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How much do the words of Cliff Lee’s wife really mean?

Oct 26, 2010, 3:57 PM EDT

Cliff Lee Family

Much has been made of the whole “Yankees fans spit on Cliff Lee’s wife and they like Arkansas and all that jazz” story from this morning.  As far as I can tell, the battle lines break down as follows: (a) people who are dying for the Yankees to finally whiff on a highly-coveted free agent and are thus latching on to Kristen Lee’s comments; and (b) Yankees fans who really want to see Cliff Lee join the team and dismiss these comments as meaningless. The former camp getting off on the idea of the Yankees losing out on Lee. The latter camp is epitomized by a refrain that basically goes like this: “yeah, we’ll see how bad Ms. Lee feels about New York when the money is actually on the table.”

I think both sides are overreacting.

Yes, it’s true that Kristen Lee noted that she had a bad experience in Yankee Stadium. And she noted that she likes Dallas and that she and Cliff love being close to Arkansas and all of that.  Still, we’ve heard this before, haven’t we? CC Sabathia was supposed to be enamored with California. Mike Mussina was a small town guy. Mark Teixeira was from Baltimore. For every free agent out there, there has been some non-New York storyline that people have latched onto.  At the end of the day, however, they almost always sign with the Yankees. Money talks.

At the same time, the response from the Yankees folks today has seemed a bit too confident to me. Everyone has cited the past examples of the money ruling the day, but no one seems to want to acknowledge the possibility that the Lees may be different than the Sabathias and those who came before them. Some folks have been borderline offensive, assuming that nothing Kristen Lee said mattered and that she’ll forget her discomfort with New York the second the money truck is unloaded. Maybe she will. But maybe these are legitimate concerns on her part. To act as if this morning’s story means absolutely nothing and that everyone has a price tag just seems wrongheaded to me. It’s like everyone is reaching for a security blanket the second they hear something that doesn’t jibe with their expectations. It’s also like everyone who says this stuff has never had to talk about relocating with their spouse. We have no idea what the dynamic of the Lee marriage truly is, and to assume that either Kristen Lee’s concerns will go away with more money or that her love of Arkansas will trump business concerns is just wishcasting in either direction.

Ultimately, the biggest factor here will be the Rangers. In the past, the choice for free agents has been easy. The Yankees have just blown competing bids away. That is, if there were any, which in some cases there weren’t.  With Chuck Greenberg around promising to be competitive, however, you can’t just assume that New York will blow the Rangers away by $30 million. You can’t assume that, like the Brewers and CC Sabathia, only a token bid will be forthcoming.  If he comes close to what the Yankees are offering, Kristin Lee’s comments will mean a great deal.

At the end of the day, we have no idea what’s going to happen until it happens.  In this case, however, a lot of folks on both sides of the issue seem to think they know better.

  1. Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    I noticed Craig. You don’t like to say what YOU think about it. Will he remain in Texas, or go to stinky smelly, fan spitting on Mrs. Lee NYC? I’m curious. What do you think will go down? No details expected, but you must have some opinion on it all.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 26, 2010 at 4:44 PM

      I think Craig’s siding on the professional, arbitrary side here and is letting this all play out. Craig isn’t here to tell us where he thinks everyone’s going. He analyzes stories as they come, not create them like the rest of the idiot media. There’s enough hee-hawing over where we all think Cliff’s going to go, like any of us have a clue.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 27, 2010 at 8:25 AM

        You can’t knock me for trying can you?

  2. sdelmonte - Oct 26, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    Funny how the fate of a free agent seems to be bigger than the World Series he’s playing in. It’s not as bad as the NBA playoffs, when LeBron was a bigger story than an exciting (for NBA fans) seven game series between the league’s premiere franchises, but it’s getting there.

    Not that where Mr. Lee goes isn’t a huge story. But I would rather talk about the games. Which seem to be taking forever to start. Lousy stinking days off.

