Rationalizing a tough decision

Yanks send down Brackman, five others
Ivan Nova's New Toy

The Yankees and Cliff Lee just can’t seem to avoid each other. The 32-year-old lefty nearly found himself in pinstripes on July 9, 2010 before the Seattle Mariners backed out of a deal with the Yanks. Brian Cashman then pushed hard to land Lee during the winter, but as we know, his offer fell short not because of money but because Lee simply wanted to go to Philadelphia. It sent shockwaves through baseball and had a deep impact on the Yanks’ winter.

Since that fateful day when the Phillies emerged as the mystery team intent on locking up a starter they wanted but didn’t need for a lot of dollars, both Cliff Lee and his wife have tried to rationalize the decision. Perhaps they truly wanted to be in Philadelphia because Cliff enjoyed his time there and his wife liked the city. Perhaps they are trying to justify leaving dollars, even a few, on the table. Whatever the case may be, their public statements have ranged from strange to flat-out mind-bogglingly wrong.

In Wednesday’s podcast, Joe and Mike went to town on Lee after his latest statements. They weren’t alone. So too did Brian Cashman, and it helps to put these latest words about the Yankees — in Lee’s mind, an old time — in context.

Since arriving in the City of Brotherly Love, Lee has done his part to mention the edge Philadelphia has over New York City at nearly every turn. In December, Lee’s wife Kristen seemed to take some responsibility for the designer. She was upset at Yankee fans’ behavior during the ALCS (as though Philly fans are the model of polite) and also said she appreciated the city’s amenities. “We liked the easy travel on a train for our kids to other cities and the good cultural experience for them here,” she said. “It was fun to live in a city and have a whole different lifestyle than in Arkansas.”

Of course, New Yorkers took this personally. If the Lees truly wanted a “whole different lifestyle” than in Arkansas, they needed to look no further than New York City. We have more trains and more “cultural experiences” than Philadelphia. If anything, it was a rationalization. Fine.

But Cliff wouldn’t let it lie. While speaking with a Philadelphia radio station last week, he again brought up the Yankees and placed them third behind the Phillies and Rangers in the off-season sweepstakes. Why? Because as he put it, “some of the Yankeee guys are getting older.” Of course, everyone is always getting older.

Lee continued in this strange vein: “Texas probably finished second to be honest with you. Just as far as the quality of the team and the chance to win a World Series ring, I think they’re a better team. That’s just my opinion. The Yankees can do anything at any moment to improve and they’re not afraid to go do things. That was part of the decision-making process, too, but I felt like with what the Red Sox had done and it seems like some of the Yankee guys are getting older, but I liked the Rangers.”

Brian Cashman responded vehemently. “Clearly I’ve made an effort to make the team younger,” he said to The Post. He added, “Some of our core guys that we have relied on have gotten up there, but we have a group of young players that we’re excited about. All we care about is being called champions. You can say anything else you want about us. When you call us old, that’s fine.”

As many others pointed out on Wednesday, Lee is simply wrong. The Yankees, on average, are a year younger than the Phillies, and whereas the Yanks have an aging left side of the infield, Placido Polanco is three months younger than A-Rod. Meanwhile, Jimmy Rollins might be younger than Derek Jeter but doesn’t play like it, and Chase Utley’s knee appears to be on the verge of giving out on him. The age difference is an illusion brought on by the Core Four media narrative, and nothing more.

Ultimately, Lee’s words don’t matter that much. He didn’t want to come to New York, and he didn’t come to New York. He also gave up job security and dollars to go to Philadelphia. If he has to talk his way out of it at our expense, so be it. When the dust settles, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Yanks with as many if not more World Series rings than the Phillies over the course of Lee’s contract. As with any baseball dispute, this one will be resolved on the field.

Yanks send down Brackman, five others
Ivan Nova's New Toy
  • http://twitter.com/#!/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

    Yeah Lee doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Derek Jeter, JoPo, Mo and A-Rod =/= the Yankees.

    The rest are in their primes or even younger. Who can you say about that on the Phillies? Hamels and Brown?

  • Accent Shallow

    I may be in the minority here, but I’m very glad the Yankees aren’t paying this guy until he’s 40.


