In case you missed it, Cliff Lee was recently interviewed by Angelo Cataldi of WIP radio in Philadelphia and made some choice comments regarding the Yankees and why he passed on the opportunity to play in the Bronx. Deadspin has the report.
“Texas probably finished second to be honest with you. Just as far as the quality of the team and the chance to win a World Series ring, I think they’re a better team. That’s just my opinion. The Yankees can do anything at any moment to improve and they’re not afraid to go do things. That was part of the decision making process too, but I felt like with what the Red Sox had done and it seems like some of the Yankee guys are getting older, but I liked the Rangers.”
It was no secret that the Rangers were privately snickering at the Yanks during the ALCS last year. They out pitched, out hit and out played the Yanks defensively. Their scouts felt the Yanks were old (Jeter/A-Rod/Posada) and banged up (Tex) in key everyday spots, while their starting pitching was shallow (A.J.) and worn down (Pettitte/Hughes). They may have had enough star power to get through a regular season, and they always match up well against the Twins when they draw that card for the ALDS, but the names on the jerseys and the production on the back of the Baseball card didn’t match up.
For all the talk of the 200 million dollar Yankee payroll, many of them certainly didn’t play up to their paychecks last season. Using the Fangraphs WAR and value calculations, Alex Rodriguez (15.4 mil/ 32 mil salary) Derek Jeter (9.8 mil/21 mil salary) Mark Teixeira (14 mil/20 mil salary) and Jorge Posada (9.7 mil/13.1 mil salary) all gave performances that would have garnered far lower salaries if they were paid for what they produced. Only four of the nine everyday players were significantly underpaid last year. Robinson Cano (25.5 mil/9 mil salary) Brett Gardner (17.1 mil/900K salary) Curtis Granderson (14.3 mil/5.5 mil salary) and Nick Swisher (16.4 mil/6.75 mil salary) all outplayed their paychecks by a wide margin last year. In the rotation, only Phil Hughes (/900K salary) substantially outperformed his paycheck. AJ Burnett was a waste of money (5.2 mil/16.5 mil salary). CC and Andy were a just few mil each below their salaries, so both of them pulled their weight (no CC fat jokes, please).
As a pitcher, particularly one who relies on his infielders to make plays for him, its easy to see why Lee might look at the left side of the Yankee infield and have reservations about pitching in the Bronx. Cliff Lee‘s career took off in 2008 when he got his GB% over 40%, and has averaged a 43% ground ball rate over the past 3 years. Derek Jeter (-5.4 UZR) and A-Rod (-2.3 UZR) were below average defenders last year, and given their respective ages (36/35) it’s difficult to see them improving at this point defensively. Maybe he was swayed by the Yankees poor showing in the ALCS, maybe the Rangers made every effort to poison the well with New York, knowing they’d be their main rivals for Lee’s services as a free agent. But Lee has his own reasons for not wanting to pitch in New York, and they have nothing to do with his wife getting heckled.
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