  3. Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Myself I like to say “this” will happen. Not because i really feel “this” will happen. No, i like to say “this” will happen because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. So I’m sticking with “Lee will remain in Texas”. And there are wayyyyyyy more reasons than listed above as to why anyone wouldn’t want to move to NYC. That’s really low to intentionally spit on such a nice woman. Texans wouldn’t do that… Mrs, Lee. Never…. ;>P

    • Utley's Hair - Oct 26, 2010 at 4:48 PM

      Judging by Cliffy’s goofyish look in that picture–and her being kinda hot, is all–I say he’ll go wherever she wants. And she does not look evil-hot, so I feel she will not lead him into the darkness that is the Evil Empire.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 27, 2010 at 8:38 AM

        I think my wife is hotter than Cliff Lee’s wife. I guess that’s how she got me to put in a new toilet downstairs. Then after she decided it was too big for the “Jeteresque” powder room, I had to take it out again. Then go upstairs and get the smaller toilet and remove it from the upstairs bathroom, carry it downstairs by myself, and install it in the powder room. Then take the larger toilet upstairs and install that one. Yeah, it’s like rearranging furniture but 100 x more difficult. But anyway, I like to think that Lee will remain in Texas because his wife wants to, he wants to, his kids want to, it doesn’t smell bad like NYC, people are generally nicer there, Texans won’t spit on his wife, etc……. So until I hear anything different, that’s what I’m sticking with.. If you’re already a millionaire, wouldn’t you live where you want to live even if it means sacrificing a few million dollars per year? They can get him to the WS, so it’s not like it has to be about championships like it was with Roy Halladay.

      • Adam - Oct 27, 2010 at 10:58 AM

        To me his wife looks like a teenage girl who spent too much time in the sun. Probably a junior or senior in high school. But that’s just what she looks like to me, I’m sure she’s a nice lady. And, like Jonny5 said, my wife is way hotter than Cliff Lee’s.

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 27, 2010 at 11:03 AM

        As you both should feel, and as do I. But I said she was “kinda hot.” And my point was that they are going to go where they feel it is right, and my opinion is that they will not go to the Bronx.

  4. Kevin S. - Oct 26, 2010 at 4:47 PM

    Regardless of whether or not Lee signs with New York, how stupid can Yankee fans be? Even assuming that walking into a stadium relieves one of the bonds of basic human decency (which the Bleacher Creatures certainly embodied with their embellishments on “YMCA”), why would you do that to the wife of the guy your team has been widely connected to in free agency?

  5. Utley's Hair - Oct 26, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    But, Craig, when was the last time fans dictated who teams did or did not sign? Wanker fans can get all entitled all they want, but just because they are does not mean it will come to pass. And if there is a God in heaven, Cliffy will not be wearing blue pinstripes next year.

  6. Richard In Big D - Oct 26, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    I don’t quite understand how anyone would think that a simple guy from Arkansas with an extraordinary talent would want to raise his young family in the hell hole that is New York. Cliff is going to get more than enough money for the rest of his family’s lives, wherever he goes. I’m thinking that a long term deal in a place that is family friendly, real estate is reasonable, and where you can get a solid no-trade clause on a team that actually tries to compete wins the prize.

    • Kevin S. - Oct 26, 2010 at 6:01 PM

      1) People with money don’t raise their family’s in the city, they raise them in the suburbs.

      2) The only people who think New York is a hellhole are the jackasses who haven’t spent any significant time in it but still feel qualified to pass judgment.

      • Richard In Big D - Oct 26, 2010 at 6:42 PM

        I used to live there myself. Fun place for a single guy or a young couple w/no kids. Worst place in the world for a young family. Even in the suburbs that are close enough to not add 4 hours of commuting to your day. I live near Dallas now, which is a GREAT place to raise a family. A HUGE percentage of athletes that end up here, or even just pass through here, end up retiring here, with their still young families. So, having said all that, I would say I am uniquely qualified to pass judgement on this.

