Posts Tagged ‘Cliff Lee’

By Phil Bausk

Football is a game of inches, Basketball is a game of egos, Hockey is a game of white people, and Baseball is a game of numbers. No sport’s outcome is determined by statistics as much as America’s past time is, and men (though not many) like Bill James have sculpted Hall of Fame careers out of analyzing the numbers over and over, transforming the game into what it has become today.

While I am not expert at Sabermetrics, nor am I relatively competent when it comes to them, I find that through my years of watching, playing, and obsessing over baseball, I have concocted some decent forecasts about how a season might unfold. During this time of sports limbo, where professional basketball and hockey reign supreme, at least until the Big East Tournament starts,  baseball fans and restless football fans are filling their brains with the countless Spring Training articles, hoping that this year will be the year their team makes it to October.

I was at work today when someone sent me an outrageous GChat telling me that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had come back to wrestling. While his life changing movies, such as The Tooth Fairy and Doom, led me to become the man I am today, I was more excited to see him back inside a WWE (World Wildlife Fund should be extinct at this point) ring. In addition, this past week’s episode of Glee was titled “Comebacks,” as Rachel Berry, Will Schuster, and Sue Sylvester all were attempting to makes separate comebacks in their personal lives. Now, I understand if no one really knows what I just said, and if you don’t, read this piece I wrote earlier this year, and perhaps your life will become that much better since watching Glee, as mine has  exponentially improved.

This inspired me to make somewhat of a comeback of my own. While I have made predictions in the last year or so in conversations with friends and such, I have never put these predictions down on paper, or the World Wide Web. This year it will start with the upcoming MLB season, running through each division, giving you the order of which the teams will finish, the All-Division team by position, and which three prospects that will make the biggest impact this season with the big league club. Due to the fact that most people I know are New York Mets fans and can always use some sort of an emotional pick me up, I will start this year’s set of predictions with the distorted mess that is the National League East.

National League East 2011 Projected Finish

1. Philadelphia Phillies

2. Atlanta Braves

3. New York Mets

4. Florida Marlins

5. Washington Nationals

NL East All-Division Team

C: Brian McCann, ATL

1B: Ryan Howard, PHI

2B: Chase Utley, PHI

SS: Hanley Ramirez, FLA

3B: Ryan Zimmerman, WSH

OF: Jason Bay, NYM, Jason Heyward, ATL, Mike Stanton, FLA

SP: Josh Johnson, FLA, Roy Halladay, PHI, Cliff Lee, PHI, Tommy Hanson, ATL, Johan Santana NYM

RP: Drew Storen, WSH, Francisco Rodriguez NYM,  Ryan Madson PHI

3 Impact Prospects: Logan Morrison FLA, Dominic Brown PHI, Jenry Mejia NYM

A lot has happened in this division in the past few months. Cliff Lee spurned the Yankees and the Rangers, and decided to rejoin the Phillies, a team that didn’t really need his “talents.” Lee makes the Phillies rotation almost unbeatable in a playoff series, though I think Roy Oswalt is going to be in for a tough season. However, the trio of Halladay, Lee, and  Cole Hamels will be enough to stifle the bats of the NL East, and most of the entire National League. Their offense, though not as explosive as they were a couple years ago, will score enough runs to win around 95 games, and take home the NL East crown.

However, while many are handing the NL East to the Phillies before opening day, I do think they will be in for a dogfight with the always consistent Atlanta Braves. The Braves sport a very respectable rotation and a well rounded lineup, though questions in the bullpen may ultimately derail their season. The New York Mets are the most intriguing team in this division.

We have a fair assessment of how the Phillies and Braves  respective season’s will shake out, but the Mets season can go any which way. Johan Santana is coming off surgery, Jose Reyes is in a contract year and trying to fight the injury bug, David Wright is a male model, Carlos Beltran doesn’t want to keep getting yelled at on the 7 train, the new stadium is a treasure trove for child molesters, Mike Pelfrey’s bipolar disorder on the field could lead to interesting antics off the  field, and K-Rod can choke someone out on 2nd base and no one would be surprised. Though I do think Jason Bay will have a really solid season at the plate, I do not think everything will pan out for the Mets this season, and if all of that young talent in Florida meshes well, the Mets could be fighting off the Nationals for the cellar in the division.