    • the Other Steve S.

      I’m right there with you. Lee hasn’t shown the consistent ability to stay healthy that I would like to see. He may be lights out this year but he may also be hurt 4 months. Philly can have him.

    • Big Apple

      agree….the first 2-3 years would be fine but the final years of that contract were going to be rough. some things are a blessing in disguise.

    • MannyGeee

      +1… call it what you want to call it, I am happier with him in Philly making delusional comments than in Texas where we’d have to face him throughout the season.

      and sidebar, the Cliff Lee comments are exactly why the rest of the country think that ‘Middle America’ is a bunch of dumb rednecks. A bunch of irrational half truths that were obviously spoon fed to him by MSM, his ‘people’ or that ‘not slim’ wife of his…


    • Rich


    • rek4gehrig

      Amen six times over.

    • Josh S.

      I was definitely disappointed when he didn’t sign with the Yankees. He’s been an unbelievable pitcher the past few years, and it probably would’ve been great to have him slotted in behind CC. However, after hearing all of these idiotic and strange comments from him and his wife, I’m kind of glad he didn’t sign. He obviously is looking for any kind of excuse for not signing with the Yanks, as Ben points out. Enough is enough already. He signed with Philly – so he’s still the enemy now.

      From those statements he made, it seems like he was scared to go against Boston and pitch in the AL East. Do you really want that kind of attitude on a championship team? I want a guy to get up there and say “give me the ball, I don’t care who I’m facing.” That’s why CC has a championship ring and Cliff Lee doesn’t. That plus the fact that the Yankees do whatever it takes to win.

  • nickcounty

    Lee will regret this decision. Be it with less money, less championships, less media attention, a worse city, worse lifestyle, worse everything. The guy was afraid to pitch in new york, and now he is justifying it to himself and his family. I thought the guy was alright, obviously a great pitcher, but after all this nonsense, I am so pumped to watch him fail in Philly as the Yankees take down yet another title… F this guy.

    • Guest

      Why do you think he is afraid to pitch in New York? He pitched in New York in the first game of the 2009 World Series. I seem to remember that going pretty well for him. (And poorly for us. I can’t remember the last time I watched the a Yankee playoff game where I knew by the third inning that they was no way the Yankees were going to touch the starting pitcher that night. Probably Beckett in ’03.)

      And yes, his comments were stupid, but I think “F this guy” is a bit much.

      Lee made some innaccurate and ill-considered comments about NYC and the Yanks, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything that leads me to believe he is a bad guy. He just chose not to sign with our favorite baseball team and made some ignorant but non-malicious statements afterwards. That’s not exactly Big-Ben like behavior.

      • Brian in NH

        Yeah he definitely made some incorrect statements here. Honestly, unless you were brought up in Philly, you pretty much acknowledge that NYC is a much better city. But also, Cliff Lee gets to look like a good guy for turning down the Yankees so I think that is playing into it to. these guys have egos, we all do.

        • Rick in Boston

          My wife’s a Philly native, and even she admits NYC is better.

        • MannyGeee

          Philly is a shit hole. I worked for a company HQ’d in Philly and everything about that town irked me to the core…

          and that has nothing to do with the Phils

      • JP

        I think what nickcounty meant was that he’s not afraid to pitch “in” New York, but maybe he’s afraid to pitch “for” New York, because everyone knows that once you put on the pinstripes, the standards that you’re held to skyrocket. New York, with the media and fans, are kinda like Dr. Evil: “This organization will not tolerate failure”!

        • Guest

          Fair point. I would say, though, if one wanted to shy away from markets with rabid fans and media, Philly may not be the best landing spot.

          Look at how they treated Mike Schmidt, McNabb, and Iverson. I mean, they booed santa claus. Not the warm and fuzziest of environments for pro athletes.

          • JP

            That is tru. Philly is definitely demanding and unforgiving.

    • Poopy Pants

      Worse city? Worse lifestyle? Saying things like that take away from any points you might have.

  • Tom Zig

    Sounds like Lee is in denial. Why else would he keep talking about the Yankees? It seems like he has to keep rationalizing it to himself that he turned down the better opportunity.

