Tag:Cliff Lee
Posted on: December 8, 2010 12:28 am
 

The Yanks, Rangers, Nats, Angels and Cliff Lee

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Late into the night Tuesday, with the Angels having become the latest team to make a move toward the top starter on the free agent market, there were more Cliff Lee rumors than ornaments on the giant Christmas tree in the lobby of the Dolphin hotel here.

With no end game yet in sight -- executives with multiple teams believe that this thing will drag out beyond the winter meetings and into next week -- four clubs appear to be serious players for the left-hander at the moment (and by Wednesday, that number could be adjusted up or down):

Yankees: Still viewed as the favorites because they intend to put on the full-court press, they've got the deepest pockets and they generally get what they want. Various reports Tuesday insisted that the Yankees would not go beyond a six-year offer for Lee and other clubs might go seven years. But it's instructive to remember that, two winters ago, CC Sabathia clearly wanted to play on the West Coast ... until New York general manager Brian Cashman's stealth, overnight flight to visit Sabathia at his Bay Area home sealed the deal.

In New York, Lee would have a chance to win every year, be reunited with his friend and former Cleveland teammate Sabathia and make a boatload of money -- likely $20 million a year or more. Cashman was scheduled to meet with Darek Braunecker, Lee's agent, again late Tuesday night.

Rangers: Still badly want Lee and are making it their No. 1 goal. Still feel they have an inside track because they got a three-month head start on him when they acquired Lee last summer, the pairing worked well, the geography works (they're close to Lee's Arkansas home), Lee pitched in a World Series and the Rangers are set up to win for the next several years.

"I'd like to think that the longer the process goes, the less news you hear about it, the more encouraged I am," Rangers president Nolan Ryan told colleague Danny Knobler on Tuesday afternoon. "There's not any earthshaking news that has come out that concerns me. We don't have anything definitive by any means, but I think they have targeted one or two places, and I think they have a feel of where it's going."

The Rangers already have met twice with Braunecker.

Nationals: Still the darkhorse, though they have grabbed their share of attention with the wild seven-year, $126 million contract bestowed upon Jayson Werth. Lee wants to play with a winner, and while the Nationals' money will be just as authentic as anybody else's, their wins total may not be for a few years.

One industry source said Tuesday that he thinks Werth is one wild-card in the Nationals' pursuit of Lee: The two played together on the 2009 Phillies team that advanced to the World Series before losing to the Yankees, and the two were said to have developed a pretty good friendship.

Angels: The late entrant, the Angels were said to have made contact with Braunecker on Tuesday and indicated their intention to stay in touch. While an Angels official stopped short of confirming that late Tuesday night, he did say, "We talk with everybody."

If their pursuit of Lee is serious, the Angels are in the midst of a misdirection play because manager Mike Scioscia repeatedly told reporters during a briefing Tuesday that improving an impotent offense is the club's top priority. Within that, the Angels have visited with free agent outfielder Carl Crawford, long said to be the club's top target this winter.

A move toward Lee would be fascinating in that the Angels, who were toppled from their AL West throne by Texas last year, could spirit him away from their biggest division rival -- Texas -- and from one of their long-running October rivals -- the Yankees.

However, their history of bidding against the Yankees is an open wound: New York out-bid them on both Sabathia and Mark Teixeira in recent winters, leaving them scrambling toward their backup plans. And, Anaheim might start with an "A" like Arkansas, but it is thousands of miles from Cliff and Kristen Lee's beloved native state.

However, by bidding on Lee, the Angels could accomplish one of two things: They could either win him in a surprise bid and block Texas from getting him ... or they could at least drive the price up to hurt the Rangers and the Yankees.

Earlier Tuesday, Scioscia said, "We need to add offensive depth. It might not be one impact guy, but it definitely needs to be guys that have an idea of what to do in the batter's box."

But he also talked about Lee.

"A pitcher of Lee's caliber makes you better," Scioscia said. "There is no doubt about that. Whether he's a fit for us or not depends on more than just the talent aspect. Obviously, a free agent, it's complicated. He's obviously commanding a lot of attention.

"But he's certainly a guy that a number of teams would look at and know that they can make you substantially better in that area."

One other thing to remember: In their recent past, the Angels have always gone for pitching: They took a hard run at Sabathia when he was a free agent. They made a serious effort to acquire Jake Peavy from San Diego a couple of years ago. They were in on the Lee and Roy Halladay trade talks before each was shipped elsewhere in the past couple of seasons. And they signed Bartolo Colon as a free agent before the 2004 season.

