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If Cliff Lee’s wife is calling the shots, he’s staying in Texas

Oct 26, 2010, 8:02 AM EDT

Cliff Lee AP

Good story from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale this morning about Cliff Lee. After the familiar “holy crap, this guy is good” stuff, Nightengale talks to Lee’s wife Kristen.

Now, every marriage is different and I don’t deign to suggest that Lee’s marriage is like mine, but I will say this much: if my wife and I were in the Lees’ position, and if she was exercised enough to say this kind of stuff to a reporter, it would be because, privately, we’d already made up our minds to stay in Texas:

“That’s the greatest thing, being so close to home . . . Cliff can fit in anywhere, but it makes my life a lot easier. We’ve never had a short commute before. Having a direct flight from Little Rock is great . . .”

. . . Perhaps the Rangers’ greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above.

“The fans did not do good things in my heart,” Kristen says.

“When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it’s hard not to take it personal.”

Which isn’t to say that a substantial difference in money wouldn’t make Lee pick New York anyway. It’s just that if things are even close to equal, you have figure that lifestyle would win out.  And remember: “close to equal” doesn’t require that the Rangers come terribly close to what the Yankees offer. Why? Because there’s no income tax in Texas. So discount whatever the Yankees offer by Lee’s effective tax rate before you compare offers.  And, given that proximity to Little Rock is so appealing to the Lees, if the Rangers are willing to throw in a no-trade clause, the cash part of the deal could likely be even less.

  1. Joe Tetreault - Oct 26, 2010 at 8:07 AM

    Our man Jules in Inglewood may shed a little light on the subject of Mr. Lee’s decision soon to be deferred to Mrs. Lee:

    Well, if you like burgers give ’em a try sometime. I can’t usually get ’em myself because my girlfriend’s a vegetarian which pretty much makes me a vegetarian. But I do love the taste of a good burger.

    Enjoy Arlington, Cliff.

  2. Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 8:17 AM

    DUDE! That’s what I’ve been Saying. He isn’t going to be a Yankee, and I love it. Maybe Yankees fans are the ones needing a lecture on “hubris” and not the Phillies fans? Almost 2 seasons of hearing it, and saying it isn’t going to make it happen. If anything it’ll do the exact opposite. Maybe this will make that noise I always hear go away. The “Lee will be a Yankee soon anyway” noise.

    • alexo0 - Oct 26, 2010 at 8:36 AM

      Maybe this is the Yankee’s new strategy to vet potential free agent signees to see if they have what it takes to become True Yankees.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 8:52 AM

        Maybe Cliff Lee enjoys toying with and beating the Yankees too much to join them anyway? Has anyone figured out what “True Yankees” are anyway?

      • phillysoulfan - Oct 26, 2010 at 8:52 AM

        “…vet potential free agents…to see if they have what it takes to become True Yankees”?

        Dude, do you even know what a “True” Yankee even is? I’ll give you a hint. It’s impossible for Cliff Lee to be one.

  3. poreef - Oct 26, 2010 at 8:23 AM


    It seems to me the income tax thing isn’t justified by the numbers even for high income earners for whom the income tax will dominate over local taxes and other cost-of-living effects. Of course, if cost-of-living were how people made their choices, no one would live in NYC — it’s too crowded.

    And anyhow, NYS collects income taxes from sports players for income earned while on the road in NYS. I imagine a number of the larger states with a similar “rich people come here a lot” dynamic do the same thing.

    So the effective tax rate ain’t that easy to figure, but I doubt that enters the minds of most players or agents.

    I’m not sure if the new tax brackets for millionaires were added in NYS, but the numbers I saw were talking 10%, which ain’t enough (in my mind) to be a deciding factor. . Besides, it would be pretty easy for the Yanks to spot.

    I don’t see him going to the Yankees for a variety of reasons. Who wants to be treated like a bunch of total losers for failing to win #27 when you can be treated (correctly) as one of the greats just for leading a team to a chance at #1.

    • Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 9:01 AM

      10% of 25 million is 2.5 million. Advantage Texas for 2.5 per year, give or take. And how does a state Tax an empoyee of another state? C’mon… If I work in NJ, and My company sends me to cali, Does Cali tax me or my company for income? No. Why would it apply to sports?

      • phillysoulfan - Oct 26, 2010 at 9:10 AM

        @Jonny 5
        It’s not the same thing. There’s a term they call it in sports, pro wrestling, etc. I can’t think of it right now.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 9:49 AM

        A Myth maybe?? That’s what I’m thinking.

      • Angelos - Oct 26, 2010 at 10:34 AM

        About three seconds of googling could have prevented you from looking silly.

