Will Cliff Lee’s free agency be like the end of Superman 2?

There’s a great scene in Superman 2 that I will spoil here.
If you haven’t seen the movie… it came out nearly 30 years ago. Take your time.

In the scene, the evil Kryptonians led by General Zod have been obsessing over one thing: Capturing and defeating Superman.

And when they cornered him in the Fortress of Solitude, Superman was forced to go into that chamber that takes all of his powers away. When he was in there, Lois Lane was crying, Zod and his two lackies were smiling knowing that they were about to win.

And Lex Luthor, brilliantly played by Gene Hackman, was looking around puzzled. There was something odd happening and he was the only person who noticed (being the smartest character in the movie.)

When Superman came out of the chamber, Zod thought he had won. But actually Superman had reversed the process and all the evil Kryptonians were powerless and Superman crushed General Zod’s hand in a moment that made a 10 year old Sully jump up and start cheering and STILL gives this 38 year old Sully goose bumps.

So why the hell am I going over that scene?
Beyond the fact that it is awesome… it kind of reminds me of the Yankees pursuit of Cliff Lee.

The Yankees have been obsessing over Lee since the 2009 World Series when he handed them their only 2 losses. And then this year, it looked like the Yankees were going to pry him loose from the Mariners… only to be outfoxed by the Rangers and have it haunt them in the ALCS when Texas and Lee man handled them for the pennant.

(Jesus Montero, the prospect the Yankees wouldn’t part with to get Lee, had better turn out to be good!)

But now in the open market, it is assumed he will leave Texas for New York. Even Nolan Ryan thinks so.

So in this scenario, Cliff Lee is Superman and the Yankees are of course Zod.

Superman is about to kneel and swear his loyalty to Zod and the Yankees.

Lois Lane, crying, would be the Rangers… and frankly the rest of baseball seeing the Yankees get what they want.

In this one?
I’M Lex Luthor looking around, noticing something is wrong.

First of all, if the Yankees are looking to give Lee a seven year deal like they gave Lee’s former teammate C. C. Sabathia… that is assuming he will be a premium pitcher in his late 30s.

That’s not always a safe bet. Cy Young candidates can break down in an awful hurry. Don’t believe me?

Take a look at the top 5 Cy Young finishers for 2007: Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb, Brad Penny, Aaron Harang and Carlos Zambrano.

3 years later you could get all five for a six pack of Sprite.

And before you think I am being just a gloomy glass is half empty guy, remember that at at age 31, he was having back issues.

His numbers in Texas were good but hardly the stellar stats he was piling up on a dreadful Seattle team.

Remember his stretch in mid August when he was getting clobbered?

Do things like “bad backs” tend to get better with age? If he was with the Yankees, he would probably turn to Andy Pettite and ask “Hey, when your back was messed up in your 30s, what did you use?”

And Pettite would reply “Sorry man, they test for that stuff now.”

Imagine if injuries catch up with him like those 2007 Cy Young candidates. Isn’t a bad back a red flag?

And of course there is the New York factor.
He needs to come up bigger than Clark Kent’s alter ego in order to justify a huge contract.

Now Sabathia came up bigger than his waist size when he arrived in 2009. He won the ALCS MVP and looks like he’ll be an ace stud for years to come.

He’s been the exception.

It’s easy to think of Kevin Brown as being the hot head, hand breaking bust blowing Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

But remember when the Yankees acquired him, he was a stud who was coming off a solid year with the Dodgers and was going to take Roger Clemens spot in the rotation. I still can hear Charlie Steiner describing him as “a warrior.”

Think his heroics in the 1997 NLCS and 1998 post season earned him any good will in New York?

How do you think Cliff Lee’s Game 1 World Series clubbing this year would have gone over in New York?

How did A. J. Burnett fare? He won the GIGANTIC Game 2 of the 2009 World Series… and that bought him good will for almost 45 minutes.

And if Cliff Lee might not be a fit in New York, there’s the question of New York not being the right fit for Cliff Lee.

Sometimes those warning signs of a guy not wanting to play in the big spotlight are not unfounded.

How did Randy Johnson, one of the best pitchers of the last quarter century, do in New York? He was miserable before he threw his first pitch.

Even the great Johan Santana has lost some of his luster since arriving in Queens.

And then there is the bizarre contract circus that’s going on in New York.

With Prince Hank sounding off and the team playing the contract haggling with Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter in public, the once stable Yankee organization is slowly looking more and more like the old Bronx Zoo… remember the one where they kept signing big players and couldn’t make the playoffs.

And I know this is sacrilege to say, but if things don’t go well in the free agent season are the Yankees as big a lock to win a World Series as they used to be?

A team where Rivera isn’t there… or only signed for a year?
A team where the veterans are tied up to huge unmovable contracts as they are rewarded for past seasons (when they ALSO made big bucks)?

And remember, this team is getting older and their young players aren’t exactly challenging the veterans for playing time.

If their young players were any good, they would have been able to TRADE for Lee in the regular season.

So yeah, Cliff Lee is Superman this off season… but there is ample Kryptonite out there.

The Yankees might very well end up with a crushed hand.

And before any gives me grief for comparing the Yankees to evil General Zod, remember that in this scenario, I’M Lex Luthor!

Now enjoy the awesome scene by clicking here.

