees having tied themselves to an aging shortstop well on his way to batting 7th, and the Mets having deftly acknowledged without admitting that their biggest free agent signing this winter will probably be D.J. Carrasco, nearly all the baseball questions I’m getting are about Cliff Lee.

What I am hearing is not very specific and not very highly-sourced, but it is consistent: I get the impression that the Yankees are not optimistic that they are going to sign him. 
Even before Lee went into his self-imposed exile of no fixed length, the answers the Yankees were getting from him directly and indirectly, in Arkansas and merely from it, were not encouraging. Lee just isn’t a New York guy. This is not said insultingly, and is in fact part of the reason the vibe seems so strong: He just doesn’t seem capable of giving the generic incomplete truths required of a guy trying to leverage a team he doesn’t really want to play for. 
You can imagine the drill: the Yankees come calling and they say it’d be great to have you on our side and you say “Wow, the New York Yankees. Every kid dreams of what it must be like to pitch for the New York Yankees!” This sounds, at worst, noncommittal. You can say it and mean you’re interested, or you can say it and mean that you dreamt of it when you were a kid and then you grew up and started playing baseball for a living and you realized it would never work for you in a million years. I mean, only once in my three decades in my business have I had to fire an intern and I told the guy just because it didn’t work out that was no reason for him to get screwed out of his college credit. I answered every question of his school evaluation form honestly. I remember writing something like “he now understands exactly what is required of somebody seeking a career in broadcasting.” By this I meant “he understands this because he completely failed at it,” but I didn’t write that. The school advised me the guy got a B+.
The “Not A New York Guy” thing is an essential test. Ed Whitson didn’t listen to the voice telling him not to come here. Mike Hampton heard it from the Missus and got out after a year. It’s very possible A.J. Burnett just began to hear it in Year Two. It’s obvious that Greg Maddux heard it from the beginning and listened and will go to the Hall of Fame as a result. It just isn’t for everybody, and I say this having been born here lived all but about ten years of my life here or nearby. I still mutter under my breath at New Yorkers and contemplate evacuating to higher ground, on average about once a week.
Anyway, back to Lee. Jack Curry of YES Network tweeted yesterday that he’d heard of Yankee “skepticism” about signing the lefthander. This morning, the New York Daily News reported that the Yanks’ offer had been driven up, at least in terms of years, by a previously unreported seven-year bid by the Red Sox, which would explain the constant rumors of the last few weeks that there was a third “mystery” team in the hunt besides New York and Texas.
Put all this together and it would seem this in fact might be a one-team race, and that the month might end the way it began, with the Yankees’ nominal third starter being a choice between Ivan Nova and Burnett, and the team getting a very nice school evaluation and a B+.


  1. 1948braves

    Cliff Lee may not sign with the Yankees?!?

    NYC: I don’t know how anyone cannot like Manhattan. I love all those historical neighborhoods, dating back to the stories of Geore Washington and the Revolutionary War in NY; there’s Ellis Island, Hell’s Kitchen, The Lower East Side, the Upper East Side, Little Italy, Sardi’s, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the history of the Paramount Theater and The Palace, the Brill Building and its history, the mostly long gone mansions where the Gilded Age folks lived; all those wonderful Broadway Theaters that Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Rogers & Hart, George Cohan, the Barrymores, the Gershwins, Ethel Merman – and on and on – made famous with their exquisite talent. Can’t say if it’s a good place to live, but it’s the BEST PLACE to visit in the country.

    I’ll take Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island too…

    Cliff Lee may not sign with the Yankees. Well I’ll be. Crawford isn’t the present under my Christmas tree. Your article is. Thanks. Lol.

    “I’ll give you five of my best guys; pick any five. If we don’t go to the World Series, I get those guys back.”
    White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on his proposed deal for Roy Halladay.

  2. beatlefan1

    I agree with 1948braves that NYC is a great place to visit, which Cliff Lee can do every year when his team plays in NYC. But maybe, just maybe, having your wife completely disrespected and harassed by Yankee fans might not make signing and rewarding them a very good move for the marriage.
    I bet his wife is buying him a Red Sox sweatshirt for Christmas.

