Because the ALCS was contested by the Rangers against the Yankees, that meant that Ranger fans had to put up with the seemingly endless storyline that Cliff Lee was simply auditioning for his role in the next 5 to 6 years with the Yankees.
That drumbeat died down a little after the Rangers dispatched of the Yankees to win their first ever pennant. But ever since the final out was recorded by Brian Wilson of the Giants to wrap up San Francisco’s first ever World Series title, the drumbeat has increased…and dare I say, has now reached a crescendo now that Yankees GM Brian Cashman has flown to Arkansas to meet with Cliff, his family, and his agent.
The Yankees may very well sign him. That is, if Lee is simply looking for the biggest payday he can possibly get.
And if that’s the case, I don’t blame him. He’s 32 years old and this is his first chance to hit free agency.
Here’s my rub with all those Yankee fans and East coast writers.
It’s not a foregone conclusion that just because the Yankees have more resources than any other club and because they’re the Yankees that Cliff’s just going to sign on the dotted line.
There’s other things to consider, such as the proximity to Arkansas from Texas, the cost of living, and the fact Texas does not have a state income tax.
And oh yeah, they’ve also got a pretty good team fresh off it’s first visit to the World Series. Mind you, just because they made it to the Fall Classic this year doesn’t mean they’ll do it every year.
But they’ve got a young core and a deep minor league system. Not to mention, a new ownership group that’s indicated they’ll be willing to up the payroll to keep this group together and to sign key free agents.
Starting with Cliff Lee.
And oh yeah, there’s also the issue of the Yankees keeping Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and possibly Andy Pettitte. Even a team with the financial resources as the Yankees have their own limits. And they’ll certainly have to overpay to keep Jeter.
And if they get Lee, they’ll have to overpay for his services as well. I suspect if whatever they offer is in the $20-22 million per year range, Chuck Greenburg will be more than happy to dip into his advance money from the extension of the Fox Sports Southwest deal to field a competitive offer and keep Lee in Texas.
And these are aimed mostly at the casual Ranger fans.
For starterts, the casual Ranger fan will be pissed to no end if Jon Daniels doesn’t sign Cliff Lee.
Now, I love Cliff. He helped take this team to heights they’d never seen.
And I’ll admit I sports cried a little on the night of October 11th when he put the finishing touches on the franchise’s first playoff series win against the Tampa Bay Rays.
And he’s as close to a post-season ace as you’ll find anywhere in the game.
That said, there are limits of practicality when it comes to the pursuit of him in free agency. A six year deal is really pushing those limits. Seven years means assuredly that they’ve exceeded them.
And if that’s the final price to keep him in Texas? Then you pass, simply because there are better options out there.
Like a Zach Greinke.
The beauty of having the kind of farm system the Rangers have, thanks to Daniels’ five year plan, is that even in the ‘win now’ frame that they’re in coming off their first AL Pennant in franchise history, they’re not tied down to getting better throught a very small conduit. Such as pursuing the best pitcher on the market in free agency.
They can use pieces from the farm system to go out and get an ace. Kind of like how they were able to pull off the Cliff Lee trade while in bankruptcy.
And if my Facebook feed is any indication, the casual Rangers fan will be none to pleased if Michael Young is traded.
Never mind his incredible lack of range. Or inability to get the timely hit. One of my favorite DFW sports blogs, Uwe Blog, once quipped that MY leads the majors in most meaningless hits.
Which may or may not be true, just as the claim that he’s a .200 hitter when the game is on the line.
But think about it, how many times this season did MY come up with a huge hit late in a game.
I can come up with about three from Nelly Cruz and Josh Hamilton. MY? Not so much.
And so I greet the news that other teams are inquiring about him and the Rangers are listening as nothing short of great news.
And if you can get some prospects in return while also signing Adrian Beltre, even better.
I think. I’m having trouble deciding whether Beltre’s past year in Boston is a sign of things to come for whomever signs him, or if it’s what Sabermatricians like to call an ‘outlier’.
First and foremost, Nolan Ryan wants everyone on the same page.
So when you hop a flight to Arkansas in a last minute attempt to woo Cliff Lee after your business partner and the team’s general manager have already moved onto Plan B, it won’t be looked on favorably.
And it apparently it wasn’t. Along with a number of other things Chuck did behind the scenes that we probably don’t know about.
It also seems clear that Nolan envisioned Chuck’s role staying within the confines of publicly speaking on matters such as a new scoreboard and listening to the fans to better the ballpark experience. In other words, stick to the business side and let Ryan and Jon Daniels handle the baseball side of things.
The moment he stepped on that plane bound for Arkansas to meet with Cliff Lee, he stepped outside those bounds.
And it apparently that’s when his relationship with the club started to unravel.
I have no doubts the club can overcome this. Afterall, they entered spring training last season with the ownership still very much in flux. A situation that only got worse until August 12th when the Greenberg/Ryan group finally won control of the club in bankruptcy court. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Greenberg himself.