Stay tuned.

 

Posted on: December 1, 2010 9:14 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2010 9:15 pm
 

Cliff Lee decision? 'It's going to be awhile'

The Cliff Lee talks creep along, with the Yankees and Rangers each tossing bouquets at the ace left-hander's feet.

But even though the Rangers met with Lee and his agent, Darek Braunecker, in Lee's native Arkansas on Tuesday, don't expect any resolutions anytime soon.

Timetables?

"It's going to be awhile," said an official with one of the clubs in contact with Lee.

Braunecker will attend at the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., next week, at which the pace is expected to pick up.

Posted on: October 29, 2010 5:54 pm
 

Lee on short rest? Feliz sighting? Texas regroups

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- Are the Rangers in deep enough trouble that they would dare consider asking ace Cliff Lee to do something he's never done, come back on short rest for Game 4?

It might all hinge on Game 3, a game manager Ron Washington called "must-win" as the Rangers worked out Friday afternoon preparing for it.

"You certainly don't want to go down 3-0," Washington said.

Colby Lewis will start Game 3 for the Rangers on Saturday, with young right-hander Tommy Hunter the scheduled Game 4 starter. Lee, as things stand now, is to start Game 5.

Asked Friday whether he's thought of using Lee on three days' rest, Washington responded, "The only thing I'm thinking about is Colby tomorrow. I can't answer that."

That open-ended answer will send hordes of people into a raging debate, of course.

But don't expect Lee to go in Game 4.

If he does, it will rank as the biggest shocker of this series.

The Rangers had a chance to use Lee on short rest in the Division Series against Tampa Bay in Game 4. But leading the series two games to one at that point, Washington opted against the idea. The Rangers lost, then went back to Florida to beat Tampa Bay in Game 5.

Last October, the Phillies didn't ask Lee to go on short rest in the World Series, either. Lee has never pitched on short rest.

The key here is this: Whether or not the Rangers would consider moving Lee up to start Game 4, they still need to win Game 5.

Meantime, Washington answered another pitching question that completely has taken on a life of its own in the aftermath of Texas' horrendous bullpen Game 2 meltdown:

Why did closer Neftali Feliz remain sitting on the bench as the meltdown progressed in the eighth inning? Especially with a fresh arm, as he has yet to pitch in the World Series?

Washington reiterated a day later that he did not even consider the option.

"No, I didn't, because if I would have went to Feliz right there, he would have had to do something he's never done before," Washington said. "And I wasn't going to challenge him like that.

"Nope, we had other guys down there that I have a lot of confidence in getting us out of that inning. It just didn’t happen."

Posted on: October 28, 2010 11:14 pm
 

Giants demolish Rangers in Game 2


SAN FRANCISCO -- The Rangers, one night after watching Cliff Lee get hammered, could not even raise (Matt) Cain and now head back to Texas in a deep hole.

Their first World Series threatening to get away from them, the Rangers were dropped 9-0 by the Giants thanks to a wicked combination of Matt Cain's continuing postseason brilliance, one jaw-droppingly bad break, a couple of missed opportunities and another searing bullpen meltdown.

Bottom line is, the Rangers are in trouble unless they figure out this masterful Giants pitching. You can rip the Texas bullpen if you wish -- and you should -- but San Francisco pitching is shredding this Texas lineup like wet toilet paper.

Anybody who's not yet ready to give San Francisco's pitchers full credit, maybe you'd better go back to whatever it was you were doing before this postseason caught your attention.

We've heard a whole lot about Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia, but behind Cain, Tim Lincecum and the rest, the Giants take a back seat to nobody.

Cain entered the game as the first pitcher to not allow an earned run in either of his first two postseason starts since Atlanta's Steve Avery in 1991. He departed after 7 2/3 innings having not allowed a run in his first THREE postseason starts.

The Rangers went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position against Cain, who now is up to 21 1/3 scoreless postseason innings. Think October agrees with this young man? Opponents now are 0 for 17 against him this postseason with runners in scoring position. He's produced more bagels than Einstein's the past three weeks.

And the one time the Rangers thought they had him, well, that's where the jaws dropped. Ian Kinsler slugged a deep fly to center to start the fifth that appeared to be gone. But in an impromptu test of gravity, physics and geometry, the ball bounced off the top of the wall, and somehow angled itself off the padding to bounce backward toward center fielder Andres Torres.

