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Bronx Bombing: Cliff Lee Spurns Yankees, Signs With Phillies

Brian Cashman is melancholy (Photo courtesty of Hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

I guess Cyndi Lauper was wrong. Money doesn’t change everything. With Cliff Lee eschewing over $30 million of the Yankees money to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, who do you think was more pissed: Brian Cashman or Michael Weiner?

The Yankee’s cash man Cashman has been left at the altar, forlornly holding a bag of green while Cliff Lee runs off with his redheaded cousin. George Steinbrenner would be apoplectic if he weren’t too busy being eternally poked by a thousand knives of fire while all the managers and secretaries he fired urinate on him from heaven.

And Bravo to Cliff Lee. It’s about time an athlete chose happiness over millions of dollars he is never going to spend. Instead of puffing up the numbers on quarterly statements from his financial advisors he chose comfortability and lifestyle. When was the last time an athlete chose Philadelphia for serenity’s sake? Charlie Day and Mac are right. It is always sunny in Philadelphia.

This is a total and complete embarrassment for the Yankees. A team who’s “shower any free agent we want with the highest offer” strategy has never failed (save for Greg Maddux), and just got jilted. Big time. Their previous success with free agents manufactured an inherent arrogance in the franchise. Money is their only game. Nobody turns down the most money, right? Not in America. Especially not in the middle of The Great Recession.

The Yankees are like a trust fund frat boy who has been able to bag any chick he’s wanted by flashing his Jaguar and Vineyard Vines but just got ditched for a guy in sweatpants driving a Chevy Nova. This has the makings of one of those lame 90′s teen movies.

Lee and Maddux parallel nicely. They are two sides of the same coin. Maddux, a righty who gave the old “c-ya later shuffle” to the Yanks millions after the 1992 season, and Lee, a lefty who decided he doesn’t want his wife harassed and expectorated on by Vinny Bagadonuts if he loses a July game to the Red Sox, are both control-freak pitchers who throw in the low 90s and subsist on their uncanny ability to manipulate bat speeds.

How glorious is it that that Yankees’ stupid and arrogant fans may have had a hand in blowing this one? The incident with Kristen Lee had to be a factor in Lee turning down the Yanks, right?

Why didn’t the Yankees put deadline on their offer to Lee?  They did draw a line but only after they caved. You want more money? Another year? Okay, seven years, $150 millions but that is it. Way to hold strong, Cashman. This smacks of desperation, which MLB hasn’t seen from the Yankees in a long time.

The Lee debacle, coupled with the all too public Derek Jeter negotiations signals that these are not your father’s Yankees, Hank and Hal. This is a line of demarcation in the Yankee universe. George is dead and so is any aura of invincibility, with the checkbook or on the field, that the Yankees have had these past fifteen years.

And what does this means to Yankees now desultory rotation? A southpaw troika of CC Sabathia, Lee and Andy Pettite would have spelled doom for not just the Red Sox but any team with designs on taking advantage of risible right field in Yankee Stadium. Should I even mention the record setting AJ Burnett? No, we shouldn’t kick Yankee fans while they are down.

Screw it. Burnett’s 5.25 ERA was the worst for any starting pitcher in Yankee history with at least 180 innings. Digging deeper, Burnett’s 11.35 ERA in June was the worst in any one month for a Yankee pitcher. And all that for on $82.5 million! Instead of giving the money to Burnett, the Yankees should just burn it.  Burn it – Burnett. Get it?

Pettite now has his hand on the Yankee chicken switch. He seems to be a man, like Lee, who remains unswayed by money (but let’s not mistake them for a couple of Mother Theresas). Pettite seems like a stand up guy but he also did steroids, so he has no Snow White purity of character.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, Pettite has made $125 million in his career while Lee has banked $23 million (though not a paucity, Lee’s career earnings makes the financial part of his decision even more altruistic).

If Pettite is of the retiring mind, the Yankees desperation may cause them to offer him an undeniable amount of money. If he wanted to come back regardless of Lee, he can still command a healthy raise from last year’s $11.75 salary. Can he get $15 million? If Burnett is making $16.5 per, why the Bronx not?

Mix in Phil Hughes, who still has an innings restriction, which I supposed is a good idea as he collapsed down the stretch, and unproven but sure to have his arm ruined Ivan Nova (great name, though) and the rotation is thinner than Kate Moss coming out of a sauna.

WFAN is already buzzing with fanciful Plan B scenarios for the Yankees. The most preposterous one I’ve heard concerns the pursuit of Felix Hernandez. The thinking is that the imminent signing of Russell Martin frees up catching prospect Jesus Montero for a trade with Seattle.

Hernandez signed a team-friendly 5 year, $78 million deal last January and Seattle is going to turn him around and trade him for a catcher? I don’t know what is more mind blowing: WFAN’s superciliousness or super silliness.

Carlos Zambrano and Zack Greinke have also been tossed around as Yankee targets. The former has taken to dugout outbursts and fist fighting teammates while the latter is so anxiety ridden that he didn’t attend his own congratulatory Cy Young press conference…in Kansas City. Either of those two in New York? Please, yes, on both of them.

All of this means that the Yankees are fighting for the Wild Card. With the improvements made in Chicago and Detroit, the AL East’s dominance in the first division runner up sweepstakes is in serious jeopardy. Yes, I am already giving the AL East to the Red Sox.

Anxious times in the Bronx. I hear Roger Clemens and Brien Taylor are still available.

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