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Friday, September 30, 2022 — Houston, TX

"Lee"ave him in the Lone Star State

By Jonathan Myers     10/28/10 7:00pm

With a final stroking of his Just For Men-immaculate beard, Brian Wilson blazed a fastball past the massive frame of Ryan Howard for strike three to give the San Francisco Giants their most recent chance to claim their first World Series championship since the days when Willie Mays roamed centerfield at Polo Grounds. Just a day before, the Texas Rangers had more than just clawed and antlered their way past the vaunted New York Yankees, torching the Fighting Steinbrenners 6-1 in front of a rowdy Arlington crowd to clinch their first-ever trip to the Fall Classic. So why, with one of the two biggest championship droughts in baseball history certain to fall before the next Rice football victory, is the biggest story in baseball surrounding a player's fate off the diamond? I'm talking, of course, of left-handed pitcher and current Texas Ranger Cliff Lee and his seemingly inevitable destiny to head to the Bronx, shave his soul patch, collect a purported $35 million check and don the storied pinstripes. But for the sake of preserving whatever sanctity America's pastime still clings to, Lee should shirk the glitz and glamour of The Big Apple for the heat and traffic of the Metroplex.

"What's this?" you ask. "Jonathan Myers, the second-biggest Yankees fan south of the Mason- Dixon Line (ceding the title to the great Natalie Clericuzio), would rather see Clifton Phifer Lee yuk it up with the blue-collar Rangers, who seem more concerned about making up new hand gestures than counting their money, than paint the town with C.C. Sabathia, his pal from his day with the Cleveland Indians, and the rest of the Yankee crew?" That's right, readers, and here are the reasons why:

Chemistry



Like it or not, this Rangers team has chemistry. They support each other (note the ginger ale post-game shower in place of champagne in honor of Josh Hamilton, who struggled with alcohol addiction) and they get along with each other. It's apparent from their loose attitude toward playoff pressure that the Rangers are among the most carefree bunch in baseball.

The Yankees are a collection of superstar athletes, that, until their title last November, failed to produce the result that Yankees' fans expect every year. With Lance Berkman (Will Rice '97), Kerry Wood and Nick Johnson failing to get their contract options picked up by the Yankees, the revolving door culture will continue in the Bronx for some time, allowing only the elite in pinstripes to create any type of relationships with each other.

Time to settle down again

The Ace from Arkansas has racked up the frequent flyer miles, pitching for four teams since June 2009. After playing hired hand for the Philadelphia Phillies during the latter half of the 2009 season and playoffs, only to be traded to Seattle before being acquired at the trading deadline by the Rangers in 2010, it's only natural for Lee to want to stay in one clubhouse for longer than four months.

Youth

Check the Yankees lineup. Out of their starting eight position players, only four are under the age of 30. Phil Hughes is their only starting pitcher of note that hasn't hit the big 3-0. By contrast, the only major contributors for the Rangers that are over the age of 30 are shortstop Michael Young, catcher Bengie Molina and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero. This Rangers lineup, while not the best in the majors, is built for the next five to 10 years. Their pitching staff tells the same story, with Lee and Lewis the only starting pitchers over 30 and the rest of the arms in the Rangers' arsenal averaging 26 years of age.

While Jeter had an average season by his standards, it won't be long before management will be looking to move to him to a corner outfield spot, retooling the shortstop position with some younger and more nimble replacement. Jorge Posada is already hearing whispers of being permanently moved to DH from catcher, as he has been plagued by injuries the past few years.

Coaching

After struggling to coax consistent starts from Hughes and A.J. Burnett in recent months, pitching coach Dave Eiland was fired after just three years with the Yankees. Before Eiland, Ron "Louisiana Lightning" Guidry also lasted just three years with the club, despite both coaches having an extensive history with the Bronx Bombers. With their unprecedented success this season, Rangers' manager Ron Washington will certainly be a clubhouse fixture for at least five years.

Star Power

If Lee stays in Arlington, he'll be the toast of the town, especially with the Dallas Cowboys' recent implosion. Posters, billboards, commemorative $8 cups: You name it and he'll be on it. The last time Texas had a Cy Young Award winner on their pitching staff was when current general manger Nolan Ryan was taking the mound. If Lee goes to New York, he'll just be another face in the crowd, lower on the totem pole than fellow superstar additions Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Burnett and Sabathia, and much lower than the Core Four (Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Posada and Mariano Rivera), who have been with the Yankees for a combined 60 years. While Lee would most likely be the Open-ing Day starter for the Yankees, his past accomplishments would be treated with a mere nod of approval. Cy Young winner? Big deal. Postseason success? Great, plenty of Yankees hurlers can boast that.

Lee will probably end up starting for the Yankees on Opening Day against the Detroit Tigers in 2011. But maybe, just maybe, he'll forego the dollars and mercenary attitude and stay in his newfound home in Texas. Besides, after his debacle of a start in Game 1, the Yankees don't really want him anyway.

Jonathan Myers is a Will Rice College junior and Thresher sports editor.



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