Instead of a homer and a 1-0 Texas lead, Kinsler got a double. Then he got left at second when David Murphy, Matt Treanor and C.J. Wilson were mowed down behind him (Mitch Moreland was intentionally walked before Wilson grounded out).

The Giants broke the scoreless tie with Edgar Renteria's solo homer in the fifth, tacked on a run in the seventh after Wilson left with a blister and then turned it into a laugher with seven runs in the eighth against four 'B'-league level Rangers relievers with manager Ron Washington inexplicably slow to the switch.

Now, it's tough to tell which needs a change of venue more, the Texas Rangers or this World Series.

We'll get one for Game 3, back in Texas on Saturday. But unless the Rangers figure a few things out, this Fall Classic is destined for all the drama of a Saturday afternoon oil change.

Posted on: October 26, 2010 11:18 pm
 

Giants contemplate roster, lineup

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will wait until Wednesday morning to finalize their World Series roster, but it is expected that Barry Zito, who has been left off of the roster in each of the first two postseason rounds, will remain on the sidelines.

As for a lineup, outfielder and leadoff man Andres Torres has been instrumental in making the Giants go this summer. But with lefty Cliff Lee starting Game 1 and with Torres having strained a muscle near his left hip in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series, indications are that the Giants may go with an outfield of Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Cody Ross in Game 1.

"The lineup, you'll probably see it get tweaked a little bit with the left-handers, as we did when Cole Hamels was throwing against us," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Again, you're going with match-ups, how lefties handle certain lefties.

"I know they have a couple going against us the first two games. You could see it teaked a little bit. As far as Torres, I'll know more [Wednesday]."

Torres has never faced Lee or Game 2 starter C.J. Wilson. Rowand, career, is hitting .280 (7-for-25) with one home run against Lee. Overall, the Giants only have a few players with a very small number of at-bats against Wilson -- Juan Uribe leads the team with four at-bats against him.

Posted on: October 12, 2010 2:51 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2010 4:54 pm
 

Thoughts on Game 5, Rangers-Rays

There is nothing like a Game 5 (or Game 7) in sports, and nothing like the pitch-by-pitch tension that builds in an elimination baseball game with the October leaves changing and Halloween costumes in the stores.

Tonight's Rangers-Rays game is so big, Tampa Bay not only removed the Tropicana Field tarp and put 5,000 extra tickets on sale, the Rays sold 'em!

Seriously, some thoughts as we count down to first pitch tonight of what should be a priceless matchup (so to speak) between aces David Price and Cliff Lee.

-- Texas can say what it wants about having Lee on the mound, and there is no question he's The Man. But it would be more of a guarantee if Tampa Bay was pitching some slob not named Price. Unless you're wearing a Rangers uniform, you'd much rather be in the Rays' cleats tonight: Price on the mound, bats coming back to life, the momentum of winning the past two games in your back pocket and what will be a thunderous, sold-out crowd behind you.

-- Crazy how things work out, and how perfect is this: Price, the man who sparked a controversy in Tampa by criticizing the Rays' fans via Twitter for not showing up on a potential clinching game in late September, pitching in front of not only a sold-out crowd tonight, but a crowd that voraciously snapped up those extra 5,000 tickets. This is a chance for burned bridges to be rebuilt, a chance for Price, 25 and as good a pitcher as there is in the game, to stand tall now that Tampa fans have put their money where Price's mouth is.

-- Maybe you don't realize this, but here is how rare a Game 5 is: We haven't had one since 2005, when the Los Angeles Angels beat the Yankees 5-2 in Anaheim to advance to the ALCS against the Chicago White Sox. Not only that, there's been very little drama in the Division Series' since '05, period: Entering this fall, a total of 11 of 20 series since then have been 3-0 sweeps.  Last fall, Game 163 between the Tigers and Twins -- not a Game 5, but an elimination game nonetheless, was by far the most exciting game of the entire postseason. It was all downhill after that.

-- The home team has yet to win in this series. Only once before has a team won the first two games of a best-of-five postseason series on the road and then gone on to lose: the 2001 Oakland A's, who played the New York Yankees. Texas will do everything tonight to make sure that changes, and don't be surprised to see manager Ron Washington call on starter C.J. Wilson if, for some reason, Lee is off.

