Many, if not most Yankee fans are licking their wounds right now over their dreams of seeing Cliff Lee in a Yankee uniform being dashed by his decision to sign with the Phillies. I wanted to add a few notes of perspective for those who think the Yankee chances for next year and beyond are greatly diminished.
1-Long term deals on pitchers rarely work out well
Sam Borden of LoHud discusses this in his column this morning. He writes:
The rejection is a blessing. The Yankees may not think so. Not right now, at least. But they also thought giving Carl Pavano a four-deal was going to work out.
Examples like that are littered all over baseball, carcasses of long-term deals for pitchers that went sour. Mike Hampton. Kevin Brown. Russ Ortiz. Barry Zito. Did the Yankees get a positive return on their deal with Mike Mussina? Sure. But let’s not act like they’ve got a great batting average on these deals, either. Kei Igawa hasn’t exactly been a good investment for $46 million. A.J. Burnett sure doesn’t look like one, either, at just about twice that price.
If Lee had signed with the Yanks, we’d be reading article after article about all the things that could go wrong, and how rarely these deals go right. Remember what Kevin Goldstien of Baseball Prospectus wrote recently, that when the money gets as crazy as this, the winner most often the team that finishes 2nd in the bidding. You’re paying for past performance for a 32 year old pitcher.
2-The Yanks aren’t worse off today
As difficult as it may be to hear right now, the Yanks haven’t suffered any significant losses from the team that went to the ALCS this past year. The 2011 Yankees aren’t any worse than the 2010 team, they just didn’t get any better by adding Lee. Here’s the players that the Yanks have lost so far this off season from last year’s roster:
Do any of those losses concern you? Nope. There are still some key potential losses in Andy Pettitte and Kerry Wood, but until they sign with other teams (or in Andy’s case officially retire) they are still in play. Brian Cashman now has an extra 23 mil to play with, and we all know he’s going to spend some if not all of it to improve the club. It’s also worth noting that two of their main rivals from 2010, the Texas Rangers (Lee) and Tampa Bay Rays (Crawford, Soriano, Pena) have suffered huge losses and have much work to do if they just hope to stay even. The field is worse, and while the Red Sox have improved lets not forget they finished with 89 wins and were 7 games back last year. The Sox needed to improve to catch up.
3-Lee would guarantee nothing
The 1990s Atlanta Braves teams had starting rotation that featured 3 future Hall of Famers in Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, and was rounded out by some fine pitchers like Steve Avery, Denny Neagle and Kevin Millwood. The won 104 games in 1993 and 100+ games for three straight years from 1997-1999. The have one World Series championship to show for a decade of dominating the National League. Further, the team that went all the way in 1995 wasn’t one of their best editions, going 90-54 in the regular season. Point being, we’ve seen All-Star rotations assembled before and it doesn’t necessarily translate into winning championships. It may improve your odds a bit, but we all know the playoffs are still a crapshoot. Adding Lee simply doesn’t mean as much as most fans would like to think it does.
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