      • elibolender - Oct 26, 2010 at 10:40 AM

        Jonny – It is referred to as the “jock tax” and is 100% true. The reason you wouldn’t have to pay it is because the enforcing agencies have no way of knowing when you worked in other jurisdictions. Professional athletes (and the support staffs of teams also) have published schedules which makes it easy for the revenue departments of the appropriate states to calculate estimated revenues. When it’s an athlete making 10 million per year, they have a definite incentive to enforce this rule and collect the taxes. When it’s you making $50K (or whatever) per year, it doesn’t make sense for them to try and get you to pay the ~10% tax on your couple days worth of salary you earned in their area.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 10:41 AM

        You obviously don’t know me at all if you think looking silly bothers me in the slightest. Some people even think my silliness is endearing…. Thanks for the link though, time for me to “be learned”, which is always a plus imo.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 10:51 AM

        I read it. And i’m kind of disgusted by it.

        Tax his land, Tax his bed, Tax the table, At which he’s fed.

        Tax his tractor, Tax his mule, Teach him taxes Are the rule.

        Tax his work, Tax his pay, He works for peanuts Anyway!

        Tax his cow, Tax his goat, Tax his pants, Tax his coat.

        Tax his ties, Tax his shirt, Tax his work, Tax his dirt.

        Tax his tobacco, Tax his drink, Tax him if he Tries to think.

        Tax his cigars, Tax his beers, If he cries Tax his tears.

        Tax his car, Tax his gas, Find other ways To tax his ass.

        Tax all he has Then let him know That you won’t be done Till he has no dough.

        When he screams and hollers; Then tax him some more, Tax him till He’s good and sore.

        Then tax his coffin, Tax his grave, Tax the sod in Which he’s laid…

        Put these words Upon his tomb, Taxes drove me to my doom…’ When he’s gone, Do not relax, Its time to apply The inheritance tax..

        Sales Tax
        School Tax
        Liquor Tax
        Luxury Tax
        Excise Taxes
        Property Tax
        Cigarette Tax
        Medicare Tax
        Inventory Tax
        Real Estate Tax
        Well Permit Tax
        Fuel Permit Tax
        Inheritance Tax
        Road Usage Tax
        CDL license Tax
        Dog License Tax
        State Income Tax
        Food License Tax
        Vehicle Sales Tax
        Gross Receipts Tax
        Social Security Tax
        Service Charge Tax
        Fishing License Tax
        Federal Income Tax
        Building Permit Tax
        IRS Interest Charges
        Hunting License Tax
        Marriage License Tax
        Corporate Income Tax
        Personal Property Tax
        Accounts Receivable Tax
        Recreational Vehicle Tax
        Workers Compensation Tax
        Watercraft Registration Tax
        Telephone Usage Charge Tax
        Telephone Federal Excise Tax
        Telephone State and Local Tax
        IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
        State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
        Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
        Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
        Telephone Federal Universal Service FeeTax
        Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
        Utility Taxes Vehicle License Registration Tax
        Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
        Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax

        None of the above existed 100 years ago and this was the most prosperous country in the world, with no national debt, and the largest middle class in the world. Now add “Jock tax” . nice.

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 26, 2010 at 11:21 AM

        Yeah, it’s true. He has absolutely no problem with looking silly. Hell, he’s a Phightins Phan from Jersey, for God’s sake.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 11:47 AM

        Yeah!!! what he said. I had no choice. NY anything makes me feel dirty. And 15 minutes from CBP beats Philly residents to the games anyway!!! Lol!!

      • rover27 - Oct 26, 2010 at 2:40 PM

        None of the above existed 100 years ago and this was the most prosperous country in the world, with no national debt, and the largest middle class in the world. Now add “Jock tax” . nice.


        Typical fact-free teabag logic. Did you get that from a right wing email?

        Here’s a few facts. 100 years ago we were NOT the most prosperous country in the world. We have always had a National Debt, except under Andrew Jackson. Most of it was very manageable. We had a large debt after WWII, but it went down under every president after the end of WWII…until it skyrocketed from $700,000 billion to $5.5 trillion after 12 years of Reagonomics under RR and Bush I. It then more than doubled again under Bush II. Of the current $13 trillion National Debt, 90% was accumulated because of Republican presidents and their policies.

        As to having the largest middle class in the world 100 years ago, back in the 20s and 30s the median family income in today’s dollars was about $15,000 to $20,000 a years. Today, with 30 years of Reagonomics battering the middle class, it has remained flat for 30 years at a median family income of around $50,000. Still quite a difference from what it was 100 years ago.

