Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Paging Cliff Lee

As the Yankees look ahead to the 2011 season, one of their primary goals will be to add a big arm to their rotation.

"Pitching is the key to the kingdom," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. " You've got to collect as much as you possibly can, and we've tried to do that."

They certainly have. Signing CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett during the '08 offseason, and bringing back Andy Pettitte in '07 after a 3-year hiatus with the Astros is proof of it. Now, the Yankees are looking to bring in a pitcher who would evoke tremors throughout the other teams in the American League.

Paging Cliff Lee.

The rumors have been out their about the Yankees going after Lee for weeks now. You'd figure it's a given 1) for his obvious talent, particularly in the postseason, and 2) for the fact that the Yankees were within hours of acquiring Lee back in July before their deal with the Seattle Mariners fell through. Without the uncertainty that comes with trades, the Yankees seem certain to acquire "The Assassin," and make all of their fans dreams come true.

Easier said than done.

What could make this a not-so-easy process for the Yankees is the personality of Cliff Lee. He seems to be the kind of player that gets comfortable where he's at, especially if his teammates gel well together, which is certainly the case in Texas. Most people would assume that whether or not Texas wins the World Series could be an x-factor, but that may not be so; Lee was very vocal about his disappointment when the Phillies traded him to the Mariners during this past offseason after losing the World Series to the Yankees in '09.

Lee is certainly a competitor and wants to win. So the Yankees would absolutely fit that criteria. But, the Rangers just proved to everyone that they have a solid team that can compete and man-handle the reigning champs. And they have a lot of young talent. Couple this with Lee's "team spirit" and Cashman could possibly have another disappointment to explain to the media.

"I definitely enjoy it here, and it looks like it's going to be a good team for years to come," Lee recently said of the Rangers. "I want to be part of a winner, and that's what this team looks like it's going to be for a little while."

What the Yankees do have in their favor here are two things: history and CC Sabathia. Yes, Texas is a good team right now, and they have been for awhile. But this is only their first trip back to the postseason since the Yankees eliminated them in 1999. Since 1995, the Yankees have missed the postseason once and until the Cinderella-season of the Tampa Bay Rays in '08, the Bombers have either lead the AL East or won the wild card. And it's been well-documented the close relationship of Lee and Sabathia, dating back to their playing days together in Cleveland. Matter-of-fact, Sabathia took his best friend shopping for homes in New Jersey when the Yankees almost signed Lee in July. As he did with the undecided Andy Pettitte last winter, you can bet that Sabathia will be making continuous phone calls to his former teammate to get him to play in New York.

What the Yankees are hoping is that Lee in the pinstripes could mean the start of a new dynasty.

It will certainly be a very interesting pursuit to watch unfold. While the Yankees and their fanatics will be holding their breath anticipating the possible signing of a new dynasty's "messiah", everyone else will be crossing their fingers, hoping that Lee has made himself right at home in Texas.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

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