  3. 1948braves

    beatle fan1: I don’t think wives being treated unfairly only happens in NY. It happened here as well. The latest being I think Johnny Damon’s wife. Fans in all cities can be brutal. I wondered if Jeter’s experience during his negotiations has anything to do with it, if this deal goes down, that is. I don’t think the NYY handled the negotiations well. It should never have happened in such a public way. Not with Jeter, of all players.

    beatle fan1? Well, I guess that makes me beatle fan2? I love ’em. I was just listening to John Lennon’s Happy Christmas/War Is Over song. I saw a poll where it was voted the #3 most favorite Christmas song after White Christmas and Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song. Don’t know if this will work, but here’s the video –

    All the children singing were from the Harlem Choir. They’re all little black children. I never knew that in all these years of listening to the song. It’s one of John Lennon’s best pieces of work. Phil Spector evidently helped with it as well.

    Cliff Lee. Now we wait.

  4. mantlewasarockstar

    Perhaps Lee is not a NY kinda guy but he played in Philadelphia–whose fans are not exactly dainty and genteel– and survived. So, I dunno. Then again, if Lee’s wife felt upset enough to not want to be at YS on any regular basis, that’s understandable. Even A-Rod’s then-wife caught flak in The Bronx; unruly, vicious, knucklehead fans I cannot and will never condone but that they exist is a sad fact, nonetheless.

  5. historymike

    I find it amusing that people will end up–it will happen if he stays with the Rangers–criticizing Cliff Lee for choosing lifestyle over money. Not that he will be suffering financially any which way. But think of Tony Gwynn, who obviously could have gone anywhere but played where he wanted to play and still made good money. Or, for that matter, Derek Jeter, who has been paid very well but probably could have signed a contract that would have enabled him to go elsewhere if he wanted and make more wherever he went.

    Which reminds me, Keith. I recall Eric Sevareid once saying something along the lines that one of the most dangerous things in life is certitude.


    Cliff Lee going to Philly. Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels (right, left, right, left) pretty impressive. … Not quite as good as Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine. (3 future hall of famers in my view). But I seriously doubt the 1971 Orioles with four 20-game winners will see that mark matched by the Philadelphia, either. … Today the world series favorites for 2011 have to be Boston vs. Philadelphia. … But the game is won on the field. I am actually looking forward to the 2011 MLB season.

  7. mantlewasarockstar

    The most desired free agent of the 2010 off season has signed with the team he went to the World Series in 2009. This development makes the Phillies’ trading of Lee to the Mariners in December of ’09 even more of a headscratcher. Instead of keeping him they instead traded him away because they thought they wouldn’t have the money to resign him, and then do so the following year. Huh?

    But the bottom line is, with the addition of Cliff Lee the Phillies now have the best starting rotation in baseball, the likes of which we?ve not seen since the Braves juggernaut of the ?90s. If it?s any consolation to the teams in the NL East, the Braves only got one championship out of that formidable Maddux-Smoltz-Glavine beast, albeit with plenty of division titles and a few pennants to show for it. But boy, they must be bummed in Flushing…

    In missing out on Lee, the silver lining for the Rangers and the Yankees is they won?t have to face him except when it matters, if that happens to be the case.

    As for the money thing?

    Much has been made about Lee rejecting the $148 million and $138 million contracts offered by the Yankees and Rangers, respectively, and accepting the $120 million offer made by the Phillies. Yes, Lee did leave money on the table in the long run, but he took the contract that pays more per year. So this whole “he turned down the big bucks” thing is disingenuous.

    Personally, I see respecting a free agent for taking less money the same as deciding not to respect him for taking more money. In other words, I don?t agree with either stance.

    Want to accept less money to play with X? Good for you.
    Want to accept more money to play with Y? Good for you.

    Respecting players that accept less or criticizing those who go after more money is a romantic notion I do not share. (It?s quite selective, too: we didn?t hear anyone say they respected A-Rod when he was willing accept less money to play in Boston, right?) It?s also perpetuated by folks who would leave their jobs in a heartbeat if they got offered a $100/wk increase in salary, so I?m not inclined to take ?em seriously.

    Because a baseball career has quite a finite duration?Bo Jackson, anyone??players have a limited window of time to make the kind of money no one in their right mind would turn down for doing what they love. I say go for it. If not, that?s cool too. To each to his own. But this vilification/deification nonsense has got to stop.

  8. donniesmustache

    Keith – You need to get back into sports. Specifically sports talk and radio. There’s an opening on Mad Dog radio on Sirius with the morning show with Steve Phillips. You’d be perfect.

  9. mycocktaildresses

    Cliff Lee going to Philly. Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels (right, left, right, left) pretty impressive. … Not quite as good as Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine. (3 future hall of famers in my view). But I seriously doubt the 1971 Orioles with four 20-game winners will see that mark matched by the Philadelphia.

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