"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

In Which Cliff Lee Forces Me To Write About Basketball

Earlier today, on Twitter, I offered Cliff Lee all the money I have on me ($7.65) if he would hurry up and decide something already, so that I could write about him today. I have not yet heard back from his agent, however, so I went ahead and bought lunch and the offer is no longer on the table.

In the absence of any baseball news more significant than Brian Bruney signing with the White Sox, and some media-on-media violence from the usually mild-mannered Buster Olney and Joe Posnanski, I am thus forced to turn my attention to basketball. Which, in recent years in New York City, has been almost unspeakably bleak. But after years of excruciating play, and then years of being unable to bring myself to care how excruciating their play was, I am casting a hopeful but wary eye on the Knicks.

Going by his own statement, Isiah Thomas, who has by now made it clear that he is clinically delusional, targeted Lebron James for the 2010 season from the very first unfortunate moment that he was hired to run the Knicks. (He even tries to make that his explanation for the Eddy Curry deal, but like all other explanations for the Eddy Curry deal, it makes no sense whatsoever). As you may have noticed, however, Lebron did not come to New York City this season, and I’m just as glad, because people hate New York sports teams enough as it is, and because the whole “Decision” thing was so insufferable. But I did not think, at first, that Amar’e Stoudemire would be any kind of suitable consolation prize.

Stoudemire is no LeBron, but he’s also a lot better than I gave him credit for prior to this season, and he’s a fairly interesting, likeable guy to boot. This is the first year since the millenium, more or less, that the Knicks have been any fun to watch, and that’s not all Stoudemire, but he’s played a big role. I did not expect that I would gain much pleasure from watching point guard Raymond Felton, either, but I was wrong – and really after the agony of the Stephon Marbury years, it’s just lovely to have a PG who isn’t noticeably mentally unstable, miserable, and constantly jeered by his hometown crowd. Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields: I expected nothing and, for once, the Knicks have overdelivered… so far. They do not seem to hate each other, their fans, or their coach… yet.

The season is still young and, when it comes to the Knicks (or any team owned by James Dolan), I will not count my dysfunctional chickens. No imaginable severity of collapse could surprise me any more. But the Knickerbockers are working on their best record since the Clinton years, and finally, best of all, the Garden is no longer hostile and angry and hurt. I don’t need the Knicks to be great right now, I just need them to be better. Mediocrity is a soothing relief.

Needless to say, it’s been many many years since that was true of the Yankees. Which is why they are willing to go a walloping seven years on a 32-year-old pitcher, and why that pitcher can take his sweet Arkansas time in making up his mind. Hurry up, Lee, or I’m going to have to write about the god damn Jets, and nobody wants that.


1 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 13, 2010 6:46 pm

growing up the Knicks were a big part of what got me through November to April, it sure is nice to have that back

2 rbj   ~  Dec 13, 2010 6:50 pm

LeBron: The Decision.
Cliff Lee: The Indecision.

3 Bruce Markusen   ~  Dec 13, 2010 7:28 pm

Man, this guy is a real diva.

I'd love to hear the Yankees say, "Time's up! The offer's off the table. Goodbye."

4 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 13, 2010 8:02 pm

knicks have a TOUGH stretch here: nuggets, celtics, heat, cavs, thunder, bulls, heat, magic.

off to a good start w/ the nugs, but i'll start to get excited if they win half of those games.

i'm tuning in to the thunder game, maybe even try to score a ticket - it would be my first knicks game since i was in grammar school.

5 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 13, 2010 8:38 pm

*adds "leads to basketball talk" to list of reasons why I'll hate Cliff lee if he signs elsewhere*

6 Simone   ~  Dec 13, 2010 9:35 pm

Gawd, did you see this? Apparently, the Phillies have made a late offer on Lee. Bloody hell.


7 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 13, 2010 9:39 pm

[4] I believe the Knicks have had one of the easiest schedules to date, so we'll see if its for real or not.

I am hopefully going to see a Knicks-Magic game in Orlando (thank you, meeting for work) in March, and I am excited about it. I can't remember the last time I was genuinely excited to see the Knicks.

[0] "Hurry up, Lee, or I’m going to have to write about the god damn Jets, and nobody wants that."

Emma, why would you do that, when you could write about the glorious Giants (currently up 14-3, though its not been a pretty game)?

8 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 13, 2010 9:41 pm

[6] No; thanks for the news, Simone!

I really, really, really hope Lee signs elsewhere. The more I look at that K-rate and how out of line his command was this year versus every other season (fluke!), the more I think the Yanks will regret it, and soon, if he signs with them.

9 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 13, 2010 9:48 pm

[8] you mean the k to walk ratio that was the second best of all time isn't likely to be repeated? oh, yeah, definitely don't get him then. if it's only 5 to 1, i'd much rather just throw ivan nova out there.

10 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 13, 2010 9:56 pm

[9] No, his 7.8 K/9 rate across 2010. Lee is not a "stuff" kind of pitcher, one who strikes out a ton of guys. He succeeds most by not walking anyone. What happens when that command goes - and worse, when its coupled with (as we can reasonably expect from any pitcher entering his mid-30s) a decline in his K/9?

We know pitchers don't have the same age vs performance curve as hitters? But if 2010 was Lee's peak - and I think its reasonable to believe it was - then if the Yanks sign him, they are getting past-his-peak Cliff Lee, not "OMG Cliff Lee doesn't walk anyone!!!11!!1" Lee. I understand paying premium price for premium talent (CC, Tex). I'm not convinced Lee is a premium talent.

And I'll be very happy to be proved wrong!

11 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 13, 2010 10:13 pm

[8] Honest question. Why is it better to lose next year in the last throes of the Jeter/Rivera/Posada/Pettitte years than in five years? What if the 2015 era Yankees just aren't good enough? We'll then have passed up on one last run for the sake of building a team that just isn't good enough.

12 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:34 am

and we've just signed Russell Martin (just came over the wire) ..... hmmm, I guess Cervelli is gone, and maybe Romine?

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver