"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Puff, Puff, Pass

Part of being a Yankee fan–especially those of us who grew up during the Steinbrenner Era–means getting what you want come the off-season. But for every success story like Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage or CC Sabathia, there are even more busts–Davey Collins, Steve Kemp, Jack Clark, and Jose Contreras leap to mind. Still, reflexively, we expect the Yanks to get their man. This year, the Bombers wanted Cliff Lee in the worst way. They made him the biggest offer. And he turned them down.

Sometimes the best gift is the one you don’t get. I think Lee did the Yanks a favor. Brian Cashman and the Yankee brass might be furious at the moment, and certainly, there are a lot of Yankee fans who are vexed this morning, but there is no reason to panic. Seven years for Lee was insane. He would have turned into the Ryan O’Neal of great pitchers for that many years in this town–not built to last.

So kudos to the Phillies. And now Cashman has to get creative. Good. I’m curious to see what he comes up with. Just because we don’t have a splashy big name to keep us warm during the holidays doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do let alone it being the end of the world. Nothing is f***** here. We don’t need to be un-Dude. (And thank goodness George still isn’t running things because heads would roll and dumb moves would be made.)

Hey, think of it this way, at least now we’ll get to read columnists and bloggers and blog readers offere their genius solutions. Ready to revive the Joba-to-the-rotation spiel? (God no, please no! It might make all the sense in the world for Chamberlain to start but that’s a moot pernt becuase the Yanks seem hell bent on keeping him in the pen.)

Who knows what surprises are in store?

Tags:  cliff lee  ryan o'neal  so fine

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1 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 14, 2010 9:13 am

good take, Alex. I agree with you, and I was among those who very much wanted Lee - even at the ridiculous price of 7 years. In the long run, he did the Yanks a favor. No hard feelings. We move on.

2 Simone   ~  Dec 14, 2010 9:17 am

I never understood why the Yankees didn't keep Joba in the rotation and help him figure things out. Now they have no choice as far as I can see.

3 omarcoming   ~  Dec 14, 2010 9:19 am

I love it. He's out of the league.
Sure, why not put Joba in the rotation.
The "Weight" has been lifted.
Once again our crack commentators and columnists were wrong. Our guesses on BB are just as valid and we do it for free.

4 jorgie juiced one   ~  Dec 14, 2010 9:25 am

According to ESPN: Yankees: 6 yr/$132 mill with $16 mill option; Phillies: 5yr/$120 mill with option. He didn't take less money over the next 5-6 years.

I'm glad about this outcome. At some point it seems Yankees changed their apporach re FAs. In 90s and 2000s, they didn't go after Randy Johnson, ARod, Manny, Vlad or Carlos Beltran. And speciifically from 96 through 2000 season, they didn't sign any "big" free agents. They ignored the top player all those years and were more calculated in their pursuit of players.

And yes, of course, Joba to rotation. Unless the Yankees' reasoned judgment is that his shoulder simply can't withstand being a starter. In which case, Joba's career really did effectively end when he walked off that mound on that August night in Texas in 08.

5 Ben   ~  Dec 14, 2010 9:29 am

woke up and heard the news. it was like early christmas. I like Lee, but liked not getting him better. And he's in the National League! Great.

I'm glad to see he's still making a ton of money, same money to what the Yanks offered really. The arguement that the Yanks can just buy championships just lost a little more water...

blue christmans for the Mets fan in me though...

6 Bruce Markusen   ~  Dec 14, 2010 9:39 am

All right, time to move on from this debacle. This will test Cashman's mettle as a GM. Can he find starting pitching without merely signing a big check? When Cashman sets his mind to it, he can be a very good trader. He'll need to be now.

7 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 14, 2010 9:40 am

[4] I just took a look at the PV of the two offers, and depending on the vesting sixth year option, Lee could actually wind up being better off with the Phillies deal.

Lee didn't spurn the Yankees to take less money in Philadelphia. He got a comparable offer and simply decided he'd rather return to the Phillies. I have a feeling the contact Lee's agent had with Cashman yesterday morning was to see if the Yankees would go higher. They didn't, so Lee went with his first choice.

8 Greg G   ~  Dec 14, 2010 9:43 am

The Phillies just moved past Boston as the Hot Stove winners for now.

I was a little shocked, and thought the "mystery team" was BS, but there you have it.

This isn't the end of the world, but Lee really screwed two organizations by waiting so long to make a decision. I thought he would be one of the 1st FA's to sign and the others would get larger deals as 2nd options. But his agent played this well, ala Scott Boras.

Now the OB (Original Boras) can get people to overpay for his clients who are still out there waiting to be signed.