Speaking of those Marlins, it seems as if they are in the same spot every single year, almost like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” only without Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe” on repeat on the stadium’s sound system. Young outfielders Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison will provide some quality production, as well as some highlight reel plays to amuse the 400 season ticket holders down in South Beach. Josh Johnson returns from a Josh Beckettesque back injury, and if healthy, I think he will be the best pitcher in the division. An added bonus for the Marlins would be if The Akron Scammer shows up to any games. I am sure his entourage alone can fill up the seats behind Home Plate, but Lebron isn’t the kind of guy to create any distractions away from the game, so he”ll probably just watch the  Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals from his couch in June. I wonder if Jim Gray will be invited to watch with him.

That leaves us with the Washington Nationals. They spend over a hundred million dollars to bring in a plus 30 year old outfielder in Jayson Werth. It was a good decision on Werth’s side, and a necessary act of desperation on the Nats side. Werth will get his numbers, and muddle through Washington until Stephen Strasburg is healthy and Bryce Harper hits puberty. Werth may be 34 at that point, but who cares, they took baseball out of Canada, and brought it back to D.C. That has to count for something right?

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By Donny Goldin

As i prepared to take out my contact lenses before bed on Monday night, an ESPN news alert flashed across the bottom of my computer screen. It immediately caught my eye. Could I possibly be reading this right? Did anyone see this coming?

The top Free Agent on the open market was not resigning with the Texas Rangers, and he wasn’t taking the over sized check that the Yankees were offering. Clifton Phifer Lee had taken less money and less years to rejoin a team whose fans often force themselves to vomit on little children. Lee’s signing sent shock waves around the league, but its impact was mainly felt throughout the NL East.

As a passionate Met fan I wondered, could this possibly be the worst thing that has happened to our fan base since Rick Peterson claimed that he could fix Victor Zambrano in ten minutes? Since Bernard Gilkey and Butch Huskey chants rang throughout the walls of Shea Stadium? Maybe it was watching Yadier Molina saunter around the bases during Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, though I think Carlos Beltran staring at strike 3 to end it may have given me an ulcer.

Lee going to the Phillies gives them a stranglehold on this division for the next few years, giving Mets fans like myself much more reason to start following Hockey (Goooooo Rangers!!!). This begs the questions, can anyone in the NL East actually beat this Phillies team? Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Carlos Ruiz. This sounds more like a team I would have drafted in my ultra-competitive 4-team fantasy baseball league back in the 5th grade. Thank G-d for Jayson Werth’s departure, or the Phils might have had the National League locked up this year.

As Met fans, where do we go from here? How do we react? Do we go towards a complete rebuilding mode and trade away our cornerstone players to build for future teams? Do we give up the next 3 years, root for the rest of the National League, and start sending letters to Fred Wilpon to use some of that extra “Madoff” cash he didn’t really lose? Or do we look to surround our clubhouse with quality ballplayers who play the game right, and don’t worry about money or manly women? I would opt for the latter.

The Mets still have a solid group on the offensive side of the ball. Franchise players David Wright and Jose Reyes give the Mets an extremely impressive left side of the infield. Angel Pagan is proving to be one of those late bloomers, as a player who relies on fundamentals and instinct. Young hitters such as Ike Davis and Justin Thole will provide the Mets with some depth in their lineup, something they have lacked due to injuries over the past few seasons. Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay will have to do a better job of driving in runs, but they do have the track record to succeed over the course of a full season.

Unfortunately for the Mets, their starting pitching lacks any depth. I am pretty sure John Mayer’s dating resume is a lot deeper than the pitcher selection Manager Terry Collins will get to chose from. If there is one area the Mets should spend their money, it is here. Do not trade Jose Reyes for pitching depth, and do not mortgage whatever is left of the farm system to fill out the rotation. Sign veterans and players such as Brandon Webb, who is in that high risk, high reward category. There is no need to dismantle a team that isn’t too far removed from its last playoff appearance.

Every year, the Minnesota Twins grab, or either contend for, a playoff spot in the American League. Most of their big contracts are homegrown players they resigned to keep their team intact. The Mets should pay attention to what’s going on in the Twin Cities. If there is one thing that the Minnesota Twins have taught me over the years, it’s that winning baseball is not always about putting together a team of overpaid All-Stars. It is about doing all the little things right and playing fundamentally sound baseball.

Unless you’re the Baltimore Orioles. Then you just stink.

By Phil Bausk

The Cliff Lee sweepstakes are over and the winners turned out to be a bit of a shocker. Late last night, it was reported that Lee signed a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, expected to be worth in the area of $120 mil. over 5 years, leaving a lot of money on the table by rejecting the offers of both the New York Yankees, and the Texas Rangers.

