Why I Don't Want Cliff Lee in Pinstripes
This October has made me sick. Obviously, it's never easy to watch your favorite team fail to show up for an entire postseason series, but my nausea runs deeper than that. There was a sentiment running rampant through the Yankee universe that seemed to calm the storm that was an October failure. This sentiment reared its ugly head in game 3 and has continued through today. It has to stop.
Game three was a classic pitcher's duel, with Cliff Lee besting Andy Pettitte due to one early mistake. Tough pill to swallow, but apparently some Yankee fans had no issue with it. "Don't worry, he'll be pitching for the other side next year" many said. Boy, I hope not.
I have realized that I'm probably in the minority here, but I do not want Cliff Lee in pinstripes.
Yes, you read that right. A lifelong Yankee fan does NOT want Cliff Lee on his team. Let me explain.
For months, many have dubbed it a foregone conclusion that Mr. Lee will end up in the Bronx. Heck, the guy was very close to being with the Yankees for the stretch run this year. That trade was almost official, but pulled back at the last minute. Hours later, Lee was gone to Texas for a much weaker prospect package. Coincidence?
It would seem odd that an organization would pull a player back to get a worse package. Did Seattle really think that highly of Justin Smoak? I'm thinking no.
I have contended that Lee himself pulled the deal back for a couple of reasons. I think he enjoys being the foil to the Yankees more than he would enjoy playing for them, but more importantly, he realized that he would get more money on the open market, so getting traded to the Yankees and being forced into an extension might cost him a couple of million dollars. That poor thing!
Instead, Lee got himself to Texas, as short drive away from his Arkansas roots. Despite a poor second half performance, Lee's dominance in the postseason has solidified the southpaw as the hottest commodity on the market. He will command a contract as hefty as CC Sabathia's (contract and weight), but will he get that from New York?
Most assume he would since the Yankees are always among the frontrunners for high priced free agents, but this time it's not so certain. Before we even look at personal issues, let's first examine the current Yankee landscape. The starting rotation loses Javier Vasquez and his 11.5 million dollars for sure, but the key to this decision will be Andrew Eugene Pettitte.
While many talk about Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte has been just as important to the Yankees championships runs as either of those men. As the all-time leader in postseason wins with 19, one would think this achievement would give the left hander a lifetime pass for contract negotiations. Along with C.C. Sabathia, the two make up a dynamic lefty duo for any rotation. Apparently, this isn't enough.
Some have been quick to put Pettitte out to pasture, but not me. Until the Texas native announces that he is not coming back (and I hope he doesn't), why should the Yankee organization push him out the door? He has done so much for the Yankees and it would seem to be a slap in the face to negotiate with Lee before talking with Pettitte about his future. Any decent organization would deal with their own guy first, even if it costs you the hot, young stud. At least, you would hope so. Last year, Pettitte played for 11.75 million, putting the combined total of Pettitte and Vasquez at a little over 22 million. That would be enough coming off the books to justify signing Lee without upping payroll, but again, that's contingent on Pettitte retiring. Anyone hoping that will happen just to sign Lee, well, is clearly not a true Yankee fan.
Of course, with the Yankees pitching struggles this postseason, it would be easy to target perhaps the best postseason pitcher this year. If I know that and you know that, don't you think Cliff Lee knows that?
Lee is going to press the Yankees for every dollar he can, and he's given every impression that he is concerned only about money. This is not the type of individual that will thrive in a championship driven city.
Let's take Mark Teixeira as a counterpoint. Teixeira entered the free agent market 2 years ago as a 28 year old. He was a 1st baseman with power, a great glove, and excellent intangibles. Teams from all around the majors targeted him as a can't miss free agent.
With suitors lining up for Teixeira, including the hometown Baltimore Orioles and close-to-home Washington Nationals, the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket chose to go a little further up I-95 and play for the Yankees. In doing so, he actually took less money than the Nationals were offering. So much is made of the Yankees wallets, but what drew this young man to the Bronx was tradition and the ability to compete for championships. At that time, Baltimore and Washington couldn't provide that.
On the flip side, Lee has never given any indication that he wants to play in New York. Quite the opposite, actually. If you want to buy into my theory, I believe he had a say in cancelling the trade that would have brought him to the Bronx in July. Lee's only motivation to pitch in New York is the biggest paycheck. Further proof came just days ago.
In the midst of her husband preparing to start game 1 of the World Series, Kristen Lee made headlines with her allegations of Yankee fans spitting and spilling beer on her and the others wives at game 3 of the ALCS. That was the game her husband shut down the hometown Yankees. I'm guessing this isn't the first time drunken fans at a sporting event did something stupid, so why did this incident make the news? Money, of course.
Think about it. Kristen Lee claims that she doesn't feel comfortable in New York. She claims that she would have trouble living among "people like that" and that is a hinderance in her husband signing with New York. The only counter to this would be the Yankees offering more money. It's leverage! To be honest, it's despicable.
It's pretty clear that the Lee family is trying to milk the Yankee organization for all its worth. This is becoming a situation where the Lee's know the Yankees have the finances to provide what they believe they are worth and are squeezing them for every penny. Knowing the country boy in Lee would rather stay down in Texas, they are making themselves willing to make the move for money and money only. Sure, Lee's good friend C.C. Sabathia is in New York, but other than a mention two years ago of this, it's a non issue. Lee has made it abundantly clear through his actions that this offseason is about money and money only.
This is a guy who knows that he's got a ton of value and he's using it to his advantage. That's all fine and good, but I have no interest in bringing a money hungry, heartless player into a clubhouse hellbent on getting back to and winning the World Series. I can only forsee nightmares like Lee upsetting the rotation because he gets a bonus for innings and needs to get those in before the season ends. This leads to an early postseason exit due to everyone being out of sync, but Lee goes home happy with his extra million.
There are just too many bad vibes coming out of the Lee camp and I'm not sure that he's the right fit for the Yankees. If he truly does want to don the pinstripes, he better have a swift change in attitude. A good start would be for the Yankees to offer him a figure equal to what Texas would be offering, if and only if Andy Pettitte is not back in the fold. With Pettitte around, an overload of lefties is not ideal for the rotation. However, if this man truly wants to win in New York and play with his "best friend", he would do so for a figure equal or less than market value. Anything over, I'd tell the 32 year old to take his chin hair, his crying wife, and his ego elsewhere. This town does not need players who don't buy into the team concept. It already has the Mets for that.