2010 Year-End Sports Review: What We Think Will Happen

What do we think will happen in 2011? Ha! We’re glad you asked. As part of our 2010 Year End Sports Review, we see good things ahead for Duke, the Celtics and the Saints. We see cursed days ahead for the Phillies and Giants, and one Florida Gator-sized reunion in Denver. We also like Carmelo to play for the…hey, why are we telling you all this? Read for yourself below, lazy. (And have an open mind – we had some fun with this section.)

Contributors: Anthony Stalter, John Paulsen, Paul Costanzo, Drew Ellis and Mike Farley

You think he’s gone? He’s not gone. He’s never gone!

Brett Favre has duped us before with his retirement talk, so why should we buy what he’s selling now? Lord Favre says 2010 will be his final season, but after spending a couple of months on his ranch next summer, he’ll get the itch to return. And some team will welcome him back. And the media will torture us with their 24-hour Favre watch. And the dreaded cycle of death will continue. So which lucky team will have No. 4 in uniform next season? While we wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Favre returning to the Vikings for one more year now that Brad Childress is gone, that’s not a very fun projection. Thus, what about Da Raaaaaaaiders? Huh? Can you see it now? Lord Favre and Al Davis at the podium holding up their pointer fingers and saying, “Just win baby.” No? Ah, you’re no fun.

Carmelo will be a Knickerbocker next year.

Book ‘em, Danno. The writing is on the wall. He hasn’t signed the three-year extension that the Nuggets offered last summer and has reportedly decided that the only team he’ll agree to be traded to is the New York Knicks. This means that if the Nuggets are hoping to get something substantial for him, they’ll have to move him before the February trade deadline. Since there appears to be only one team in the running, the deal isn’t going to be very good. We wouldn’t want to be Nugget fans right now — the rebuilding process is about to begin.
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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.

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.

After Red Sox sign Crawford, Yankees feeling the pressure to ink Lee

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cliff Lee pitching in the 1st inning of game 1 of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Wednesday, October 27, 2010. UPI/ Bob Larson Photo via Newscom

The Yankees better land Cliff Lee or else they could be in a world of hurt next season.

Offensively, they’ll continue to be dangerous. Thanks to Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada, they won’t have to worry about scoring runs again next season (although it’s important to note that Jeter is coming off a career-low year and Posada struggled at the dish as well.)

But their offense wasn’t the reason they fell short of reaching the World Series: their pitching was. That’s why they set out this offseason to acquire Lee, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to land him with the Rangers trying desperately to retain him.

After Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford each received seven-year contracts, the Yankees had no choice but to add another year to their offer for Lee. They wanted to stay at six years, but the Rangers have amped things up and are reportedly sending a contingent to Arkansas on Thursday in order to get Lee to re-sign. The Yankees had no choice but to take an at-all-costs approach in signing the 32-year-old ace.

Chances are Texas won’t be able to match New York’s final number, which is good for the Yankees. But Lee enjoyed playing with the Rangers last year and spoke after the World Series as though he was coming back. If Texas can get close to the Yankees’ asking price, then Lee may re-sign with the Rangers in order to stay in familiar surroundings.

That would be devastating for the Yankees, who now are suddenly looking up at the Red Sox in the AL East. Just this past week, Boston traded for slugger Adrian Gonzalez and signed Crawford to a whopping $142 million deal. Instantly the Red Sox have added power, speed and defense to their roster, all while the Yankees have impatiently waited for Lee’s answer. If they can’t sign Lee and they go into next year having to rely on A.J. Burnett being one of their top arms, the Bombers are in trouble.

They may want to add on an eighth year if that’s what Lee wants.

Yankees already frustrated by slow pace of Lee talks

Texas Rangers' pitcher Cliff Lee pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the eighth inning of game one of the World Series in San Francisco on October 27, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

Baseball’s winter meetings just started and according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the slow pace of the Cliff Lee contract talks is already frustrating the Yankees (more specifically GM Brian Cashman). The Bombers have money to spend and damn it they want it spent already.

Everyone knows that from a monetary standpoint, the Yankees will come up with the best offer. There’s really nothing more for them to do than to sit back and wait so why not do just that? Why not exercise some patience?

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that because it wasn’t my faulty pitching that cost me a chance to go to the World Series last year. The Yankees obviously are feeling the pressure of having to sign Lee and I’m sure that’s where Cashman’s frustrations are coming from. He knows he can’t feasibly go into next season hoping that A.J. Burnett will bounce back after a brutal 2010.

There also may be some concern on Cashman’s part because reportedly there’s a mystery team offering Lee a seventh year. The Yankees and Rangers would prefer to stay at six years, but I’m sure Cashman doesn’t want to see Lee land with another team just because he wasn’t willing to fork over that extra year. This is the Yankees’ top free agent target so you know they’re taking an at-all-costs approach to signing him.

It’s interesting to see the affect that a free agent is having on the Yankees. Usually they just throw a bunch of money at a player and he comes running in on all fours with his tongue hanging out. But now that Lee isn’t doing that, it’s kind of humorous to hear that Cashman is frustrated by it (assuming of course that Rosenthal’s report is accurate).

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