Cliff Lee delivers a pitch during the ALCS in New York - his possible offseason destination
Times are tough in Cleveland, Ohio nowadays. The local economy, seemingly on the rebound everywhere else, continues to stagnate near the bottom of the national conscience.
It is the middle of October, and the Indians are left at home watching playoff baseball for the third straight season. The Browns, with their third string rookie quarterback, lost to the Steelers, again—only by 18 points this time.
Still, all of this pales in comparison to the Cleveland’s iconic son embarrassing the city on national TV before turning his back and joining his cohorts in Miami.
The pulse of the city’s faithful may be at an all-time low, and that’s before baseball’s ultimate free spending team kicks a downtrodden organization, once again.
C.C. Sabathia is the last homegrown superstar talent the Indians organization has drafted and developed. Fans patiently waited for him to blossom from a green 20-year-old to a legitimate frontline starting pitcher.
Stardom has a price that a handful of teams can pay—including the Indians. Unfortunately, Sabathia pitched himself in another stratosphere—a place reserved for the elite money making machines.
Former GM Mark Shapiro, in a highly unpopular, but completely reasonable move, traded the big lefty to a contending team for a plethora of promising players.
Enter. Cliff Lee.
Lee was obtained in another highly unpopular, yet, extraordinarily rewarding trade. In hopes of accelerating the last rebuilding effort Shapiro traded Bartolo Colon, another former ace, for Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Grady Sizemore.
In another universe, perhaps, a more favorable place for underdogs and small market baseball teams, the pairing of Sabathia and Lee would have rewarded an organization bereft of a World Series title.
Welcome to Cleveland, the unforgiving cosmos.
During the magical, if unsustainable, playoff run in 2007 Lee looked less like a major league hurler and more like a smile on Albert Belle’s face. Something just didn’t seem right. The formerly consistent league average pitcher morphed into a present day version of Steve Blass.
Lee struggled through injuries and ailments including a right abdominal strain and a bad case of gopheritis. He was eventually replaced by Fausto Carmona—another burgeoning ace—and left off the postseason roster all together.
Then, by some magical touch Lee started pitching and he continued to pitch. Past stardom, past superstardom. Now he has settled somewhere in between Sabathia and Sandy Koufax. Somewhere past the allowable limits of Paul Dolan’s purse strings.
Enter the New York Yankees.
The New York Yankees threw gobs of money towards Sabathia, and he accepted without hesitation. This offseason following another year, including continued dominance in the postseason, the Yankees will pursue, and more likely than not, sign Lee.
The combined contracts of both lefties will settle in $40-45 million range—approximately 70 percent of Cleveland’s 2010 payroll.
Next season’s Yankees will once again challenge for a World Series title, only this time 40 percent of their rotation will consist of former Cy Young Award winning Indians—and 100 percent of the Cleveland fans’ lost hope.