    • mbonzo

      Could be because all the “old” players on the Phillies are dropping dead… the young ones too.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yanksnats4ever Alex C.

    Whatever. Philly pitching is older than Yankee pitching. Cliff is 32 and getting old. He did not want to come here, so be it.

  • Cuso

    The Yanks are MUCH better off having not signed Lee. Perhaps this year, the Phillies might outperform them. But the Yankee rotation in coming years shapes up just fine.

    More than anything, it rings of Lee attempting to publicly justify his decision with faulty (but ‘grabby’ and popular) reasoning.

    i mean, he’s really taking a risk by taking veiled, unfounded shots at the Yankees, right? If you aren’t a yankee fan, you love this garbage fuel.

    Once the NCAA tournament ends, guaranteed this topic is the lead-in to ESPN’s inaugural coverage of the MLB season.

    • Guest

      The Yankees are not MUCH better of having not signed Cliff Lee.

      He has the kind of stuff that historically ages well and the most ridiculous command/control of anyone who throws a baseball of a mound.

      Any team would be better of having signed Lee, including the Yanks. But we can take solace in the fact that they’re still good enough to be very successful and have a pretty good shot at winning it all.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/AngeloInNY Angelo


        • The Ed(itor)

          And with the 3 bees being in the Yanks future, I would say long term they will be in better shape without Lee.

          And who in the Phillies starting lineup is better than the Yanks? No one!

      • Brian in NH

        Yankees would have been better off this year signing Lee. While his skills themselves translate well for aging, Lee’s injury history does not project as well. He has a history of abdomen strains that have kept him out between 35-61 days on four different occasions. He’s had two hernia surgeries and a foot surgery for a bone spur. And he’s currently shelved again for a “strain” on his “trunk.”

        this year better with Lee than without. Future…uncertain (as usual)

  • Ryan

    Like I said during the playoffs last year, I’m so sick of him beating us, all I want to see is the Yankees tee off on Lee. These bizarre comments only help – it’s always more fun the more villainous they are – so keep up the goofy sour grapes comments Cliff, and I will root against you with the maniacal wrath of a spurned lover.

  • nickcounty

    LOL at yankees being better without Lee.
    and LOL at HillBilLee saying Yankees are getting older, yeah I forgot, he’s a F-ing ageless robot!

  • http://www.bronxbombersreport.com Craig

    Why do we even care about what Lee says at this point? Maybe if I heard the comments in the correct context I’d be more annoyed by them, but I don’t even think we should pay him much attention at this point.

  • Chris A

    Let’s move on from Lee, the guy is a pimp, from the sound of it, it seems like he never wanted to come to New York and that’s fine, if he didn’t want to be here, then I don’t want him here. Lee is a worthless pimp, Cashman went hard after him and he chose to play some where else, so be it.

    • James

      Tattaglia’s a pimp. He never coulda outfought Santino. But I didn’t know until this day, that it was Barzini all along…

  • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

    yo, fuck Cliff Lee.

    • Nigel Bangs

      for real

    • http://twitter.com/#!/AngeloInNY Angelo

      You tellem, Bexy!

  • Guest

    The comments are annoying and inaccurate, but as Ben notes, he has the right not only to choose where he plays, but also to rationalize his decision however he wants.

    I also don’t think of Cliff Lee as some form of anti-New York villain. Sure, he clearly has different views on the team and city than many of us. But he is entitled to those views. Based on those views (or something else he prefers not to share) He made what he thought was the best decision for him and his family. We all do the same thing in our own professional lives. I will never spend one second of my life being upset at a player for a choice he made as a free agent.

    I will, however, strenously root for him to perform poorly if and when he faces the Yanks. I will do so for the same reason I root against nearly every other major league baseball player at some point or another: he wears a different uniform.

    That’s the only motivation I need to pique my rooting interests.

    • U Cant Hit What U Cant See

      It’s not just about the comments being annoying and innaccurate…

      Lee could have chosen to keep his mouth shut, be classy and not make a point of essentially bad-mouthing the Yankees…

      Instead he’s gotta spew a bunch of BS. He sounds like Mike Hampton explaining his acceptance of the Rockies’ 120 million because the schools were better…

      Whatever, as good as Lee is, I think the truth is that he was afraid to be under the microscope in New York and the contract quickly would have sucked anyway.