And now seven months later, he’s out.
Because in the end, it’s all about how well you can stay on the same page.
Friday, the Texas Rangers were left with no choice but to relieve John Rhadigan of his television play by play duties. You can call it a “firing” if you want to, but Rhadigan’s returning to a duty that many in the DFW sports media would love to have.
And one that he never should have left in the first place given his lack of play-by-play experience. Something that really showed the moment Rhadigan started calling his first games in spring training.
I recall that he couldn’t differentiate between left field and right field, and misidentified players’ names. Then once the season started, he credited a Ranger with an RBI on a double play in one game, then failed to realize a strikeout occurred on a foul bunt with two strikes.
Two weeks ago with Neftali Feliz on to protect a one run lead against the Angels, he yelled “Strike Three” on strike two. And last week came one of the final nails in the coffin when he called, “It’s a home run…no, but it’s going to bring a run home” on a ball that was hit over the Phillies’ left fielder’s head.
It was painfully obvious that Rhadigan was in over his head. Yet, anytime anybody complained about it (myself included), such detractors were slapped down by fellow members of the DFW sports media because Rhadigan is such a nice guy.
So allow me a little latitude to make a couple points on this.
I write for a blog for a team with a number of “nice” guys. But if one of them is playing up to par or makes a mistake, I can’t throw out the defense that they’re a nice guy.
It’s an absurd defense to make, but unfortunately, the sports media here in Dallas has that tendency to set aside all objectivity when it comes to criticism of one of their own.
Now that having been said, I will agree with all those who think Rhadigan was put in a no-win situation. Dallas-Fort Worth is a top 5 media market. And it goes without saying that when it comes to on air sports talent, we demand nothing but the best.
And generally, that’s what we get. We have Brad Sham, Eric Nadel, Mark Followill, Chuck Cooperstein, and Ralph Strangis. Last year, Josh Lewin was a member of that club with his slightly offbeat style of throwing in pop culture references that perhaps the casual portion of the television viewing audience didn’t get.
But he made the broadcasts entertaining, even when the on field product through the mid 00’s wasn’t. I’m not sure if it’s because Nolan Ryan or Chuck Greenburg had an issue with him. Or perhaps Tom Grieve might have even grown tired of working with him. I don’t know.
But his contract wasn’t renewed and it left a number of Ranger fans, myself included, bummed to know that he would not be calling any games.
It’s worth noting that on his radio program alongside Mark Elfenbein, Lewin admitted he felt badly for John that he lost his job and said thanks, but no thanks to his supporters about pushing for a return to the play by play booth.
At any rate, the thinking from the Rangers was that they wanted a straight play-by-play man. So what better way to achieve that goal than hiring somebody with no play by play experience!
And for all Rhads’ supporters in the DFW Sports Media, that’s ultimately where we are directing our venom. I hold no ill will against Rhadigan. I feel bad for anyone who loses a job under the circumstances that Rhadigan lost his.
I just happened to think he wasn’t cut out for this job right now. And the Rangers couldn’t wait for him to learn on the job.
I am happy to know that FSSW is retaining Rhadigan’s services as he’ll return to the anchor chair for pre and post game coverage. Out of all the FSSW hosts, I’ve always thought he was the best.
And he never should have left that post.
And to be honest, I never thought this would happen. I thought his contract would prove to be too much of an albatross for Jon Daniels to overcome in any potential deal.
That said, I’m glad the deal got made. At the same time, I can’t really say I’m overly joyed that Young is gone.
From a purely statistical and personnel standpoint, this is a move that had to be made. Young just came off arguably the worst offensive season of any regular in major league history. And his defensive range had already regressed to the point that #PADMY became a running meme throughout the last two seasons.
From a purely sentimental standpoint…yeah.
Despite demanding a trade in 2009 when he was asked to move positions to make room for Elvis Andrus and again, in 2011 when Adrian Beltre was signed as a free agent at third base, Young has been the face of the franchise since the early 00’s, soldiering on through some really bad Rangers teams during that era.
And if I’m going to bag on him for demanding trades after being asked to switch positions, I have to acknowledge the amount of respect he garnered from Ranger fans and the media who covered the team when he offered to switch to shortstop when Alfonso Soriano came over in the A-Rod trade and balked at the idea of playing in the outfield.
And then the magical 2010 season occurred. I can’t speak for every Rangers’ fan, but when the club finally won a playoff series for the first time in franchise history, I shed some tears that night.
First, for the late Mark Holtz after his long time broadcast partner Eric Nadel paid homage to him. Then I shed one for Eric.
And then for Michael Young and Ian Kinsler.
Those two have long been the core of this club. And for the mob that was celebrating at the Trop that night in 2010, there weren’t just celebrating for their own personal accomplishment.
They were celebrating for those two.
I think I’m starting to really come around on this deal.
