Skip to content

Cliff Lee chose Philly because the Yankees are getting older. At least in Cliff Lee’s mind.

Mar 11, 2011, 12:08 PM EDT

Cliff Lee phillies throwing

Cliff Lee was on WIP in Philly with my buddy Angelo Cataldi yesterday. You can listen to all of it here. This exchange, the transcript of which comes courtesy of Sports Radio Interviews, was fun:

Who finished second to the Phillies in his mind:

“Texas probably finished second to be honest with you. Just as far as the quality of the team and the chance to win a World Series ring, I think they’re a better team. That’s just my opinion. The Yankees can do anything at any moment to improve and they’re not afraid to go do things. That was part of the decision making process too, but I felt like with what the Red Sox had done and it seems like some of the Yankee guys are getting older, but I liked the Rangers.”

Interesting. Of course, if you go by average age of the roster, Philly is the oldest team in all of baseball.  New York is ninth.

“Older?”  I have only one thing to say to that, Cliff:

  1. BC - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    The Yankees and Phillies – as currently constructed – probably have about the same window to win a World Series, about 3 years.
    It’s the “as currently constructed” part that’s the tough part. You never know what the Yankees will do.

  2. Jonny 5 - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    He was just trying to be thoughtful of the feelings of fans of other NL east teams. He didn’t want to just come out and say “My job will be easier in the NL East, who’s going to contend there, the Braves? Bwaaaahahahahahahahaaaaaa”

    That would have been plain uncivilizied…..

    • marshmallowsnake - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:54 PM

      If he wanted an easy job, he should have picked the NL West or the AL West…those are going to be “fun” to watch this year.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 11, 2011 at 1:51 PM

        Who do you think is the clear favorite in the NL West? I see the Giants, Rockies, and Dodgers within a couple games of each other, personally.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:18 PM

        Because they are all equally bad teams. You might win the division, but the chances of getting further than that are diminished with the NL West teams (I know the Giants just won, but who is really picking them to repeat, let alone contend every year?)

      • seeingwhatsticks - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:22 PM

        Yeah, it’s not like the Giants dethroned the Phillies and beat Cliff Lee twice or anything.

      • marshmallowsnake - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:46 PM

        I think it will be the Giants and Rockies…I live in Phoenix and the D’Backs are not going to be fun to watch this year…they may surprise us though…but I doubt it.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:18 PM

        Yeah, it’s not like five games doesn’t tell you everything you would ever need to know about a team. Or anything.

      • seeingwhatsticks - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:19 PM

        I agree marchmallowsnake, but barring injury I still think the Rockies are a starter or two short (especially if the Panda rebounds and helps close the offensive gap).

      • marshmallowsnake - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:34 PM

        Agreed Seeing…I just do not see the Padres contending much…the D’Backs either…and the Dodgers are going to be a mess all season with the off-field distractions.

      • seeingwhatsticks - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:49 PM

        You’re right Ari. It would be one thing if the Giants best players were over 30 and the Phillies best players were under 30, but since that’s not the case…

      • Ari Collins - Mar 11, 2011 at 9:38 PM

        Right. Since the Giants are younger than the Phillies, those few games become much much more telling of the Giants’ competitiveness over the course of a season.

        Dude, just enjoy your amazing and thrilling world series win, and face the fact that those few games didn’t make you favorites next year.

        Enjoy the season!

      • seeingwhatsticks - Mar 12, 2011 at 3:08 PM

        Actually the ages do matter. The Giants are on the upswing and the Phillies are heading the other way, with an aging lineup that is starting to break down all over the place. Will they ever get 120+ games from Utley or Rollins again? Dom Brown wasn’t exactly lighting it up before he got hurt so what, if anything, will they get from him? With so many questions around the diamond, does trading Werth for Lee solve any of those problems? Can 3 starters past 30 stay healthy? Verducci had some interesting stats about these issues and I’d suggest you check out what he wrote.

        Both teams have flaws but I’d much rather have the Giants flaws than the Phillies flaws now and for at least the next 4-5 years.

  3. marshmallowsnake - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Maybe he meant old as in yesterday’s news?

  4. garlicfriesandbaseball - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    Cliff Lee went to Philadelphia because he thinks it’s the only chance he has to vindicate himself from his embarrassment he felt (or should have felt) from not only being outpitched in the 2010 playoffs against the Giants, but for being so “mouthy” about it beforehand.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 11, 2011 at 1:16 PM

      I guess we have yet another touchy, overly sensitive Dwarves fan. Dude, just enjoy the win.

  5. heynerdlinger - Mar 11, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    The Sox got Crawford signed on 12/8, Gonzalez was agreed to a few days before, and Lee signed with Philly on the 13th. That’s a bitch of a week for the Yankees.

    Makes you wonder if had the Yankees been more publicly interested in Crawford would Lee have ended up in The Bronx.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:40 PM

      Why should the Yanks have been interested in Crawford? He’s making an average of $20M a year beginning at age 29. The Yanks OF is:

      Gardner – 27 – $425K
      Granderson – 29 – $8.25M
      Swisher – 30 – $9M

      Where’s the benefit? He’s essentially the same age as everyone else, and twice as expensive.

      • heynerdlinger - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:07 PM

        Point taken, but I think it’s fair to say that Crawford is also a better player than any of those three.

        My point is simply that the Yankees made essentially no big moves this offseason and that inaction played into Lee’s decision to sign with Philly.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:12 PM

        The benefit is that the Yankees (generally) don’t care about age or expense, only winning. And any projection will have Crawford better than Gardner next year. Not by more than two or three wins, and certainly considerably more expensive. But better.

