My piece on Cliff Lee’s inappropriateness for New York prompted an impassioned response from one reader, who found it so “upsetting” that he sent me a long and eloquent email. I’ll quote:
I know why you haven’t been hired as a sportswriter—because you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Guilty as charged!
But…having said that….this would put me squarely amidst the ranks of the vast majority of sportswriters. So not necessarily a disqualification.
The writer then went on to establish that Lee has pitched exceedingly well in big (i.e., World Series) games, one of which was in New York.
Since 2006, including his WS start, Lee, in Yankee Stadium (the only place where there is pressure according to Yankee’s fans), has put up this line:
37 2/3 IP, 32 Hits, 9 Runs, 7 Earned Runs, (1.67 ERA), 5 BB, 26 Ks.
The writer then said that was “most disturbing” about my post was my ad hominem attack on Lee and his daughter, who is pictured below wearing a bow which makes her look rather like the sled-pulling dog in the Grinch that Stole Christmas.
That was pretty mean. But in my defense, I wasn’t making fun of the girl; she looks very nice. I was making fun of the parents who put that bow in the girl’s hair. But, okay—I’m sorry. I feel bad about that. From what I read, the Lees are amazing parents.
The writer concludes, “You should apologize for this silly post.”
Done. Sort of.
Because you see, I can’t apologize for the whole thing. Much of it was tongue-in-cheek, the outraged lament of a Yankee fan wondering where his team will find a decent third and fourth pitcher. (I thought the hyperlink to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was a pretty good hint.) No one likes rejection. Especially not for—gulp—Philadelphia.
But I wasn’t entirely kidding. I do think the Yankees would have seriously overpaid for Lee, and I’ve seen too many pitchers get hurt or just fall apart in later years to feel comfortable with a seven-year deal.
I also think that Lee would not have been happy in New York. Yes, he may rise to the occasion and pitch well in big games. (Not, if I recall, in the first game of this most recent World Series, though.)
But he never felt like a good fit for the Yankees. The fact that he is a good friend of C.C. Sabathia speaks well of him; Sabatthia seems like a lovely guy. Still, the Yankees have had bad luck over the decades with players who didn’t fit in at the Bronx Zoo, and Lee seemed like one of those players.
(And yes, correspondent, that list includes Randy Johnson. Whatever his numbers were during his stay here, he was an odious presence, a nasty person who never warmed to New York and New York, for our part, was delighted to see him go.)
As to the commenter below who doubts the sincerity of my feeling that I’d rather have players I enjoy rooting for than root for a team stocked with mercenaries who have no affinity for this city—balderdash. No matter how good that team is, it’s tough to root for.
There is a misperception, unfortunately perpetuated by the idiocy of George Steinbrenner, that Yankee fans are unsatisfied if the team doesn’t win the World Series every year. This was Steinbrenner’s addiction, not ours, and it is silly. Yes, we want a competitive team; at the prices we pay for tickets, that’s the least we should get. But we also want a team that we can like.
After all, who are the players that Yankee fans love? Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettite, probably in that order. All homegrown, all with the team for well over a decade. A-Rod, no matter how well he plays, will never bask in that same fan-love. Robbie Cano, a local, will.
Following that are free agents like Nick Swisher who take to New York—they love being here, they love being a part of the Yankees and their remarkable team history, they’re good with the press, they hit the town from time to time. (Even A-Rod has gone a bit New York, what with dating Madonna and Cameron Diaz. Think they would date a Padre or a Brewer? You’re right, they wouldn’t.)
So Cliff Lee has returned to Philly? Well, I admit, I worry about the Yanks’ pitching. But I don’t lament Lee’s absence. The Phillies may now be favored to win the World Series, the Sox favored to win the AL East. We’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, the Yanks have $150 million more to spend developing their future—even if we have to wait till next year.