      Good, now he’s vaulted himself straight to “Yankee Enemy #1.”

      I say Phuck him.

  • cano is the bro

    Seriously why can’t Cliff Lee can’t just keep his mouth shut? I’m so sick of these stupid-misguided comments of his. He’s just coming off as an asshole. Some of you guys will think this is extreme, but i despise all of the Philly sports team (except the Flyers). So yeah, I hope their “Fantastic Four” rotation fails and I hope Lee gets injured. He’s gonna regret not taking that extra money, his loss. I actually like Doc, Hamels and Oswalt, I just don’t want them to pitch well. After this offseason though, I dislike Lee as a person.

    • Len

      I want him to be hit in the head on the mound by a meteor.

    • fire levine


  • FIPster Doofus

    He’ll retire with zero World Series rings.

  • MikeD

    I don’t think Lee really believes his words. Since he made the decision to go to Philly, he’s going to play to his audience, and that means knocking the Yankees. He’s less likely to stick it to his more recent former team — the Rangers — by saying they were his third choice. He hesitated when asked which team was second, which leads me to believe the answer he gave was not correct. Everything else I read seemed to indicate he was preparing to be a Yankee until the Phillies came back in.

    He may have loved the idea of playing for the Yankees. My guess is his wife is the one who pushed this.

    • MannyGeee

      I don’t think Lee really believes his words. Since he made the decision to go to Philly, he’s going to play to his audience, and that means knocking the Yankees.

      Ummm I thought this only happened in Boston?

      • gc

        I live 25 mi away from Philly, so I’m surrounded by this stuff all the time. For some reason, the folks in Philly seem to think there’s some great rivalry between the Yanks and Phillies. I really don’t get it. I mean, the teams have played ten meaningful games against each other in a hundred years, and the Yankees have won eight of those games, and two World Championships at their expense. Silly philly…

        So it doesn’t surprise me that Lee made these comments on the radio. Philly fans eat that shit up. They’ll erect a statue of Lee in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park any day now for it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

    The Yankees were ‘too old’ when they won in 2009, they were ‘too old’ when they got to the ALCS last year too, and they’ll be ‘too old’ for the next five years too I’m sure.

    He’s just repeating the talking points for Philly fans and the media. It’s not different than the Red Sox saying how Adrian Gonzalez always wanted to be a Red Sox growing up during his intro-press conference. Just laugh at it and move on.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      They’ve been “too old” since like 1995.

  • TC

    Stop with the Cliff Lee post.

    • Poopy Pants

      Everyone here is acting like a 16 year old girl who got rejected by the school’s QB.
      “I never thought he was that hot anyway”
      “I bet he has a small wiener”
      “That girl he’s with is a real slut!!”

      Get over it.

      • Mike HC

        hahaha … still fun to talk about, but you definitely have a point.

      • JerseyDutch

        Not everyone, kemosabe. Watch it with the generalizations.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        I think majority of fans have gotten over it but Lee is the one that continues to make statements.

  • Deli

    What Lee is trying not to say is that the Phillies have a better chance to win because it is easier to get to the playoffs and WS playing in Philly because there is less competition- other than the Braves, they get to beat up on the Mets, Nats & Marlins. Also his stats will be better by avoiding the AL East. Look at Halladay’s ERA in the NL, almost a full run lower than his career numbers in the AL. Threw 2 no hitters, something he could not do even once in 12 years in the AL. Its not that he was afraid to pitch in NY, he is afraid of the league and division.

    • Mickey Scheister


    • Mike HC

      That is why I respect Moose so much. I remember how he mentioned that he would only want to pitch in the AL East, to truly test himself against the best in the world, or something to that effect. If deep down you know you were going against weaker competition, I would think the achievement is that much more hollow, than when you know you tested yourself to the absolute max.

      • fire levine

        Did not know that. Gonna file that right next to “walking away on top” in my “why moose rocks” bank. Love the guy

  • Stevis

    if I am not mistaken didn’t the Atlanta Braves “great” pitching staff of the 90’s win only 1 world series?!!
    Screw Loser Lee and the Philthies

  • Al


  • Big Apple

    IMO, the yanks and most of the fans have moved on while the media and guys like Lee and Grienke haven’t. They keep talking about it. Screw them…it would’ve been nice to have Lee for a few years, but its clear he didn’t want to play in NY (same with Grienke.)

