Five days into this blog, I’ve got my first chance at instant analysis of breaking news, and I feel a little sick to my stomach. Cliff Lee is close to a deal with the Yankees.
I’d like to address this as impartially as possible, so I’ll try to step outside myself and look at the deal from the perspectives of fans of several teams.
If I’m a Mariners fan, it’s hard to get excited about anything this year. We came into the season with two of the best pitchers in the game (Lee and Felix Hernandez), the game’s best defensive player (Franklin Gutierrez), a living legend (Ichiro) and the remnants of another one (Ken Griffey, Jr.), and a few solid players (led by Chone Figgins) acquired in recent trades. Sure, there were holes to fill, but in a division this bad, and with a defense this good, we had a shot to win 88 games and the division, right? Wrong. We have no offense, Griffey is gone, Figgins is a bust, and we’re so entrenched in last place by the All-Star break that we’re selling off our reasonably-priced ace. Now that ace will be pitching for the Yankees, of all teams, and we’re starting over with prospects. Jesus Montero may be a great prospect, but by the time he adds any value to the big league club, how many World Series games will Cliff Lee have won in pinstripes? Blech.
If I’m a fan of the Twins, I thought this was our chance. We’ve had good teams for a decade, made the playoffs several times, including last season, but we haven’t seen a World Series since 1991. Now we’ve got decent pitching led by a resurgent Francisco Liriano, a strong offense led by Mauer and Morneau, and a relatively weak division we were running away with two weeks ago. We’ve got a new ballpark and enough revenue to make a deal, and, most importantly, we’ve got a catching surplus, and the Mariners are dangling an ace and looking for a catching prospect. Spin Wilson Ramos and a B-level prospect for Lee and not only are we favorites to win the division again, but we’ve got a formidable playoff rotation that could finally get us past the AL East teams. Now Lee’s out of the picture and Kevin Slowey is our fourth starter again. Even if we get to the playoffs, we’re not making the World Series without getting past Lee, Sabathia, and someone from the Hughes/Vazquez/Burnett/Pettitte stable. Blech.
If I’m a fan of the Mets or Reds or Rangers, things were just looking up. My team hasn’t won a World Series in 24 years or 20 years or ever, we’ve been in a down cycle for many years, but this year has some promise, if only we can get that one last piece to put us over the top. Now we learn that piece will go to the team that’s made the playoffs 14 times (or more) and won five World Series (or more) since our last title. Blech.
If I’m a fan of another AL East team, I’ve got enough problems. The three best teams in the majors all play in my division, so I’m either Boston or Tampa, stuck fighting for a wild card despite championship-level talent, or I’m Toronto or Baltimore, getting pummeled 54 times a year by the three superpowers in my division. Now the $220 million team we’re always chasing has added one of the best pitchers in the game to a rotation that already included five of the (30? 40?) best pitchers in the game. Blech.
If I’m a fan of the Yankees, I guess I’m happy. My team just added another ace to replace someone (an injured Pettite? a traded Vazquez? an innings-limited Hughes?). Heck, if we spin the higher-paid Vazquez (who was the 4th- or 5th-best pitcher in the NL last year) for prospects to replace the guys we traded for Lee, we’ve upgraded our team and saved money. Our 103-win pace just became 104. Now we can win the division by 8 games instead of 7 (or maybe 4 or 5 if the Rays had gotten Lee). Meh.
If I’m a baseball fan (and I am), I’m sick. I’m sick of the domination. Sick of the predictability. Sick that the richest team in today’s game and in the game’s history just got a little richer at the expense of the Mariners’ 2010 season, all the other contenders who dreamed of landing Lee, and any team that might face the Yankees in the playoffs this year.
Maybe this “news” is just speculation and my instant analysis is moot. Maybe one of the teams with postseason dreams will land a savior, while the Yankees march to another division title with the same team that’s won 63% of its games this season without Lee. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m better off writing about the Hall of Fame.