Did Cliff Lee take a shot at Rangers/Mariners fans?

Texas Rangers' ace Cliff Lee talks to the media as the Rangers prepare to take on the New York Yankees in the ALCS at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas on October 14, 2010.  Game one of the best of seven series will be on October 15, 2010 in Arlington.  UPI/Ian Halperin Photo via Newscom

During his introductory press conference with the Phillies on Wednesday, Cliff Lee was asked about Philly fans and he couldn’t stop gushing about the energy they bring to the ballpark every night. (That’s because they get sauced up before the walk into the stadium but that’s neither here nor there.)

One interesting comment he made during the presser was about how Phillie fans “don’t need a teleprompter to tell them to get up and cheer.” You can read the full quote (excerpted from the Philadelphia Inquirer) below.

“They get excited. They’re passionate fans. They understand what’s going on. They don’t need a teleprompter to tell them to get up and cheer, to do that. No, it’s exciting. It’s an historic town. I didn’t realize until I got here how interesting the city is. My family really liked it. I mean, that played a big part in it.

Granted, Lee might have just meant fans in general and wasn’t talking about anyone specifically when he made the comment. He seems like a humble, good-natured guy and it’s not his style to take pot shots at anyone. (After all, fans at Yankee Stadium harassed his wife and never once has he said anything bad about the Yankees organization, even though he may have been justified.)

Still, I’m a little ticked off if I’m a Ranger or Mariner fan. No teleprompter was necessary when the Giants were lighting him up in the World Series and Seattle only won about 12 games last year so it’s not like they had anything to cheer about. So if he were taking a small dig at those two fan bases, he’d be out of line.

But again, I’m sure Lee didn’t mean any harm by it. He enjoyed his time in Texas and has nothing to gain by pissing off fans that embraced him last year.

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Phillies take a page out of Yankees playbook, step in and sign Cliff Lee

Texas Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the fist inning of game 5 of the World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas on November 1, 2010. The Giants defeated the Rangers 3-1 winning the World Series 4 games to 1. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

As if it were right out of the pages of the Yankees’ playbook on how to sign a free agent, the Phillies stole Cliff Lee right from under the Bombers’ noses.

Actually, “stole” isn’t the right word. That would indicate that Lee was once the Yankees’ property, which he wasn’t. He was never a Yankee and thanks to the Phillies’ aggressiveness, he never will be either.

Lee left nearly $50 million of New York’s money on the table to go back to a place where he felt comfortable and had huge success. He’ll join a rotation that already features Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, which is mind-blowing to say the least. Philadelphia opponents will face ace-like stuff nearly everyday when they take on the Phillies. The only person associated with the National League that will sleep easy this week after Philadelphia made this move is Giants’ outfielder Cody Ross, who hit all four of the Phils’ pitchers like a piñata in last year’s postseason.

For those scoring at home, here are the obvious winners and losers of this deal.

Winners:

Phillies. They land an ace when they already had a Cy Young-winning ace in the rotation. With all due respect to Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, the Halladay-Lee pairing is the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball and the Phillies immediately become the team to beat again in the NL. Their offense was inconsistent last year but whether pundits believe it’ll round back into ’09 form or not, the Fightin’ Phils are the favorites to win the World Series next year.

Lee. It’s a little surprising that he spurned the Rangers to return to the Phillies, seeing as how Philadelphia traded him so that it could land Halladay last winter. But obviously Lee was comfortable in Philadelphia and wanted to head back to the NL, where he absolutely dominated in the second half of ’09 (and postseason). In the end, he gets the long-term deal that he had been seeking, a ton of money ($120 million to be exact) and the opportunity to stick it to New York after its fans treated his wife poorly in the stands at Yankee Stadium last year. (Not that that was a deciding factor in him spurning the Yankees but it had to have crossed his mind.)

Losers:

Yankees.
They’re used to being the ones that swoop in at the last second, put an offer on the table that the free agent can’t refuse and then leave those in the bidding war gasping for air. Now they’re at the receiving end of a big F-you and it has to be devastating. They threw a ton of money at Lee and in the end, they still couldn’t land him. This was a huge blow in the post-George Steinbrenner era and while some Yankee fans will say that they didn’t want their club to sign a 32-year-old to a long-term deal, what is New York going to do for pitching? Maybe the Yankees will be better off in the long run for missing out on Lee, but as of right now they’re in a world of hurt.