        We currently have the greatest concentration of wealth and income inequality since the 20s. The vast majority of that inequality and concentration of wealth has happened since the early 80s. Thanks Righties!

      • poreef - Oct 26, 2010 at 2:54 PM


        You are taxed by the state of which you are resident and the state in which you earn your income. Most of the time that is the same state, but sometimes in border cities — or major business centers — it is not the case. e.g., NY/NJ/CT.

        Players are not necessarily residents of the state in which they play unless they spend over 6 months a year there (the typical definition a state uses for residency) So Cliff Lee could declare residency in Texas and, so long as he did not spend 181 days a year in NYS, only be charged NYS income taxes. Many snowbirds do this between the northeast and Florida – another state without any income tax.

        Advantage: TX and NYY.

        It’s not so much a jock tax as that for Regular Joes it does not make sense for the state to actively seek the taxes one owes because it’s a rounding error. For MLB ballplayers, it’s significant – they just use a pro-rated salary.

      • Reflex - Oct 26, 2010 at 6:52 PM

        Rover – Thanks for putting the numbers up, and good thing I finished the thread before replying. I was a Republican through the 90’s because I believed all the lies. Once I started actually reading the history though I discovered that the worst thing to happen to our nation’s economy and fiscal health was Republicans from Reagan forward(Nixon was actually pretty good). It was really depressing to realize my votes for Bush and Dole were misguided. Slate had a pretty good article last year comparing the tax rates and deficit spending/national debt of post WW2 administrations. No matter how they ran the numbers, taxes were consistantly higher, deficits greater and national debt larger when Republicans were in the White House, while the opposite was true of Democrats.

        So strange how people are completely unwilling to actually look at the facts. It took me a decade to realize I was being lied to. I still don’t agree with the Democrats on many things, but at the very least I know they run the government far more efficiently and I get taxed at a lower rate than the Republicans have accomplished.

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 26, 2010 at 9:07 PM

        Welcome into the light, Reflex.

        I also don’t see eye to eye with all of the Democratic policies and beliefs, but I find that I more associate with the left than the right on the more important issues–to me anyway. I also believe that liberals are more concerned with the overall picture than just single issues.

      • Reflex - Oct 26, 2010 at 9:26 PM

        Utley – I think one of my big realizations was that those who tell me government *is* the problem are basically stating that it is impossible to govern well. Why would I vote for someone who believes that no matter how good they do their job, they will always be inefficient and part of the problem? I wouldn’t hire a manager who tells me that my corporation *is* the problem. I would hire one who has a plan of action to improve the products and services we produced. I do not see why government should be seen differently.

        I would also say growing up, moving to a different region and getting to know a lot of gays, Muslims and other minorities both personally and professionally drastically altered my view, making the intolerance more apparant in the Republican party, and honestly making me embarrassed to be around hardcore party members. Before what I shrugged off as Democrats being too politically correct I now realize is necessary in the face of absolute bigotry. Its difficult to look away from problems like that when it has been humanized on a personal level from your own life and experiences.

        At the end of the day I’ll never see eye to eye with Dems about a lot of issues. I don’t believe in nationalized health care, and I don’t necessarily agree that the rich/poor divide is important in the way many of them believe it is. But I can look past those things, they are minor, what I really need is good governance and they have proven they can do that for fifty years now while Republicans have proven the opposite for the past thirty.

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 26, 2010 at 10:28 PM

        I hear ya, man. And if the last two years have done anything, with all the right’s fear mongering and obstruction, I have become more and more entrenched in my opposition to conservatism–at least in its the current incarnation. And there is so much liberal bashing these days on the deficit and lying about taxation and tax breaks, it’s unreal. I had known before, but Bush 43 demonstrated it quite well, that a key difference between the sides is, yes, Democrats are known for taxes and spending, but Dubya and his cronies just spent.

  4. phillysoulfan - Oct 26, 2010 at 8:50 AM

    Who are we kidding here? He’s going to the highest bidder. It’s that simple. If you don’t believe that, search the Philly papers (not sure which one) last year, had the exact same article almost verbatim.

    “And anyhow, NYS collects income taxes from sports players for income earned while on the road in NYS. I imagine a number of the larger states with a similar “rich people come here a lot” dynamic do the same thing.

    So the effective tax rate ain’t that easy to figure, but I doubt that enters the minds of most players or agents.”