Lee helped lead the Phillies to the World Series in 2009, and then was traded to the Seattle Mariners because, ironically, the Phillies couldn’t afford to give him an extension. They couldn’t give him that extension because they had too much money on the team payroll, including SP Joe Blanton and his hefty contract. They then resigned Blanton to an extension worth $24 mil. over 3 years, and have been shopping him all off-season. Either way, with or without Blanton, the Phillies were able to steal Lee away from the Yanks and Rangers, and solidify their place as a top contender for the World Series crown.

When do you see this from athletes? How often do you see someone leave about $30 mil. on the table to go play for a stacked team, a city with an overrated fan base, and a star player already firmly entrenched as the team leader? Sounds familiar right?

While obviously you can’t really compare Cliff Lee to the Akron Scammer, there are some parallels here. Lee dangled his sexy package (not literally) of talent, competitiveness, and leadership in front of the Rangers and the Yankees, only to go take less money to play for a better team alongside Roy Halladay, who some consider to be the best pitcher in baseball.  It was believed that he was going to pick the Rangers or the Yankees, and at the last moment, shifted gears and turned the Phillies into a powerhouse.

With a rotation of Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, the Phillies will give opposing lineups more headaches than Percy Harvin gets on a day to day basis. Lee is no longer the main guy, and while he will be scrutinized by the media, he will not be ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the Phillies this season.

Does anyone else see this as a little bit of a cop out? (Side note: Watched Cop Out with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan and all I can think about is how much money Bruce Willis got for doing that movie. The scary thing is I think Tracy Morgan got paid more…) Lee shied away from the pressure that comes with pitching in NY. Even with CC Sabathia as the staff ace, Lee would be under more scrutiny than any other Yankee not named Jeter this upcoming season. It is understandable why he wouldn’t want to play for the Yankees, as a lot of players do not like to deal with that sort of pressure everyday (Just ask Javier Vazquez).

I wonder though, Why not go back to Texas? It is right in his backyard, as he resides in Arkansas, and he helped carry a historically, mediocre franchise all the way to the World Series. Is it me, or did everyone on the Rangers look like they were having a blast last year? Did Josh Hamilton replace nights of doing Heroine in a Wendy’s bathroom with coming up with hand gestures for everyday baseball plays? Were players more excited to put up their famous “claw,” rather then spend a weekend smashing through University of Texas freshmen? What could have possible been so awful  there that Lee wouldn’t take MORE money to go back there and dominate the AL West for a few more seasons?

Deep down, I think Cliff Lee knew what he was going to do all along. His “decision” didn’t change everyday. He didn’t feel bad leaving the Rangers and their fans. He did exactly what was best for him. Go to a team that’s already a contender, and play second fiddle to a future Hall of Famer. Why not just say this from the beginning? Why string along all of the fans for this long, just to crush their spirits in the end?

Athletes love all of this attention. Whether it be Cliff Lee or LBJ, when the world is focused on them, they don’t want to give up that spotlight. Athletes are a rare group of people who can garner so much attention without even performing their jobs, and the worst part about that is that they all know this. This type of decision leaves a large percentage of fans with a poor taste in their mouths, and a different perception of said athlete.

Is Cliff Lee going to attract the same amount of negative press that the Akron Scammer did? No, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lee doesn’t get any bad press. It’s not like he even used the Yanks and the Rangers to get more money out of Philly. He just teased both teams management and fan bases and ultimately flipped them the bird by announcing his decision to go to the Phillies.

Either way, the New York baseball world took a bit of a hit last nigh twith this announcement. The Yankees will now go into the season with a “rotation” of CC, AJ “Me and Lackey could buy the Rays” Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ian Nova, and an undecided fifth starter. This is a very unimpressive group and I am sure Yankee fans are trying to convince themselves that Nova is going to be the second coming of Jose Contreras ( You know, before he turned 52).

The New York Mets now must face the fact that they may not win a division title in the next few years. While hopes for Mets fans weren’t especially high for this season, there is little reason to believe that they could overcome the Phillies and take home the NL East crown. Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins have a lot of work to do to try and catch Pat Gillick and the Philles, and something tells me that the new Mets duo isn’t up to the task.

Ultimately, Lee gives the Phillies the best chance to win, and Gillick and the rest of the Phillies front office should be applauded. Lee will not be characterized as a villain, and I don’t think we will be seeing any “What should I do?” commercials out of him anytime soon. Who knows, maybe this was all just a ploy for Lee to get on an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” after he saw Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on it. Either way, Lee, and other athletes who do the same thing, should be reprimanded somehow for their actions. This idea may be a pipe dream, but as a fan, I do not like where this trend is taking the already poor Free Agency process.

Here is a link to a piece by Ian O’Connor expressing a similar displeasure with Cliff Lee’s decision.