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Good luck Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez has moved on from the Red Sox. There was no post season glory with him behind the plate. Heck the Sox never won a post season game in the year and a quarter he called Fenway home.

But he got a few hits for the Sox, made an All Star team and was a likable enough guy to root for.

This Red Sox fan wishes him well as he goes off to Detroit.

Meanwhile with Martinez gone and Beltre certain to go elsewhere, Theo is piling up some draft picks. He knows that the Sox will pick at least 4 times before the second round is up.

So either the Red Sox will be sniffing around for some big time free agent knowing that their draft won’t be blown… or they could be ready to deal some prospects because the cupboard could be replenished next summer.

Either way, the winter is starting to get interesting in Boston.
Good luck in Detroit, Victor.
You’ll look good with the Old English D.

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The Red Sox need to offer Mariano Rivera a three year contract

Wait a second! The Yankees are playing hardball with Mariano Rivera?

Um… wow.
That is the most staggeringly stupid thing I have ever heard in free agent history.
YES, stupider than the Cubs offering Milton Bradley a long term deal.
YES, stupider than the Rangers making Chan Ho Park one of the top paid pitchers in baseball.

If there is ever a lynch pin to the success of the Yankees since 1996, it has been the dazzling career of Mariano Rivera.

There are some people who think Rivera is overrated and there are some people who poo poo the importance of relievers. “They throw less than 100 innings a year. How much value do they have?”

People who say that about Mariano Rivera are idiots.
That’s not my opinion. I can PROVE they are idiots in a court of law.

Yes, many relievers are overrated. I have argued that Trevor Hoffman, while a terrific pitcher who has had a nice career, is overrated. He has compiled a lot of saves but also has come up short in an alarming number of big games.

The fact that there could be a statistical system that would put Armando Benitez in any form of elite reliever category is almost as mind boggling as that piece of crap Crash winning the Oscar for Best Picture.

But Rivera is different. Year in and year out he is automatic. Year in and year out he snuffs out rallies. Year in and year out he shortens close games to 8 innings.

AND he gives the Yankee line up the confidence knowing that if they just beat up the other team’s middle relief and hand the lead to Rivera, they’ll have a win.

Plus the starting pitchers know that they don’t have to go 9, and their win loss record will look good by the end of the year.

And in the unrelenting pressure cooker that is New York, Yankee fans haven’t REALLY had to worry about the 9th inning for nearly 15 years.

Seriously, right now what reliever would you rather have as your regular closer now?
Brian Wilson? Neftali Feliz? Brad Lidge? Jonathan Papelbon?

Put the stats away for a second (even though Rivera’s 2010 numbers are, as usual, awesome.)

Who puts the opposition on their heels more?
Who makes the other team think “If we don’t at least tie the game in the 8th, we’re DEAD” more than Rivera?

And let’s get down to brass tacks here.
Which Yankee star will be the hardest to replace?

You can find another solid shortstop.
You can find another slugger… you can find another starting pitcher.

But where else is there an immovable object on the mound for the ninth?
Who is going to fill in for him?

Whoever it is, he won’t be as good as Rivera.
And when he proves he isn’t as good as Rivera, EVERYONE in New York will remind him.

Think New York doesn’t eat young players up alive? Talk to Joba Chamberlain. He was supposed to be Joba’s heir apparent in 2007. Now it is 2010 and he’s already a mess and Rivera is still at the top of his game.

And the Yankees want to play hard ball?

I say let them.
But why can’t other teams make a run at him?

Seriously, why should other teams play some B.S. honor code about not bidding on Yankee superstars? It’s not like the Yankees ever say “Hey, we can’t bid on that player! He would never be identified as a Yankee. Let’s not even call his agent.”

NO! They try to gobble up the big players… as is their right.
But guess what? OTHER teams can make a bid on Rivera.

If the Yankees are only offering him a 1 year contract, another team should offer him 2.

And I think the Red Sox should offer him 3 years.

First of all it will give the Red Sox a bullpen going into 2011 of Bard, Papelbon and Rivera.

Are you kidding me? Games would be over in the 6th!

Secondly it will give the Red Sox some flexibility when Papelbon’s free agency comes about after the 2011 season.

And yeah, I think in three years Rivera will still be an elite reliever. Has he shown ANY signs of slowing down?

But most importantly not only will it improve the Red Sox, but it will put the Yankees in unfamiliar territory.

Can you imagine the Yankees moving ahead with a shaky closer? Or even a pretty good closer?

Yankee fans haven’t experienced having a subpar closer since before the 1994 strike… you know the era when they couldn’t make the post season.

Giardi already has suspect bullpen handling skills… let’s see how he does without the no brainer in the ninth!

Decimating the Yankees bullpen while the Rays are dismantling their division winner could make the Red Sox the favorite in the A.L. East.

It’s a great chance to give the Red Sox an all time bullpen to go with a rotation headed by Lester and Buchholz and give the Yankees an gut punch?

Isn’t it worth making the call?
Make the offer.

There’s no way it will happen if they DON’T make the offer.

And maybe it will bring other teams into the bidding. Seeing Rivera on another team can only help the Red Sox win the East.

Will it happen?

Probably not… but remember, when the Yankees played hardball with Andy Pettitte after the 2003 World Series, the Red Sox actually made the highest bid before he signed with Houston.

And 2004 ended up to be a good year for the Sox.

Rivera wants to be loyal to the Yankees?
Have him prove it.

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