I’ll admit that when news came down that Jon Daniels had given up Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, C.J. Edwards, and the infamous PTBNL (likely Neil Ramirez), I felt he had given up too much.
Not in a “LOL Angels, you gave up your top prospect, Jean Segura, to rent Zack Greinke and you’re still several games out of a playoff spot.” mind you.
Let’s start with the guy who has the biggest ceiling of any player in this deal, Mike Olt.
As long as Adrian Beltre occupies the hot corner, Olt was going to be blocked from entering the majors at his natural position. And even though you could easily argue that Ron Washington didn’t make the best use of his time up with the big club last season, he wasn’t quite ready to become a regular contributor.
And his disjointed season at Round Rock seems to bolster that viewpoint (.213/.317/.412), even though vision problems contributed to his issues at the plate.
Add that all up, and he’s somebody the Rangers could afford to part with for the time being. He could turn into another Justin Smoak. Or he could turn into someone resembling, say, a Dean Palmer. But it’ll probably be awhile before he develops into that kind of a player.
Losing Grimm could also become a little painful for the Rangers as well. Especially if Garza becomes a rental and leaves as a free agent after this season. He did an admirable job in filling in Matt Harrison’s spot in the rotation. And he found a little success early in the year.
But his biggest issue is he’s not a power pitcher. He’s a spot pitcher that hasn’t quite figured out how to fool hitters the 2nd and 3rd times through the lineup. If he can figure that last part out, he’ll project to be a mid to back of the rotation kind of pitcher.
But that’s not the biggest reason I’ve started to come around on this trade.
Tonight was Garza’s Ranger debut.
I know, I know. A Yankee lineup sans Jeter, A-Fraud, and Curtis Granderson is offensively flaccid.
But I can’t remember a time when the Rangers had this kind of mix of a bulldog mentality and a ton of talent in a starting pitcher. Cliff Lee’s the closest they’ve had to a true ace in this era.
But he never had that edge of intensity.
As much as I hated Cris Carpenter’s guts in the 2011 World Series, I can’t deny just how much his competitive spirit played a huge role in Game 7.
Lesser pitchers that night might have wilted after giving up two first inning runs. Carpenter didn’t.
I daresay Matt Garza fits that mold. And as much as Garza fits a need by bolstering this rotation by his sheer presence and talent, his intensity could also spread through the rest of the rotation like wildfire.
* In case you haven’t paid much attention to Chuck Cooperstein’s Twitter feed, let me just sum it up for you:
A lot of college football talk with some bias towards the SEC. And a ridiculous debate about who is and isn’t elite.
His latest salvo was launched in the direction of Stars’ netminder, Kari Lehtonen after Bobby Ryan tied the game with just over 10 seconds left today on an offspeed shot generated by a broken stick.
The problem isn’t that I disagree with the notion that this goal was a softy. Nor am I necessarily in the camp that Lehtonen is an elite goaltender. How a player performs in the playoffs goes a long way towards deciding whether a player is elite or not.
Lehtonen has one playoff appearance on his ledger from way back in 2006-07. One that resulted in a four game sweep at the hands of the New York Rangers.
The problem with this mentality is the same problem with Yu Darvish as it relates to the Rangers, or Tony Romo as it relates to the Cowboys.
All the players I’ve referenced have their faults. But you can’t tell me that Romo is the biggest problem facing the Cowboys, Darvish isn’t the biggest problem with the Rangers. And Kari Lehtonen certainly isn’t with the Stars.
Hell, anybody who has followed the Stars the first month of this season ought to know this by virtue of the nearly two weeks that Dallas was without Lehtonen’s services. In the 5 games the Stars played during that span, they won one game in a shootout against San Jose, lost another close game to Colorado, and were drilled by Minnesota, Los Angeles, and Anaheim.
Lehtonen has been able to mask the defensive deficiencies that Dan Ellis and Jack Campbell weren’t able to.
Are there better goaltenders than Lehtonen in this league? Absoutely.
But that holds true for about 99% of the players in this league. After the Cowboys lost to the Broncos in part because of a late game interception by Romo, a certain spare national sports radio talk show host from Yahoo Radio (who shall remain nameless) said that he wouldn’t want Romo as his QB because of his propensity to throw interceptions.
Setting aside the facts about Romo and his historical performance in 4th quarters, this is such a ridiculously impossible standard to meet. Again, 99% of the players in all of sports aren’t “elite”. You can’t have a Mickey Mantle every year in center, a Magic Johnson every year at guard, a Wayne Gretzky every year on your top line. And you certainly can’t have a Roger Staubach every year as your QB.
And getting back to Lehtonen for a second, does Corey Crawford strike you as an elite NHL netminder? What about Antti Niemi? Or TIm Thomas? Or Chris Osgood?
Without Romo, Lehtonen, or Darvish, their teams don’t even come close to being a contender for a playoff spot.
And that makes this whole debate about whether these players are elite or aces a ridiculously stupid debate.