    I remember hearing about this years ago, when Bobby Bonilla was a free agent after playing for the Pirates. It was my understanding then, that most municipalities do collect taxes from visiting players but they have arrangements with the government that only one municipality collects the taxes and then they give it to the others. I don’t know if that arrangement still exists or not. Or even if they have to pay the same amount. Hell, I don’t know the point of me even mentioning this at this point LOL!!! But anyway, you can bet your house that agents know this.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 26, 2010 at 10:32 AM

      Are you implying that Lee left the Phillies voluntarily? Sure, the same article was in the Philly papers and it was likely true then. However, Amaro had a temporary brain fart and decided to give Lee to the Mariners for a bag of used balls and a couple splintered bats instead of negotiating with him in good faith or keeping him around on his contract year.

      I’m not complaining about losing Lee anymore, since Ed Wade gave the Phillies a bag of cash and Oswalt for a middling-at-best #3 starter. But don’t talk like Lee left the Phillies. He was given away. He wanted to stay here.

  5. bigharold - Oct 26, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    You do remember the Sabathia signing??

    No team came within 30 million of the Yankee initial offer. When he didn’t jump on that they upped it by about 25 million. So all this talk of Texas state income tax and the advantage it provides is meaningless. If history is an indicator the Yankees will offer enough that Lee’s net after all taxes, state and federal, will be greater than what the Rangers are going to offer as a total package. Unless Ryan is looking to put the Rangers in the same position as Tom Hicks did with the A-Rod contract money will not be the reason the Yankees don’t get Lee, if that is eventually the case.

    At the end of the day all this wild speculation about Lee’s final destination or his motivation for picking one team over another is just that, .. wild speculation. It’ll likely be based on family, career AND money. And, keep in mind that he’s been traded three times in the last two years and this will likely be his only shot at a BIG money free agent contract. You can bet that Lee understands the business side of this situation. Counting on loyalty to anyone team is asking a bit much from a guy that has been treated like a commodity for the last two years.

    Anybody that says they are able to discern some nuance that suggests which way Lee is leaning is deluding themselves. At best it’s wishful thinking.

    • Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 10:55 AM

      “Anybody that says they are able to discern some nuance that suggests which way Lee is leaning is deluding themselves. At best it’s wishful thinking.”

      Umm, did you read what his wife said??? Big Harold, ever been married??

      BTW, NYC smells like a dumpster, so add that to the list of nuances too. ;>P

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 26, 2010 at 12:08 PM

        There’s absolutely no nuance about that stench. But, then again, the Subway and the El in Philly smell like a toilet, so, there’s that.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 26, 2010 at 12:22 PM

        Mainly because that’s their primary function in Philly. I’ve seen “things” that I wish I could forget. Let’s just be thankful ball players don’t need those services…..

  6. JBerardi - Oct 26, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    “When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it’s hard not to take it personal.”

    I really, really, REALLY want Yankee fan dickishness to be the thing that ultimately keeps Cliff Lee in Texas.

    • Bochy's Head/Timmy's Bong - Oct 26, 2010 at 2:43 PM

      I’m with ya’ on this one. Beer showers coming from the upper deck on the Texas families section at Yankees Stadium was widely reported. The spitting was just a bonus, I guess. If punishment should fit the crime, losing their chance to sign one of the best players in the game seems not quite enough, but it will have to do.

  7. Utley's Hair - Oct 26, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    This news has suddenly put me in better spirits after the weekend in Philly sports, when the Eagles decided that even big losses need to be one-upped in the headlines.

  8. beanster71 - Oct 26, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    “The fans did not do good things in my heart,” Kristen says.

    Now that is one gracious lady, and a very generous description of Yankee Stadium behavior!

  9. poreef - Oct 26, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    Alright, let’s rile up some other tea-baggers.

    Do any of you realize that we all owe sales taxes on internet purchases from out-of-state companies? The law is a tax on the purchaser, not the vendor, but the law typically also requires the vendor to collect the tax. Since states can only apply their laws to companies with presences inside the state it appears that one doesn’t owe taxes on out-of-state online purchases, but legally you are supposes to report your purchase along with the appropriate tax to the authorities in the state in which you made the purchase.

    Of course no one does this — except for cars which you have to register — since there’s no way (before we descend into Commie-Fascist Hell) that The State can keep track of it all.

    • phillysoulfan - Oct 27, 2010 at 8:54 AM

      While true, you are conveniently leaving out that 99% of the times, you have no idea which state the company is located when you purchase something on the internet. You are also forgetting that if said company has locations in several states, but not your state, which state do you pay the tax to?

      And how did this thread get to be about politics? I got news for you guys, democrat, republican, tea party, independent, doesn’t matter, they are all liars. Very few, if any, are worth a vote.

  10. poreef - Oct 26, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    That would, indeed, be amazing though it would fuel the cottage industry of reporters self-congratulating on players who “can’t handle NYC.”

    Of course, no one moves to NYC for the nice people and yet they keep coming.

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