Cliff Lee as a New York Yankee: If You Can't Beat Him, Buy Him

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Cliff Lee as a New York Yankee: If You Can't Beat Him, Buy Him
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
How's that for a 4th starter? Get used to it, cause I don't see how it DOESN'T happen

They say good things come to those that wait.

Similarily, the same could be said that all roads eventually end up in the Bronx. Name a favorite player of yours, and despite how unfathomable it might actually sound, sooner or later he will wear Yankee pinstripes.

Every year I used to read the trade deadline rumors, and they would include some superstar that some team was eventually going to lose to free agency, i.e Aaron Boone of the Reds before 2003. Next to his name were the many teams interested in him.

I cannot remember who they all were, but just for fun let's say: Giants, Mets, Twins, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Yankees.

Then you'd see another star player, say, Kerry Wood or Hideo Nomo, Chan Ho Park, Bill Mueller, Vladamir Guerrero or Arthur Rhodes. Next to most if not all of their names was a similar list, with the Yankees always being mentioned.

I used to think this was because ESPN and other sites were simply taking the easy way out to just include him, since if by chance he'd actually end up there, they'd all look smart. After briefly questioning how they could possibly afford all these players or, more importantly, have enough room on their roster and enough prospects to deal, one fan in the forum on which I was reading this put it as clear as I've ever read it:

"You have to understand, when it comes to adding a player, or discussions about a player, the Yankees call about everybody...."

Well, that certainly made sense. They knew they weren't going to get all of them, obviously, but they were smartly laying the pieces for the future.

ESPN's First Take not exactly breaking any news here

On today's edition of ESPN's First Take, toward the end of their segments on Cliff Lee, host Jay Crawford ended the piece with "He's going to look great in pinstripes," to which one of his co-hosts said "We don't have enough time for that right now."

Normally I'd be upset. After all, it isn't fair, but that argument's been made. Without a salary cap (or floor) which the strong-armed MLBPA will never allow, especially under a weak puppet commissioner in Bud Selig, they are, sadly, playing within the rules.

Any good New Yorker would tell you that. We get that.

Some will say I'm just preparing myself for the inevitable, so when it happens it will hurt less. Maybe I am, maybe that's true, I don't know, but honestly, it's hard to be mad when you know it will happen.

You can't always get who you want–well, actually, you can

As a Baltimore Oriole fan who literally watched Mike Mu$$ina sell his soul to the Evil Empire on November 30, 2000 via the ESPN press conference, I am used to the disappointment.

That one hurt, because I never saw it coming. I knew there was tension with inept owner Peter Angelos, but I thought he was more loyal than that. I guess he had 88.5 million reasons to prove us all wrong and stab us in the back, but at least Moose never got his ring, proving to be Don Mattingly II in retiring just a year too early (2008) when the team won it all the next year.

This singular move effectively killed the Orioles and ensured the Yankees would be around for years to come.

A few weeks later we saw the Sellout Part Deux, when prettyboy Alex Rodriguez, aka A-ROID, A-Fraud, or several other names I can't print here, make the bold and respectable move of leaving the Seattle Mariners and signing with the last-place Texas Rangers.

New Yorkers will bark (because that's all they ever do) that he took the most money and "What could be bold about that?"

Next, in 2009, CC Sabathia signed his name in blood to the tune of $161 million when he took the advice of the MLB Players Union, as the rumors go, to take the best offer and sign with New York, instead of playing closer to home as he wanted to do as late as December of 2008.

Rumor has it that he had initial aspirations of signing with the Dodgers. Again, we all know how that turned out.

The offseason concluded when a few hired guns from Maryland chose to spurn the hometown club in favor of, you guessed it, the greedy New York Yankee$ themselves.

Burnett I could have cared less about. The 18 wins he mastered with division rival Toronto didn't do them any good north of the border anyway, and he's just a slider away from having Tommy John or something of the like. But like Mussina a decade earlier, I thought it was money in the bank, no pun intended, that so-called hometown savior and Severna Park native Mark Teixeira would sign with his so-called boyhood club.