Lee's wife better not come back to the stadium without a poncho and an umbrella. I wouldn't be spitting, but just sayin'

9 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 14, 2010 9:59 am

If Jerry Crasnick is correct, and he has been so far, the sixth year action is worth a whopping $27.5 million and kicks in with 200 innings in 2015 or 400 innings over 2014/15. If that's the case, the PV analysis referenced in [7] tilts in favor of the Phillies' offer and the total value comes right up to the Yankees. What's more, there is a $12.5 million buyout, which itself draws the offers even closer (unless it is included in the reported $120 million guaranteed).

10 Matt Blankman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:00 am

I'm not so sure Cashman didn't see this coming. Anyway, Lee would have been great for 2011, but that contract would have been a nightmare in 4 years. I like the flexibility the Yankees will have going into the season.

Right now, I'm happy Cashman hasn't locked the Yanks in to the long term, over paying deals Lee and Crawford got.

11 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:07 am

[9] I think it's like this:

5 years / 132.5 (5 yr at 20 plus 12.5)


6 years / 147.5 (5 yr at 20 plus 6th at 27.5)

so really the yanks offer got blown out of the water.

12 monkeypants   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:07 am

[8] This isn’t the end of the world, but Lee really screwed two organizations by waiting so long to make a decision.

How did he screw Texas and NY? I don't think that either organization has lost out on any FA they were targeting while waiting for Lee to decide. Heck, he's signed within a couple of days of the meetings...that's relatively fast, isn't it?

13 rbj   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:08 am

So does this mean the Yankees are now the scrappy underdogs?

14 monkeypants   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:12 am

[13] With Gritty Gutty Brett Gardner and the Enthusiastic Frankie Cervelli as their mascots, how can they not be?

15 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:13 am

Oh God, now Cashman is going to have to be creative.

It just keeps getting worse.

16 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:29 am

[11] obviously that's "5 yr at 24"

does it feel different now that we know the yanks were out bid?

17 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:32 am

[16] Depends. You can now say, see, Cashman and the Yankees didn't do everything in their power. On the other hand, however, you can also argue that the Yankees set their limit and weren't willing to go crazy. Probably depends on your original viewpoint.

18 The Hawk   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:32 am

The Yankees will be right there next season, even as they are right now. If the Red Sox really become a behemoth (which is yet to be seen), the Rays are unlikely to compete at the level they did in 2010.

19 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:35 am


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

20 jorgie juiced one   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:36 am

[9] [11] [17], it appears that the narrative which initially emerged was utterly false [he left $50 million on the table! oh my gosh, what a guy!, etc.]. I wonder how that happened, and why every single reporter ran with it.

21 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:36 am

[17] How about emotionally? There's less a sense of rejection whena guy just takes the best deal.

22 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:40 am

[18] That's if you assume the Yankees offense will hold up their end of the deal.

Maybe the Yankees offense and rotation of er.. CC Sabathia is enough to beat Price-Garza-Davis-Helickson and their offense of... Evan Longoria.

But I'm really worried.

23 The Hawk   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:41 am

I think the Phillies GM asserted that Lee took less money. I can't find where I read it, but I think that was at least one source. After landing the player, he said he "respected" him for leaving money on the table. Easy to say after you sign him.

24 The Hawk   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:42 am

[22] Come on, you can't say CC Sabathia is all the Yanks have. You have to at least throw in Hughes as well. I guess I forgot about Pettitte not being in the mix though. Nonetheless.

25 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:43 am

[19] I would be absolutely stunned if Cervelli wasn't at least in competition for the job in Spring Training.

26 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:44 am


if only that picture was safe to view at work ... :-P

27 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:45 am

[19] I don't think the Yanks will get rid of Cervelli, or Romine. They are taking a chance on Martin. He might stink, like he has the last two years. If he doesn't work out, they'll need one or both of those guys. I believe Cervelli does have an option (or two) left; but if I'm wrong about that . . .

My guess is, if Martin does pan out, Montero catches some games, with Martin his late inning replacement, and against teams that might run wild on Montero, Martin starts. And I bet Posada gets some starts behind the plate, too. Cervelli and Romine split time catching at AAA, with Cervelli the first call up if anyone gets hurt.

28 Just Fair   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:47 am

F$$# Lee. I was against him for awhile. Not because of money or years but because of the "If you can't beat him, buy him" mantra."
Keep Jesus and give Joba a shot in the rotation (about as possible as Mo batting lead off and playing CF but I can hope).

29 The Hawk   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:47 am

Why is Russell Martin even here? I don't see anything over the last two years that would suggest he's any better than Cervelli ... Is he a whiz behind the plate or something?