By Phil Bausk

It’s almost like watching a really awful horror movie. You are watching this poor 18 year old girl, aimlessly wandering around either an abandoned hotel or a decrepit amusement park. She knows she has absolutely no reason to be there, but yet finds herself walking deeper and deeper into the darkness. You know she’s screwed, the rest of the audience knows she’s screwed, but she still has hope that shes is going to find her douchey boyfriend, who has already been brutally murdered by the villain, and get out without a scratch on her pretty little self. She turns around and BAM! That’s the end of her character’s stint on screen, and most likely, her career as an actress.

It was reported late last night that the Boston Red Sox had agreed to a deal with All World OF Carl Crawford on a 7 year, $142 million contract, stealing him away at the last second from the LA Angels of Anaheim. Crawford gives the Red Sox a lineup that one usually sees in video games, fantasy baseball lineups, or a classic Simpson’s episode.

I know it’s only December, and there is a lot more players to be signed or traded for, but at this point, the New York Yankees have to be worried. They are the aforementioned teenager, who looks oh so good prancing around the movie screen for 2 hours, acting like the pompous homecoming queen, completely oblivious of her inevitable fate. The Red Sox signing of Crawford could be that fateful machete swing that decapitates the Yankees, and elevates the Sawx as the best team in the American League East.

I work in Manhattan every day and I do the same commute every morning. Every man in their late 20’s or early to mid 30’s was talking about this signing. Specifically, a man on the M15 bus was talking to his colleague about what this signing meant to Yankee fans. His voice was soft, as if he was worried that speaking louder may lead to him breaking down emotionally on the bus at 8:30 in the morning. He had a faint look in his eyes, almost like he was a little lost, wondering if the worst was over, or if there was going to be more bad news to make his life a little more stressful.

I have been there before. I was there 2 years ago when the Yankees signed the trio of CC Sabathia (Who I saw at the Knicks game last night. He really as put on some weight since the end of the regular season. I think I may scout out all of the Casual Male XL stores in Manhattan to find him and throw Twinkies at him so he can come into Spring Training a lean 345 lbs.), Mark Teixeira, and AJ Burnett. I complained, I bickered with Yankee fans, and I even believed the 2009 season was over before it had even started. There was little the Red Sox could do to counter punch the Yanks in this one-sided bout.

This year there is a difference. The difference is a 32 year old south paw by the name of Clifford Phifer Lee, who is the Jade Monkey of this year’s Free Agent class. He is one of the top 3 pitchers in baseball, and is expected to cash in on his recent years of success with a massive contract. When I hear the words massive contract, I only think of one team, the New York Yankees (I am sorry but even after the Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez extensions the Yankees payroll will be $40 mil bigger than the Red Sox payroll).

If the Yankees do not sign Mr. Phifer, this off-season will have been a major disappointment. Lee is the small revolver the 18 year old drama queen finds on those rare occasions to shoot the crazed murderer. He is the police arriving at the exact moment before the killer is able to deliver his final blow. Lee is the douchey boyfriend whose pulse the killer forgets to check, as he stabs the murderer in the back, ultimately saving the day, and getting the girl a contract for a second movie. The Yankees front office has to do whatever it takes to bring Lee on board, otherwise the fans will feel neglected, and it will appear as though the Jeter Saga was the main focus of the off-season, when the acquisition of Lee should have been the focal point.

This arms race in the AL East is getting out of control. “The bar,” one American League GM said early Thursday morning, “keeps getting raised. Crazy.” Year after year, the Yankees and the Red Sox keep going back and forth, signing up every Free Agent under the sun. It’s like the a 3rd World War, as New York and Boston are the super powers going back and forth, while teams such as Tampa Bay are the small, sovereign states who take most of the abuse and have the most ruins to clean up afterward. At some point it is going to get out of hand and Major League Baseball is going to have to regulate it somehow.

Until then, I get to enjoy the Red Sox spending spree for now, watching a team prepare itself for the 2011 season with nothing less  than a championship on its mind. Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein knows what he is doing, and has garnered the trust of the members of Red Sox Nation. He is our Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who we will follow into battle against the likes of Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who plays the role of  either Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, or Emperor Hirohito (You can choose depending on how much you despise him).

But for right now, the Red Sox are making the Yankees and their fans sweat buckets out there on the streets of New York. Will Cashman come through and sign Cliff Lee, saving the Yankees from their masked murderer? Or will another team swoop in and sign Lee, leaving the Yankees to meet their demise. One things for sure, either the Yankees will be starring in the sequel with another World Series ring, or looking for work as a waitress at The Cheesecake Factory.