Turns out, in a very low-radar move that appeared to come out of nowhere at the eleventh hour, "Traitor Tex," who we found out later grew up a Mattingly fan and always wanted to play first base for the Yankee$, signed there.

 

The Orioles—the team that once led the league in payroll for a few years, as late as 1998—didn't keep up with the times by raising their payroll accordingly. What's that line about you can't put a price on happiness?

Given all the Yankee $ucce$$ at landing the free agents of their choice, why should we expect Lee to be any different? After all, we know that player$ are only human and everyone has got their price—we just have to find out what Lee's is.

The sky's the limit

Every year there is some hot free agent-to-be that we are sure will set an all-time record whenever he signs, and there is no reason to beLEEve that Cliff will be any different. 7-0 with a 1.26 postseason ERA speaks for itself.

Still, I do not consider him to be the best. Aside from players like Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson, a more recognizable player I'd always give the nod to is "Automatic" Andy Pettite. Like Kobe Bryant in the NBA, you may not like him, but you can't help but respect him after all he's done. The all-time leader in postseason wins with 19 apparently met his match yesterday, losing another gem to someone who just plain pitched better.

Still, you have to wonder if Yankee fan$ are even concerned. After all, as fun as it would be to see them go down in defeat to a team that has never even made a single World Series, they are used to getting who they want, and what better way to ensure the "embarrassment" of losing to a subpar team never happens again than to simply buy out your competition?

Where have we heard that before?

While we sit back and laugh at the Yankee$ possibly losing to the upstart Rangers, you can't help but think that they've already put their Lee-33 jerseys on layaway the same way they thought Johan Santana would be theirs once the small-market Minnesota Twins could no longer afford him.

I mean, you can't blame them, right? It's the Yankee way. This is the same spoiled base that allegedly yelled "Enjoy him while you can, in two years, he's ours" after a stellar outing.

The only fun now will be guessing how much and for how long. Initally I'd say 7 years and $200 million just for fun. I mean, if Sabathia can get $161 million out of them, surely Lee will get more. That's "only" $28 million a season, or a few million pennies more than Teixeira's $23 million average.

Look at it this way, that "bargain" would come at 5 million less than the choke-artist, save for 2009, himself, A-Rod, the king of the meaningless home run.

So is there no hope?

The best Texas Ranger fans can hope for, and baseball in that matter, is that Texas goes on to win the World Series with Lee playing such a vital role that he feels some sort of gratitude and repays the club that finally got him there after making four stops in a little over 14 months.

Why would someone this good be traded four times—Cleveland-Philadelphia, Seattle, and finally Texas—all in a little over a year? Simple: no one wants to be caught holding him when the music stops. Alas, this is where the Yankee$ more often than not, are happy to oblige.

Lee, a Benton, Arkansas native, may want to pitch closer to home. Heck, what I am talking about, that didn't work for Teixeira or Sabathia.

Don't forget that it was the Yankee$ who tried to trade for Lee at the 2010 deadline only to see him whisked away at the last moment. They were trying to avoid just this scenario. Let's also not forget that is is Lee who never won a ring.

If it all goes to plan, you can rest assured they will never put themselves though that again.

See, the Yankee$ always get their man, one way or another.

There will be those no doubt that claim they lost out on Vladimir Guerrero or someone else when it was just widely assumed they'd end up in New York. While that may be true, name me the last major free agent to spurn New York in favor of a rival for the good of the game.

Some might say Joe Mauer, who I suggested would all but pick up the ugly New York accent upon his arrival in the Bronx, but really, was he ever actually even considered? Publicly, I mean? It seemed to be more of a wish than an actual thought, unlike Lee.

I'm waiting, and so are the Yankee$......for Cliff Lee.

As was the plan all along.

Information and statistics from ESPN.com, Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com, and Wikipedia directly contributed to the content of this article.

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