      • Kevin S. - Oct 26, 2010 at 7:37 PM

        If you really think that you have to go four hours outside the city to find a decent suburb to live in, I sincerely doubt you spent enough time paying attention to where they were. Where do you think all those people living in the ridiculously affluent parts of Connecticut, New Jersey and Westchester work?

      • Richard In Big D - Oct 26, 2010 at 7:47 PM

        Try getting from Westchester to Manhatten and back during rush hours. 2 hours each way is not a stretch. 2 hours in. 2 hours out. Using advanced math, that’s 2+2. I believe the answer is 4.

      • Kevin S. - Oct 26, 2010 at 7:52 PM

        First time I’ve ever heard commute quoted in terms of round trip, but whatever makes your argument sound better, I guess. And when is a ballplayer ever traveling to the stadium during rush hour? For a night game, he’s there by early-to-mid afternoon, and he’s leaving close to midnight. I guess for a midweek day game he’d catch it on the way home, but that’s what, 15-20 times a year?

      • Richard In Big D - Oct 26, 2010 at 8:35 PM

        First of all, dumbass, if you go back and read what I wrote, I said “add 4 hours of commuting to your day”, which, in American English, means exactly what it says. And the whole point is, that there are like 15 million people living in a 50 mile radius around NYC (half of which is water). It’s a struggle to get anywhere, any time of the day. It’s dirty there. It smells bad. The nicer people are rude, and the rest are a**holes, or worse. EVERYTHING is so much more expensive than in Texas. NYC is 4 times as far from Bentonville as Dallas is. The press are viscious. Do I need to go on? If you like it there, and want to raise your family there, fine. It sounds to me like you would fit right in. From what I’ve seen in the local media, Cliff wouldn’t. Plus, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like having his wife spit on.
        If I had to choose between $15 million here, or $50 million in NYC, I’d stay here.

      • Kevin S. - Oct 26, 2010 at 9:26 PM

        You call me a dumbass, then proceed to paint nine million people with one brush. Nice. I’ve never actually had a New Yorker be rude to me, despite either living in the city or spending a ton of time in it for the past five years. But since we’re generalizing, Texans are just so renowned for their non-douchebaggery, right? Oh, wait. And it must be great to raise your family in a place that practices revisionist history in its educational curriculum to suit the needs of partisan politics. I haven’t been to a major city yet that doesn’t smell in certain parts (except Minneapolis), so I’m not sure why that’s only applied to New York, but I’ll bet the oil rigs and cow shit are real adds to the aroma down there. If you don’t know how to drive in the city, I can’t help the fact that you’re an incompetent twat, but there aren’t really that many issues moving around outside of rush hour. For the record, LA has pretty much the worst traffic in the world, but that doesn’t seem to stop it from being a destination athletes want to go to. Dallas being closer to Bentonville probably is a big plus in favor of the Rangers, but lack of proximity to Arkansas does nothing to make New York a hellhole.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 26, 2010 at 9:29 PM

        Is it possible to stop making these baseball discussions personal and harmful? Wow, enough with the name calling.

      • Reflex - Oct 27, 2010 at 3:19 AM

        Just for the record, I have not lived in New York, but I have met many people from New York City, and generally they have all been jerks. In fact I really can’t think of any exceptions. That said, to then turn around and use that to bash on them when you are from Texas, which may be the only state in the union from which I have met more jerks than NYC is just hilarious to me. I’ve been to Texas. I would NOT raise my children there. Dirty, smelly, hot, humid, full of racists and radical right wing nutbags. I’ve been to Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, and there is just no way in hell I’d raise a family there.

        I hear Austin is nice though. It better be, because the rest is a pit.

    • bigharold - Oct 27, 2010 at 1:52 AM

      “…how anyone would think that a simple guy from Arkansas with an extraordinary talent would want to raise his young family in the hell hole that is New York.”

