It’s Time!, with Cliff Lee
First, I want to give a big thanks to Bob for allowing me to use his blog to post my thoughts. Now onto Cliff Lee and the playoff run.
Thank God the Rangers traded for Cliff Lee, because in DFW it slowed down “The Decision” LeBron brought upon the sports nation. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on Twitter and hearing on The Ticket Friday afternoon when the Rangers had STOLEN away Cliff Lee from the New York Yankees. I wanted details. The first trade I saw involved Justin Smoak, Derek Holland and 2 prospects. Honestly, I didn’t like that deal. It was way too much to give up for a 3 month “rent an ace.” About 15 minutes later I turn on MLB Network to see that Holland wasn’t in the deal and Blake Beavan was the main pitching prospect leaving.
With that one swap of players I went from not liking the deal to liking it, but I didn’t LOVE the deal. Smoak WILL BE an all-star 1st baseman. Peter Gammons said he is the next Chipper Jones at the plate. That is high praise and if he reaches that potential then this trade could be looked at differently in a few years. Holland will be a 10 to 15 game winner the next 10 years of his career. I’m glad Texas was able to keep Lefty and let him become part of the future rotation.
Cliff Lee is one of the 5 best pitchers in the game, (Halladay, Lincecum, CC, Jimenez) and I can’t recall the Rangers having one of those since Fergie Jenkins in 1974. (25-12, 2.82 ERA, 29 CGs!) With Texas in 1st place this trade was a kill shot to the LA Angels. Yet the Angels won’t die easy. In fact if LA is within 5 games two weeks from now, I expect them to make a trade for an Adam Dunn or Prince Fielder. I still don’t believe that will be enough to catch Texas.
When you have an ace it takes the pressure off a lot of people on your team. First, the other starters won’t be forced to
pitch into the 7th or 8th inning if they are getting tired. Because every fifth day Lee should give the Rangers an average of 8 innings. Secondly, giving the bullpen a day off (and this bullpen needs some rest) is huge in August and September. Third, less middle relief is a good thing. The Rangers can pitch O’Day or Ogando in the 6th in a tie game or just down a run instead of Nippert or Harrison, in the games Lee isn’t starting. Side Note: I can remember my former pitching coach, Carl Willis, telling me a story about Brad Radke. Radke was quoted as saying “a quality start is when Carl Willis doesn’t have to pitch.”
For the hitters, they need to believe if they do their job the team will win. Players know how important pitching is, but they look at pitchers similar to how football players look at kickers and punters. Obviously Cliff Lee doesn’t make the lineup better but he can hide weaknesses in the lineup if you’re winning games 2-1 or 3-2. Yes, I’m calling out the 1st base and Catcher positions.
This is a “now trade” because it’s hard for me to see Cliff Lee being a Ranger in 2011. From the Texas standpoint this trade will have a final grade at the end of the season. My grade will be this:
C: Rangers don’t make the playoffs (Took a good risk.)
B: Make the playoffs but lose in round 1, the Rangers might have made it without the trade.
A: Win a playoff series (this is where Cliff would take a team that couldn’t get there without him.)
A+: Make it to the World Series…..Winning it is way above an A+
The Rangers have a tough second half of the season, 12 with the Angels, 7 against Boston, and 5 against the Yanks. Not to mention the Twins and Rays. But when the Rangers get to the playoffs they have an ace that can lead a team with no playoff experience (except Vlad) to an early 1-0 series lead. It will be up to Lewis, Wilson, and Hunter, I assume, to get the ball back to Lee to close out a short series. At least that’s the plan on paper. Winning a seven game series usually takes more than 1 pitcher.
Now if the Rangers can sign Cliff Lee in the off-season then this trade is an A no matter what happens. But the starting bid will be 5 for $100 million. That probably won’t get him because it will be a low offer considering what lefty starters (Santana, Zito, and CC) have received recently. Does Texas want him bad enough to offer a 5 year deal worth $125 mill? It’s not my money, and we have no clue today whose money it will be, but if you want an ace you have to pay. The Yankees still might outbid, but $25 million a year is more than enough to make it a hard decision to leave Texas. I’m not looking forward to the day that Lee signs somewhere else, but for now CLIFF LEE IS A RANGER!