Last summer, early in July, I woke up and turned on Sportscenter to find that a trade was afoot. A big deal was about to go down in the world of baseball.
The Yankees, once again, were about to get their guy. Cliff Lee was headed to New York.
Of course, that’s not what happened. Not at all.
Lee became a Ranger a few hours later and the Yankee faithful could not have been more upset about it. They spit and cried and gnashed their teeth. How dare the lowly Rangers take away what was rightfully theirs.
After the shock had worn off, they changed their tune and rationalized it as a simple bump in the road. The Rangers were going to rent Cliff and then a few months later the Yankees would snatch him up in free agency.
Only half of that turned out to be true.
It’s hard to say what effect July 9th had on the Yankee psyche, but based on the way the Yankee front office has been carrying themselves, I think it’s fair to say that they’re a little flustered.
Not only did the Rangers steal away the pitcher they so coveted, but they used him as part of their ALCS trouncing a few months later.
After the ALCS, Chuck Greenberg pointed out that Cliff Lee might not want to sign with the Yankees after their fans spit on his wife and called her names.
While everything that Chuck Greenberg said was effectively true, he did use some more colorful language, referring to the fans as either ‘violent’ or ‘apathetic’. Turns out Hal Steinbrenner was not a fan of Chuck’s opinion.
Instead of telling him so personally, Hal decided to tattle. He called the commissioner’s office and cried until Bud Selig made Greenberg apologize, which he did. So, uh, good for you, Hal. Chalk up another win for the Empire.
Another incident occurred around the same time [exactly when escapes me, but it was sometime after the ALCS] when Nolan Ryan called Andy Pettitte to congratulate him for a good season and ask him if he planned to play in 2011.
True to themselves, the New York media ran with the story, accusing the Rangers of trying to lure Pettitte away. When reached for comment, someone in the Yankees’ organization [it might have been Hank Steinbrenner] referred to the notion of Pettitte coming to Texas as “a [expletive] joke.”
It’s never been very clear based on what I’ve read, but there is a chance that Nolan was just calling to talk to his friend [which Pettitte is]. Either way, I’m not sure it was entirely necessary to use a word like [expletive]. Seems like a bit of an overreaction.
Turns out the war of words was far from over…
A few days ago, at the Rangers’ Fan Fest, Chuck Greenberg was asked about Cliff Lee during a Q & A with fans. Greenberg said the following [as reported by TR Sullivan]:
“I think he was going to sign with the Yankees. We pried the door open a little bit to give ourselves another opportunity…the Phillies were able to take advantage of that opportunity…we would have preferred that he would have chosen to go with us, [but] we’re real pleased that he’s going to the other league.”
Yankees President [Randy Levine] took those comments very personally, for reasons I can’t quite grasp [as reported by HBT]:
“If he really wants to impress us…he can get the Rangers off of welfare and show how they can be revenue-sharing payers…without financing from Major League Baseball…I think Chuck is delusional. He’s been in the game a few minutes but it seems to be that he thinks he knows what everybody else is thinking.”
Well said, Randy. Of course, it wouldn’t have been Chuck’s fault that the Rangers were in bankruptcy or needed money from Bud Selig’s office. That would be Tom Hicks’ fault [that’s kind of his thing, running a team into the ground]. On top of that, is it really fair to blast a team because they don’t contribute to revenue sharing? Seems like you’re just waving your money around to compensate for your short……..uh, playoff run.
Personally, I think all of this verbal sparring is delicious, because of what it says about the Yankees.
The Yankees are bullies. They’ve got a huge payroll and they buy all the best players and they brag about how they have all those trophies. But then, as soon as someone stands up to them or they feel like you don’t know your proper place, they start crying.
Bloody their nose just a little and they tell on you. Not in a clever kind of way, though, like they provoked you into getting yourself in trouble. Just in a crybaby kind of way.
(Hardball Talk had a good take on this story, pointing out that [for someone so concerned with how other people make their money] Randy Levine had no trouble taking free cash from New York to finance the New Yankee Stadium.)