      Yeah all those museums and Broadway shows, .. concerts and cultural attractions. It’s practically the Bataan Death March every day. Or, maybe Goober, you should pull your 12 gallon head from your 10 gallon hat and let the blood start flowing to your brain again, .. if that was ever the case.

      Here are actual reasons for Lee to sign with the Yankees….

      Lee won the Cy Young in Cleveland and for his trouble was traded because it was considered a good business move. He went to Philadelphia and helped them win the NLCS and was the only decent pitcher the Phillies threw against the Yankees. For his efforts, he got traded because his value was considered to be worth more as a trade chip than a pitcher for the Phillies. He goes to Seattle and as soon as the Mariners realized they weren’t getting to the playoffs he’s traded again.

      During his entire career he’s been treated like a commodity to be traded for whenever it was in the best interest of the club. Why now should he get sentimental? To whom should he be loyal, .. the Rangers or their fans? Why, because they’ve only had him for half a season and they haven’t had the opportunity to trade him, .. YET?

      You know what he’s really thinking, … baseball is a business.

      What happens on the field and, to a lesser extent, in the clubhouse is baseball, .. the rest is business. If Lee didn’t understand that in 2008 while he was busy winning the CY Young in Cleveland I’m sure he has a pretty firm grasp of it now. He’s also aware that this will likely be his one and only shot as a FA. When the time comes I’d be amazed if he hasn’t thought it out as a player with an eye towards his career, as a father and a husband keeping in mind what is best for his family and as a ice cold financial decision. The calculus in that equation is strictly his own and anybody that states they know the thinking behind it is full of it.

      Understand three things, .. Goober;

      1. The Yankees likely won’t be out bid. Remember Sabathia? The Yankee initial offer was about 30 mil over the nearest bid. When that didn’t work, they upped the bid. The Yankee bid will erase the supposed Texas state income tax advantage. In fact he’ll likely net from the Yankees, after state and federal income tax, to match what the Ranger will offer if the Rangers really get bold. Likely with enough left over for Lee to buy his own private jet so he and AJ can fly to AK whenever possible.
      2. Unlike the Rangers, the Yankees actually can get him to the playoffs year in and year out. The Rangers have had a good run this year but what happens next year if the LAA decide to retool?
      3. All the noise from the Rangers about them being serious bidders for Lee could very likely be advanced damage control. The Rangers don’t want to throw in the towel on Lee before the bidding starts, .. at least they don’t want the fans to think that. At the same time,do you really think that the Ranger want to up their payroll to 100 mil plus AND give 25% of that to one player. I don’t think Ryan want to be the next Tom Hicks.

      I don’t presume to know what Lee is thinking, .. other than to say he’s likely giving it a significant amount of thought. Anybody that says they know or intimates that they can extrapolate his thought process, … such as your moronic post, .. is delusional. It’s wishful thinking at best. And, you remarks aren’t even close to “at best”. Goober!

      Remember, … the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, … but that the way to bet.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 27, 2010 at 9:02 AM

        But his wife said…. Harold, have you ever been married??

      • bigharold - Oct 27, 2010 at 1:50 PM

        Yes for 27 wonderful year. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  7. chipmaker023 - Oct 26, 2010 at 5:41 PM

    Craig, you must remember the Yankees’ biggest free agent whiff ever — losing Greg Maddux to the Braves!

    Maddux took $28M in Atlanta over $37M in da Bronx, according to AP articles at the time. Look:,3575557&dq=maddux+braves+yankees&hl=en

    Granted this was long before YES Network turned the Yankees from a profitable enterprise into a private branch of the US Mint. But they haven’t gotten get EVERY free agent they’ve wanted.

  8. rabiague1986 - Oct 26, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    Not for nothing it’s not like Texas is a small market. What is Dallas the 5th largest metro area in the country?

    Plus Texas has no state income tax, if your a professional athlete in your prime and the offer between New York and Texas is close your a fool if you take New York because most of the extra money will be stolen from you through taxes.