-- This either works in Tampa Bay's favor -- or in Texas', if you figure odds are that this eventually will change: Never before in major league baseball history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, has there been a postseason series in which the road team has won every game in a best-of-five series.

-- In Game 1, Lee threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 hitters, and threw 76 strikes out of 104 total pitches. The Rays ranked third in the AL this season with 802 runs scored, but only 13th with in hits -- only Seattle, in the AL, had fewer. That partly explains why the Rays were no-hit twice this summer. And it explains how steep their challenge is tonight: They cannot expect to get extra runners on base via walks. They must be aggressive in swinging at Lee's strikes -- but it's a fine line between being aggressive, and coming too far out of their game.

-- From Texas' perspective, taking an early lead is a must. That would take the Tampa crowd out of the game, it would allow the Rangers to settle in and it might give Lee all he needs. "I think it depends on how many runs is put on the board when you score first," Rangers manager Ron Washington said Sunday in Texas while looking toward Game 5. "If you put one run on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. You put two runs on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. As long as it doesn't get past a grand slam, I think you're in good shape."

-- More Washington: "This was a five-game series when it started, now it's a five-game series. They proved they can beat us on our field, we proved we can beat them on their field. This is what it's about now. They have the right person they feel that's going to be throwing ... and we certainly feel the same way. So it's a matter of going out there, getting Cliff some runs, and if we get him some runs, he'll take it to the finish line. That's what it's all about."

-- Great stuff from Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena agreed that there will be no ejecting bases in Tropicana Field tonight, but, as he said, "I can't deny it, it's going to be pretty exciting. It's not as easy to control your emotions. It's fun. It's fun to be a part of it."

-- Tampa Bay's attitude? "We came here facing our elimination," catcher John Jaso said as the Rays dressed after Game 4 to fly home to St. Pete for Game 5. "And we still are facing our elimination." So far, so good with that.

-- The Rangers, for one more day at least, remain the only team in baseball never to have won a playoff series. Someone asked Lee the other day about pitching for a team with such a "sorry history." "I've heard something about that," Lee deadpanned during a post-Game 4 news conference the other day. "But that really doesn't matter to me that much, to be honest. This is a different team than has ever played here. It's a whole different set of circumstances."

Likes: Game 5, for "all the marbles" (as Texas third baseman Michael Young says). ... Bobby Valentine in line to manage again, either in Florida or Seattle. Great fit in either place, but especially the Mariners with their Japanese ownership and Bobby V's ties to Japan. ... Sandy Alderson interviewing with the Mets as a potential general manager. I disagreed with many things Alderson did as president of the Padres, but he would be a great fit with the Mets, who need an adult to run that sorry franchise. Allard Baird, who interviewed Monday, would be a very fine choice as well. ... The Jim Joyce Twitter controversy that erupted on Tuesday. Suddenly, the umpire showed up with a new Twitter account and several tweets that looked authentic -- until MLB-PR tweeted that it was not the real Jim Joyce. ... Baseball working with Stand Up 2 Cancer. ... I don't plug a whole lot of things like this, but if you have a minute to vote in this Pepsi Refresh Project, Gabby's Ladder is a terrific organization for bereaved children in Michigan and Ohio that could really use a helping hand.

Dislikes: Glee.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"If the businessmen drink my blood
"Like the kids in art school said they would
"Then I guess I'll just begin again"

-- Arcade Fire, Ready to Start

Posted on: October 10, 2010 7:11 pm
 

Rays even series with Texas, Yankees win

ARLINGTON, Tex. -- This postseason is becoming Made to Order for the Yankees.

As the New York Daily News comically -- and correctly -- pointed out early in the week, they received an "EZ Pass" in drawing the Twins in the first round.

Now?

Texas' failure to finish off Tampa Bay in three or four games pretty much assures the Yankees that they will not face the winner's ace -- the Rangers' Cliff Lee or the Rays' David Price -- until Game 3 of the AL Championship Series.

Lee and Price will oppose each other in the deciding Game 5 of the Rangers-Rays Division Series on Tuesday night.

The ALCS begins on Friday. The Yankees will have had five days off to prepare, with ace CC Sabathia fully rested for Game 1.

Meantime, there are a couple of other angles playing into the Yankees' hands: Neither Texas slugger Josh Hamilton (ribs) nor Tampa Bay cleanup hitter Evan Longoria (strained quadriceps) is playing at full strength right now.