Rangers. While everyone wanted to see the Yankees burned, nobody wanted the Rangers to become victims. They just lost their ace, who turned down the Yankees’ money to return to a place that was comfortable to him – only it wasn’t Texas. Nolan Ryan can’t be pleased with the outcome (although at least he didn’t wind up with the Yankees) and now he too must revert to his backup plan for pitching (whatever that is). Just months after losing the World Series, Ryan and Co. take yet another huge blow.

Report: Cliff Lee not on the trading block yet

May 11, 2010: Cliff Lee for the Seattle Mariners pitches during a game against the hometown Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. The Mariners beat the Orioles 5 - 1.

Despite rumors stating that several teams are interested in the ace, the Mariners have yet to put Cliff Lee on the trading block according to the New York Daily News.

“It is the same thing with (Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik) as it has been all along,” the source said. “He knows to contact teams when he’s ready to deal. He hasn’t done that yet, but that could change any minute.”

According to people familiar with the Mets’ thinking, Lee remains the team’s top choice of all potentially available starters. Therefore, the Mets’ pursuit of pitching help will accelerate along with the lefty’s availability. Despite losses by R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi this week, the Mets remain content – for the moment – with the middle of their rotation, and are not interested in Kevin Millwood, Jake Westbrook or any of the other mid-level starters available.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Phillies are also interested in acquiring Lee (or re-acquiring Lee I should say), although GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “will not cut off his nose to spite his face.” In other words, Amaro remains open to the idea of trading for Lee but he’s not going to give up a small fortunate of players for him, which might be exactly what it will take to pry him from Seattle.

He might not be on the trading block now, but I don’t think there’s any chance that the M’s hang onto Lee all season. When they acquired him from the Phillies last offseason, they thought they’d be contenders in 2010. But they haven’t been, and now they need to get something for him before he hits free agency in 2011. It wouldn’t make sense for the Mariners to hang onto him, continue to lose, and not recoup some of the prospects they lost when they made the deal for Lee last winter. (Not the actual prospects that they lost of course, but some prospects.)

Report: Mariners want Cliff Lee back

YES Network analyst Jack Curry had this to say via his Twitter page today:

Spoke to baseball official who has regular contact w Phils. He said they are itching to add a starter and would love to get Cliff Lee back.

Well of course they do. And I want the original “KITT” from the Night Rider TV series to drive around in all day, but unless several hundred things go my way soon, that isn’t going to happen either.

The chances of the Phillies re-acquiring Lee are slim to none. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has already said that the club isn’t going to make any major moves and trading for Lee could constitute as such. Amaro essentially chose Roy Halladay over Lee last winter and I highly doubt Philadelphia would be willing to part with more of its farm system to re-acquire the Mariners’ starter for half a season. (I’m just speculating here, but I doubt Lee would re-sign with the team that used him to get back to the World Series last year and then traded him away a few months later so they could get Halladay.)

If the Phillies are going to bring any starter back, it’ll be Pedro Martinez – not Lee.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

Phillies pick up Lee’s $9 million option


Photo from fOTOGLIF

It was a pleasure to watch Cliff Lee during the playoffs. The Phillies left-hander flaunted a studly 1.56 ERA in five starts, finishing 4-0. When the Phillies aquired Lee in late July for four minor leaguers, the former Indian went 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA. Given his success, it’s the no wonder the Phillies have decided to pick up his $9 million option for the 2010 season.

The 31 year-old is a perfect fit for a Phillies club that suddenly lost it’s pitching prowess. Throughout the year, the Phillies dealt with a shaky rotation. Every pitcher on their roster was a risk factor, exluding Lee: Cole Hamels couldn’t find the groove he had in 2008; Joe Blanton lacked confidence in big games; Pedro Martinez couldn’t give you a full nine; Jamie Moyer was hurt; J.A. Happ was a sensation the team couldn’t trust; Brett Myers was still Brett Myers. Cliff Lee brings a calmness and a confidence to a Phillies team with dynasty potential.

Although Lee’s contract expires after next season, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is open to signing the former Cy Young winner to a long-term deal similar to Yankees zillionaire CC Sabathia. The Phillies have a slew of free agents to juggle, but keeping Lee was obviously a priority. The organization needs to decide what they’re going to do with Pedro Feliz, Matt Stairs, Scott Eyre, Chan Ho Park, Myers, and Martinez. Also of concern are the the expected raises coming to Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, Chad Durbin, and Blanton.

I think the Phillies team of next year will look similar to the team that lost to Yankees in this recent World Series. Feliz, Moyer, Stairs, Eyre, and Myers might not be back, but the Phillies should contend for another championship.

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