    • Kevin S. - Oct 26, 2010 at 9:33 PM

      I guess Carlos Beltran is a fool, then.

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 27, 2010 at 10:59 AM

        Okay…were you just agreeing or trying to make a point?

      • Kevin S. - Oct 27, 2010 at 2:49 PM

        Making a point, and I got lazy about making it. I specifically mentioned Beltran because there was a lot of talk at the time about how the Astros’ offer was actually higher, net of taxes. Somehow, I really doubt his agent failed to convey this to him. Beltran decided that the situation with the Mets would be better for him. Whether that had to do with the respective teams, the respective cities or both I don’t know. The trade off of lower taxes is less services. For some athletes, those government services will be worth the extra money in taxes they pay. For others, they’d rather just keep the money. The point is, saying that any athlete is a fool for choosing New York over Texas really doesn’t give any kind of consideration to the myriad issues that go into the decision.

  9. granted42 - Oct 26, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    It’s kind of pointless to pontificate on it right now. Even though the Yankees’ season is over, Lee is pitching tomorrow and has a more important matter to deal with right now than Yankees fans’ belief they can buy anyone, or Yankees haters’ hopes they can’t. There’s still at least four baseball games to be played before anyone can file for free agency, and a few days before any team other than Texas can even start negotiating with him.

  10. mvd513 - Oct 27, 2010 at 3:10 AM

    New York sucks. New Yorkers shut up and get over it.

    • bigharold - Oct 27, 2010 at 1:47 PM

      Crushing retort. Your rapier like wit is devastating!

  11. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 27, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    “To act as if this morning’s story means absolutely nothing and that everyone has a price tag just seems wrongheaded to me”

    Craig, let’s be honest. When was the last time a[n elite] player hit the free agent market and DIDN’T follow the money? Across all sports, I’m thinking Lebron* and Tom Brady (was he a free agent? he definitely took a discount re-upping with the pats) are the only ones in the last few years. Halladay wasn’t a FA when he resigned. CC/Tex/Aj took the money. Arod, Zito, Beltran, etc. Mussina, Giambi, Bonds, Holliday…

    I’m 100% willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt when it comes money vs comfort if someone actually shows they’ll leave money on the table. The Maddux story was nice (mentioned David Cone as spurring the Yanks as well), but that was from 1992 when salaries were nothing like they are now.

    *Btw, Lebron was ruthlessly blasted for taking a discount and heading to Miami to be with friends and trying to chase a championship.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 27, 2010 at 9:44 AM

      Craig pointed out, essentially, that the theory of thinking you can buy anyone for a price is kind of twisted and jaded in a sense. I think it’s morally questionable to think “You can be treated this way, but don’t worry, we’ll buy your insults away.”

      I agree that the agents for most big free agents do go where the money is. It’s a payday none of us will even begin to understand in terms of experiencing it, and I can’t blame them. It makes the MLBPA happy when a player signs for cataclysmic salaries, and if baseball is bringing in 7 billion in revenue, you want to see a lot of that money going to the players.

      But it wouldn’t be right to think the Lee family never thought to themselves “Wow, maybe I wouldn’t want to play for fans that would treat us like that.”

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 27, 2010 at 12:51 PM

        I agree, the fans behaviour is inexcusable; however, I think it’s disingenuous to say that money might not be the main reason for choosing a destination when more than one or two people actually turn down the larger amount of money.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 27, 2010 at 1:42 PM

        I never said money isn’t a main reason for anyone.

  12. ta192 - Oct 27, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    This country is truly divided. Even a potential free agent signing discussion winds up as a regional battle, including discussions of taxes and municipal services, and their “quality of life” impact. I would rather think that we aren’t privy to the inner workings of the Lees’ minds, and wait to see what happens. Of course, I expect them to take the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ and sign with the Jankees…sigh…

    • Utley's Hair - Oct 27, 2010 at 4:23 PM

      If there is a God in Heaven–or Arkansas–that will not happen.

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