Hamilton, who missed most of September after breaking a couple of ribs colliding with the outfield fence in Minnesota (is that the center whereby all breaks fall for the Yankees?), is hitting .143 over the four games of this AL Division Series. He's struck out four times in 14 at-bats.

The outfielder, of course, insists that the still-healing ribs are not bothering him.

"I wish I could use that excuse, but they're not," he said. "This is the whole thing that makes baseball fun. You figure them out, and then they figure you out. If it was easy, nobody would play."

Texas manager Ron Washington acknowledges that Hamilton is not at 100 percent but is keeping details in-house.

"I don't think no one is 100 percent right now," Washington said. "But you understand Josh hasn't seen live pitching in a month and he's up there fighting, and he's fighting hard. It's not an excuse, but he is facing some pretty good pitching right now."

Longoria is faring better at the plate, especially in Tampa Bay's 5-2 Game 4 win Sunday when he cracked two doubles and a two-run homers. He's batting .250 for the series, with a .294 on-base percentage. The two-run homer are his only RBIs.

What's particularly bothersome about Longoria, though, is watching him run. He's clearly slowed by the left quadriceps both running the bases and in the field.

"He's under strict managerial orders to not run hard, although he can't anyway," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "What you're seeing is pretty much where he's at right now. I want him to guard that leg. As we get deeper into the playoffs, it shall get better. But for right now, I'm good with what he's doing."

Likes: Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5 Tuesday in Tampa Bay: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." ... The Rangers taking the field for Game 4 to Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream. ... Sundance Square in Fort Worth. ... Southwest Airlines, where you don't get the feeling you're bothering the employees when you fly with them. ... Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High School's football team blasting Carleton Airport 34-21 on Friday night. The Falcons now are 6-1, clinched at least a share of the Huron League title and clinched another berth in the state playoffs. Way to go, boys.

Dislikes: Error on me in writing that Tampa Bay had not played a noon game all season before Sunday, including spring training. That was the word in Tampa Bay's clubhouse. The truth of it? The Rays have short memories. They actually had an 11 a.m. start in Boston on Patriots' Day and three 12:10 p.m. starts in Tampa during the season. Thanks to alert reader Daniel Frederick for pointing this out.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well it's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
"Not where you live, the car you drive, or the price tag on your clothes
"There`s no dollar sign on a piece of mind this I`ve come to know
"So if you agree have a drink with me
"Raise your glasses for a toast
"To a little bit of chicken fried
"Cold beer on a Friday night
"A pair of jeans that fit just right
"And the radio up"

-- Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried

Posted on: October 6, 2010 5:39 pm
 

Rays head for Game 2 on a Shields and a prayer

The fact that Texas had lost nine consecutive playoff games mattered not to Ron Washington's Rangers in kicking off this autumn's postseason Wednesday afternoon.

And with a Game 1 win now in the bag over Tampa Bay and David Price, those nine losses might as well have occurred in the 1890s rather than the 1990s.

Not only did the Rangers do what they needed to do behind ace Cliff Lee, but now they're set up to steal two games in Tropicana Field.

Rays manager Joe Maddon, always unconventional, assigned struggling James Shields (13-15, 5.18 ERA) the Game 2 start, leaving Matt Garza, the stronger alternative, to Game 3.

If the Rangers batter Shields the way they ambushed and head back to Texas with a 2-0 series lead, this series is as good as over.

The Shields move is defensible mostly by looking at his home/road splits:

In Tropicana Field, Shields is 5-7 with a not-too-stellar 4.53 ERA.

On the road, Shields is 8-8 with a coyote ugly 5.82 ERA.

Exposing Shields to The Ballpark in Arlington, a hitter's paradise that ranks seventh in the majors in home runs per game, was closer to outright suicide on the diamond than Maddon dared go.

But when Tampa Bay's hitters couldn't squeeze anything out of Lee during his uncharacteristic 24-pitch first inning, it only raised the stakes for Shields in Game 2. Granted, the tone of the inning changed dramatically when plate umpire Tim Welke called a high strike on Carlos Pena to make the count 2-2 instead of 3-1, a terrible call that hurt the Rays.

Still. In playoff baseball, you can't get yourself into position where one ball/strike call is a mortal wound. You've either got to take advantage of other opportunities, or create them.

Tampa Bay didn't. And now, the Rays are in must-win mode on Thursday.

 
 
 
 
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