30 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:47 am

[24] Hughes was kind of terrible in the second half. I would have been fine letting him continue to develop as the number four starter. As the number two starter not so good.

31 ms october   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:49 am

[20] maybe because cliff is a nice country boy - not an evil conniver (like clemens) or an ungrateful dominican (manny, alex).

32 rbj   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:53 am

Paging good A.J. Burnett, good A.J. Burnett to the white courtesy phone please. You are needed in N.Y.

If the Yankees go into the season with Posada (mainly DH), Montero, Romine, Cervelli & Martin, well that gives Cashman some bargaining chips. Remember when catcher was a deficit position? It's not the second coming of Yogi, but I think it will be a WAR of 0 to +1.

33 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:54 am

[19] The Martin signing is a good one if Montero is still incorporated. The combination of losing Cervelli's offense/defense and Posada's defense makes him a significant upgrade. Also, he is gritty!!

34 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:55 am

Jay Jaffe tweets that Martin was signed due to concern of starting rookie C with a veteran staff.

35 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:55 am

Well, Roger was largely a con man.

I know it may not be popular, and Christ I still want Andy back, but you'll never, ever convince me that Clemens and Pettitte didn't plan to go to Houston in 2004 from the very beginning. Brett Favre wishes he could fake retire as well as Roger.

36 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:55 am

[19] I guess that's awesome (*sniff*)

Hah. Maybe we can trade him to Texas mid-season and Montero will rise like the second coming. I'm also not opposed to Martin/Montero/Romine at some point...

37 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 10:58 am

[33] I sense some Pinky and the Brain level scheme is in the works. Lets not forget that when Brian Cashman tries to get creative, we wind up eith people like Wilson Betemit and Sidney Ponson

38 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:00 am


sorry .. that was Joel Sherman's tweet, not Jay's

39 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:00 am

[29] He is MUCH better defensively. He also has three very good seasons in the majors, which suggests much more upside than Cervelli.

40 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:00 am


then again ... Betemit turned into Nick Swisher ...

41 The Hawk   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:00 am

Again: Martin's offense is no better than Cervelli's - it's worse, at least over the past two seasons. Is this a move a la Granderson where you hope he'll return to previous season's form?

42 ms october   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:01 am

[41] one more project for kevin long.

43 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:01 am

[40] After what i think was eight years of Betemit playing every day. At least that's how it felt. I'll need to check my notes again.

44 The Hawk   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:02 am

I figure the Yanks are stockpiling catchers for a trade. Also maybe keeping Russell away from the Red Sox was part of it.

45 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:02 am

[41] he's got some upside that cervelli doesn't have and he's a stopgap until the younger guys prove what they can do. minor move, but a good one i think.

46 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:04 am

[44] I don't even want to know who they have on their radar. I think the surprise of the terrible trade will be better to handle than the anticipation before it goes down.

47 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:04 am

Logan Morrison (very funny guy, OF for Marlins) has dubbed Phils rotation R2C2


48 The Hawk   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:05 am

[46] Come on - it might be something good. What if they decimiate the farm system for King Felix? I will be 100% fine with that.

49 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:09 am

[48] I'm getting this awful Tabata for Nady feeling.

50 Raf   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:12 am

[0] The trade that netted Melido Perez was a pretty shrewd one.

[4] Cone, Rogers, Mussina don't qualify as "top" free agents?

Russel Martin was signed as a hedge against Montero and Posada, with Cervelli being the odd man out. The Yanks are probably going to go with 3 catchers, Martin the primary, Posada the backup and Montero the understudy. Chances are we'll see Posada as some sort of hybrid DH/C.

51 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:14 am

Sterling's (seldom to be used) Russell Martin home run call?

it is high, it is far, it is gone! Russell Martin muscles one over the wall in (location tbd). My favorite Martin, you're outta this world! (thud)

52 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:15 am

Hot Stove League time ... and it is COLD outside. I'm with Alex here, generally: 7 years for a 32 year old is a crazy contract. We are already locked into huge salaries for declining once-superstars in the infield and hoping Mo remains Mo for 2 more years. If Andy comes back (yes, please) it will be for a huge ticket, too, for another late-30s athlete.

In other words, Lee was a play for 3 great years and a hope he regressed SLOWLY ... which he well might, but ...

My problem is that I do see the Bosox as having improved greatly, factoring in net gain (Carl/A Gon) over loss of Beltre and Victor and the basic reality that they came really close last year with MASSIVE injuries to stars.

