Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Lightning 12.12.2010

You know it's gotten ridiculous when laymen are able to explain the various tax ramifications of Cliff Lee making the choice between the Yankees and Rangers; how much money the Yankees would have to go above the Rangers offer to account for the tax codes of New York in comparison to those in Texas.

Similar to a 6-year-old who doesn't know how to spell able to describe an ACL tear for his favorite basketball center, Lee's free agency foray has gone to unexpected places----even in today's absurd atmosphere of news or non-news at the click of a button.

But what of Cliff Lee?

As tiresome as the story has become, the one striking thing is that Lee, plainly and simply, is being treated as if he's the on-field equivalent of Sandy Koufax in his prime.

And he's not.

Years ago, during the O.J. Simpson trial, the famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi stated with finality and exasperation that the coverage of the Simpson trial had reached proportions that could never be surpassed regardless of whom was on trial. If it was the President of the United States; the Queen of England; or the Emperor of the Galaxy, the 24/7 reporting (and this was when the Internet was in its infancy) couldn't have been any more insane.

It's at that point with Lee.

Could the pursuit be more intense if it was Koufax? Babe Ruth? Steve Carlton? Randy Johnson?


Truth be told, as good a pitcher as Lee is, he's not even Mike Mussina or Curt Schilling.

Cliff Lee is the man who happened to be talented enough to have one great year and another two with huge post-season success and is in the right place at the right time in terms of availability and need.

It's not winning the lottery, but it's close. He's a good pitcher with great timing.

Lee is not a blow-away pitcher like Johnson, Koufax and Carlton; he's not durable to the degree of Mussina; he's not a young free agent who was in the big leagues at age 21, pitched his six years and jumped into the market in his prime. He's had injury problems to his back as recently as September; he's had problems with his oblique; and his performance----in 2007----had him back in the minor leagues.

These are facts.

Lee deserves credit for recognizing his failures in 2007. Unlike some other pitchers, he accepted the demotion to straighten out his game; he dedicated himself to physical fitness and responded with a Cy Young Award in 2008; he had ice in his veins during the post-seasons of 2009-2010 that led to my dubbing him as the "Stone Cold Killer".

As the big name and assisted by the factors that the Yankees have the money and the desperate need, he's the prize catch in the feeding frenzy; this doesn't eclipse reality that he's a good pitcher who's had spurts that make him appear great.

But he's not Koufax, Johnson or Carlton----dominant to the point of devastation.

He's not Mussina----durable and steady.

He's not Schilling----a post-season ace whose career had a similar twist and turn nature to Lee's as he battled injuries, missing major chunks of seasons at 32-33.

Could Lee be Carlton, Schilling, Johnson or Mussina? Pitchers who maintained their durability into the mid-30s, pitched on good teams and won plenty of games?

Whoever gets him had better hope so. But it has to be understood that Lee is not young and these $100+ million contracts rarely pay off fully and this one is going to be $160+ million.

Either way, it'd be nice if he signed somewhere already, because I'm sick of hearing about it.

  • Your 2011 Royals:

It remains to be seen what the Royals are going to do with Zack Greinke, but if this is their idea of improving an offense that was 10th in the American League in runs scored and traded one of their better offensive players in David DeJesus, then they're in for another year of 67 wins.

The Royals signed Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera to 1-year contracts in the past week.

This would be acceptable if either were brought in for their strengths (and they do have them) and not to be centerpieces of the 2011 plan. But they're not.

Francoeur is slated to be the everyday right fielder; Cabrera the center fielder.

Never mind that the Royals pitching staff has the potential to be pretty good (contingent on whether or not they trade Greinke; which Greinke they have if he stays----the 2009 or 2010 version); but they can't win if they don't score. And unless Alex Gordon plays to the potential that made him the number one pick in the draft; Kila Ka'aihue gets a legitimate chance to play in the big leagues and takes advantage of it; Billy Butler moves from cog to mid-lineup basher, how are they to account for the bad-to-foolish consistency of Francoeur, Cabrera and Yuniesky Betancourt ?

A lineup like the Red Sox could carry one among the group of Francoeur, Cabrera, Betancourt and Jason Kendall; but the Royals?

GM Dayton Moore is said to have built up a great farm system, but what good does it do if none of the players develop or enter a big league clubhouse where they aren't expected to be the saviors? These signings are not "hold-the-fort" types. They're expected to play and contribute and they, historically, haven't been able to do that.

As talented as I think Francoeur is, it's obvious that he's more interested in his playing time and doing things his way than going to a place in which he might----might----find a voice who could get through to him. Charlie Manuel may have been engaging in fantasy when he said he believed he could straighten Francoeur out, but the Phillies would've been a great spot for him. No, he probably wouldn't have gotten the playing time he'll get in Kansas City, but he'd have been on a contender and working under a proven manager and former hitting coach in Manuel who had a chance of penetrating his thick skull and thicker ego.

If you ask a lot of players who only have a little to give, you're setting yourselves up for disaster.

That's the key word: disaster.

Disaster has been the Royals template for the past fifteen years and with these decisions that continue to be made by a clearly overmatched and wrong-thinking GM, that's not going to change anytime soon.

  • Fake Jon Heyman, meet gullible Michael Kay:

On Friday, a blogger started a media fire when he posted on Twitter that the Phillies had acquired Zack Greinke from the Royals. What made it worse and appear credible was that he'd started a fake Twitter account under the name of Sports Illustrated writer Jon Heyman and it was taken as fact by ESPN's Michael Kay and announced as such----Crossing Broad Blog.

People were unloading on Kay for reporting it; goofing on Heyman for his reaction calling the blogger a "sick fake person" and endlessly laughing at the ruse.

I'm not a fan of either Kay or Heyman, but put yourself in their positions. Like him or not, Heyman is a credible writer; he's weak, but I don't see him as malicious and for his job at which he works very hard to be undermined in such a way lends credence to his thin-skinned reactions on Twitter in blocking people for literally no reason (as he did with me).

As for Kay, of course he should've verified the information before reporting it, but that's more a byproduct of the need to be "first" in announcing big happenings---that's a cultural issue. This isn't fodder to abuse Kay. This was a mistake he made and he shouldn't be ripped for it.

Heyman was impersonated.

Kay made a mistake.

I'd have been as upset as Heyman and Kay were. My reaction and response would've been more memorable in its brutality, but Heyman and Kay shouldn't be ridiculed for this at all.

I was on with SportsFan Buzz on Wednesday talking about the Red Sox; Cliff Lee; Carl Crawford; Jayson Werth; the Yankees; the McCourts; Zack Greinke; and the ESPN broadcasters.

I'll be on again with Sal this Wednesday as well.

Get the link directly here----The SportsFan Buzz: December 8, 2010----or on I-Tunes; you can go to Sal's Twitter feed and site as well.


She-Fan said...

I'm sick of hearing about Cliff Lee too. What's worse is I'm sick of writing about him!

mike fierman said...

was wondering if you could give an example of one of melky's strengths.

NapLajoieonSteroids said...

This is one Yankee fan who hopes that he goes to Texas. This has all the trappings of the Giambi contract and not the Mussina contract. Lee's back problems are a huge warning sign and the Yankees would be better off without, what will surely be, another albatross-like contract.

Jeff said...

Oooooh boy watch out! Barbecue ain't the only thing on the KC menu! The Suck Train is goin' full steam ahead!