    Move on fellers…and best of luck to ye…

    • fire levine

      Wasn’t there a report that greinke practically begged cashman to trade for him

      • Big Apple

        his initial statement was that he thought he would have trouble pitching in NY but then he retracted.

  • Big Apple

    What I find most interesting about Lee’s comments is that Philly has the oldest team in the league and they are beat up as well. That offense is looking more pathetic each and every day. Second, is that Lee is no spring chicken himself.

    • MannyGeee

      you’re drinking the Yankees kool aid bro…

      we are old and overpaid and overrated and will not rebound from a disappointing 95 win season where we were two wins away from the World Series…

      and oh yeah, go Sawx, they are still gritty underdog favorites

      • Big Apple

        not sure I get your kool aid reference…

        the phils have a great rotation and it will carry them. But the offense has issues. They had trouble scoring runs at times last year. They lost Werth and his replacement is hurt, Utley is falling apart, Rollins is not what he used to be and they don’t have much else after that.

        Pitching usually wins out, but you have to hit also. Oh…and you need a closer. That was the Braves problem in the 90s…great staff, no closer and they couldn’t hit when they really needed to.

        • gc

          Yeah, for as much chest-beating as Phillies fans are doing right now about that rotation, it’s as if Brad Lidge is “he who shall not be named.” You even bring him up in a conversation with them, and their whole demeanor changes as if to say, “Oh yeah, I forgot about HIM. Ugh!!”

      • The Big City of Dreams

        I love your sarcasm

  • pete

    Dear Yankees,

    Please win. That is all.


  • Mike HC

    The guy is a classic, by the numbers, Yankee hater. No wonder why he strung the Yanks along when they apparently never really had a shot. The Cliff Lee vs Yanks rivalry should be pretty sweet for the next 5 years or so.

    • steve s

      I agree 100% which makes me wonder why Cashman’s “being strung along” radar alarm didn’t go off early on in the process. I’m not sure if the Yanks would ultimately have done something different but at least Cashman could have given Lee a shorter time period to accept the Yankee offer or move on and could have re-assessed other possible moves at that time.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        The alarm went off but the FO ignored it.

  • Meh Lee

    Holy shit, why won’t this guy just go away already? And enough about the fans, philly is a sess pool with fans who puke on little girls. Enjoy Cliff, y

  • Monteroisdinero

    Nova 24
    Hughes 24
    Banuelos 20

    I like those three at those ages.

    • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

      Hughes is 25 this year

      • Monteroisdinero

        Late June. Party pooper…

  • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

    Well, Cliff Lee does have 3 championships to his name and he was named the MVP of the 2009 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

    Oh. Wait.

    Well, he does have the whole “make dumb predictions and statements” thing down pat. He should fit in with that team just fine.

  • Adam

    I think from Cliff’s statements it’s pretty clear that he loves messing with New York, he loves the fact that he beats us up mercilessly and he loves turning the yankees and the fans on their ear over it. Cliff can talk all he like, he’s a great pitcher right now but he’s 32 and his peak isn’t going to last much longer, and for that reason I’m glad we didn’t get him. Philly can have Lee and his monstrous contract, we’re going to just use that money and make the organization better, and younger.

  • JerseyDutch

    Mr. Lee, you can have this year’s World Series when you pry it from our cold dead hands…

  • rek4gehrig

    “Once I talked to the inmates of an insane asylum in Hartford. I have talked to idiots a thousand times, but only once to the insane…” – Mark Twain

  • burbankbogey

    Every time the guy speaks the less frustrated I get that he didn’t sign with the Yankees. His words and thoughts just don’t seem to be that well thought out and can’t help but think he doesn’t have what it takes to play in NY. The off field aspects of course. Cash needs to set the record straight obviously but let’s focus on our team. I’ll also go out on the limb and take the Braves to win the NL East.

  • Mike

    I’m surprised that people here still get riled up about this. I’ve moved on, so should the team and their fans.