Rays are likely to be weaker, yes, but we are - as of right now - down from last year (minus Pettitte) and relying on comeback seasons from key people. That can happen, too, but it doesn't make for a good off-season, nope. By all accounts NY is cool on Greinke for psychological reasons, and the trade ransom he would take would just make losing Lee (for just money) feel painful.

I'm with the Buehrle type signing and full court press on Andy, though this year, this week, I can see a Brett Favre thing with Andy, you know. To the well one more time, ambivalently, and ...

Ah, well, lots to argue about. The game keeps giving.

53 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:17 am

[50] You have more faith in Joe Girardi dumping Cervelli than i do.

54 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:18 am

Damn you Raf! Touche.

And c'mon, nobody comments on that Ryan O'Neal clunker from the early 80s?!


55 The Hawk   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:18 am

[49] hahaha

56 The Hawk   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:19 am

[51] Bravo

57 Raf   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:19 am

[49] Tabata was having problems with the organization at the time of the trade, benchings and suspensions. After he was traded, there was an issue with his birth certificate. And to top it off, his wife allegedly kidnapped a baby...

58 rbj   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:23 am

[54] Didn't see it. Hadn't even heard of it. But @ssless chaps never looked so good.

I've expected Toronto and Baltimore to be better next year. It's going to be a 5 team dogfight, just keep Michael Vick in Philly.

59 jorgie juiced one   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:24 am

[50], they traded for Cone and then signed him when his contract was up. I wouldn't put Rogers in "top" FA category. Mussian was a top FA, signed after 2000 season. But, again, given some big names they passed on in previous years, this was an example of selective targeting.

60 Raf   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:26 am

[53] Cervelli got so much playing time due to there not being too many options behind Posada. Neither Romine nor Montero were ready, and I'd rather had seen Cervelli than Moeller behind the plate.

61 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:28 am

[57] Last I heard, Tabata was under the impression that the baby was his. I don't find that some kind of horrible character flaw. And there's birth certificate rumblings about almost any Latin American prospect. Has there been any reason to legitimately doubt that?

62 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:33 am

[60] I don't think he needed to be the starter last year. I think Francisco Cervelli-Starting Catcher, had more to do with Girardi's neurotic obsession with rest and seeing himself in Cervelli.

63 Greg G   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:36 am

I wonder if this means Andy Pettite is more likely to retire. They could try to overpay Andy, but I suspect if the desire is there for Andy, it won't be about money.

This is not how the Yanks drew up the offseason, but they do have an ace and a lot of teams would kill to have CC. I am glad that Sabathia doesn't plan to opt out of his deal next year. If he were a Boras client, or ARod he would be salivating for next year, so he could eat every last dollar in free agency.

64 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:44 am

From Cliff to Chien-Ming for Rangers?


For that matter, why aren't the Yankees kicking the tires on Wang?

65 Raf   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:46 am

[61] The character flaw was being benched for insubordination, though associating with someone who thinks it's a good idea to kidnap a baby doesn't help matters with judgement of character.

66 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:48 am

Very telling "scouting report" on Martin


67 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:52 am

[54] C'mon man, you know I wanted to do it, but the opportunity was missed long ago... Something like that should have been mentioned [1-3] >;)

68 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:55 am

58) They weren't assless. They were skin toned plastic covers!

69 The Hawk   ~  Dec 14, 2010 11:58 am

[64] I was asking that very question a few days ago. What's to lose?

70 Bruce Markusen   ~  Dec 14, 2010 12:02 pm

Martin is definitely a better player than Cervelli. He is a very good defensive catcher who can throw. In his worst season, Martin threw out 25 per cent of basestealers, which is better than what the Yankees got from Cervelli and Posada. Last year, Martin had his best season throwing, nailing 39 per cent of base stealers.

The question is his hitting, which has fallen off badly. But at 27, with a change of scenery and a new hitting coach, maybe he can recapture some past glory.

71 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 14, 2010 12:04 pm

[70] I think it may be better than what they got from Posda and Cervelli combined. Its certainly close.

72 Bruce Markusen   ~  Dec 14, 2010 12:04 pm

Just for fun, I looked at Martin's similarity scores. Through age 27, who is he most similar to?

Thurman Munson.

I like that.

73 rbj   ~  Dec 14, 2010 12:10 pm

[68] That's worse. If you're going to pretend to show skin, go ahead and show real skin.

74 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 14, 2010 12:15 pm


Yes, let's keep plastic slipcovers on the furniture, not on the women!

75 monkeypants   ~  Dec 14, 2010 2:06 pm

[70] And let's not forget that Martin grew up and played little league in the same neighborhood in Montreal where I now live. C'est vrais!

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