        I’m not saying the Yankees should have gotten Crawford. They have a more cost-effective option in Gardner, and the money’s probably better used in a more clear upgrade. But if you ignore cost-effectiveness (and the Yankees generally do!), then the reason the Yankees “should have been interested in Crawford” is “winning more games”.

        Besides, I don’t think the original poster was saying Crawford was a blow to the Yankees because they should have gotten him. Any more than he was saying the Yankees should have gotten Gonzalez. But they missed out on their target while Boston got its two targets, all in the same week. That’s what made it “a bitch of a week.”

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:22 PM

        I’m not saying the Yankees should have gotten Crawford. They have a more cost-effective option in Gardner, and the money’s probably better used in a more clear upgrade. But if you ignore cost-effectiveness (and the Yankees generally do!), then the reason the Yankees “should have been interested in Crawford” is “winning more games”.

        Except it’s not that clear cut. Assuming a Gardner for Crawford swap, let’s look at how they both stack up:

        Player – bWAR – fWAR
        CC – 4.8 – 6.9
        BG – 4.0 – 5.4

        It’s a difference from 1 to 1.5 wins. It’s not like the Yanks were going from a 1WAR player to Crawford. They would go from a slightly less effective, but far cheaper option, to a slightly better but far more expensive option.

        Throw in the issues that Crawford doesn’t have a great eye (see walk numbers), he doesn’t like to leadoff so he’d either hit #2 or maybe 6+ in the Yanks lineup. He wasn’t a good fit.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:26 PM

        That’s what they did last year, not what they’ll do next year. Most projections have Gardner falling off considerably, considering that he’s only had one year that good and so much of his WAR was from very-rarely-repeated defensive numbers.

        Maybe you disagree with the projection systems, and maybe the Yankees did too. Or maybe they decided, like you say, that the difference (two or three wins by most accounts) wasn’t worth the added expense and decreased financial flexibility (though who knows what their actual financial flexibility is!).

      • bigharold - Mar 11, 2011 at 6:24 PM

        “Most projections have Gardner falling off considerably, considering that he’s only had one year that good and so much of his WAR was from very-rarely-repeated defensive numbers.”

        Exactly which projects are you referring to, (anyone will do)? Since Gardner played the second half with a bum wrist that is supposedly fixed him falling off would seem counter intuitive.

        Not getting Lee was bad enough but other than that the rest was hype. Crawford was never in the Yankees plans and the RS needed Gonzalez AND Crawford just to replace the offensive production they didn’t resign. Had they not signed on or both of these guys it would have been either bad or disasterous for the RS.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 11, 2011 at 9:34 PM

        Again, if you think the projections aren’t taking something into consideration enough, like an injury that you personally believe will have no lingering effects or recur, then feel free to disagree. I’d caution, though: wrist injuries tend to be problematic for at least a year. And, again, a lot of the projected drop-off isn’t offensive so much as defensive. Gardner is a GREAT defender, but unless he’s an ALL-TIME great defender (and maybe you believe he is!), he won’t be putting up all-time great defensive seasons every single year.

        Marcel: .269/.357/.378
        James: .275/.377/.371
        FG Fans: .275/.366/.371
        RotoGraphs: .282/.381/.382
        Cairo: .270/.360/.370

        No huge falloffs, but slight declines all around, except for RG, which tends to be bullish on everyone.

        Most importantly, the FG Fans and Cairo projections do defense as well, and they see Gardner as being “just” one of the best LFs around, instead of having another otherworldly season. Comes out to about a win lost off his performance, defensively.

        As to the Sox, the point of the original poster was NOT that the Yankees were hurt by not getting Crawford and Gonzalez, neither of which would be amazing fits for their roster, but that it sucked that their competition got better twice the same week the Yankees got worse. And the Sox did get a lot better, because while Crawford and Gonzalez were only a couple wins better last year than Beltre and Martinez were last year, that’s not a very good way to measure it. Crawford and Gonzalez are going to be much better THIS year than Beltre/Martinez (FG Fans have that gap widening to 3.4 wins), and the gap is likely to widen further in future years as the departing players enjoy their mid-30s.

  6. mercyflush - Mar 11, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    I’m fairly certain that Lee was talking about Jeter, Arod, Posada, Rivera etc, who have been incredibly successful but all are on the wrong side of 35.

    Not saying he makes sense, but that i think is what he was talking about.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 13, 2011 at 5:35 AM

      So he locks himself into a team whose core guys are a little bit younger but are either battling constant injuries, declining early because of body type, or just plain haven’t been that good for a while now?
      You’re right, that doesn’t make sense.

  7. uyf1950 - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    I guess Lee never really looked real close around the Philly infield. He might have noticed that relatively speaking there not a bunch of spring chickens.
    Jonny5 hit the nail on the head. He looked around and thought to himself which would I rather face on a regular basis AL line ups with the DH and with smaller parks or NL line ups where 50% of the games the Phillies play are against NL East teams like the Mets and Marlins with no DH and with bigger parks add the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Padres into that mix and it’s a no brainer. The age comment is a smoke screen.

  8. Ari Collins - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    I’m surprised no one’s brought up the fact that he’s talking about the Yankees compared to Boston, not Philadelphia. Read the part you bolded again:

    “but I felt like with what the Red Sox had done and it seems like some of the Yankee guys are getting older”

    He’s not comparing the ages of the Phillies or even the Rangers to anyone. He’s saying Boston’s gotten better and New York’s gotten older, and so he thought he had a better shot with Texas or Philly.

    Whether he’s right or not is another question entirely.

    • uyf1950 - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:36 PM

      Ari, I understand what you are saying but his comment about age still doesn’t hold water if the Rangers were his second choice. In theory if age was truly the determining factor for him he would have chosen the Rangers over the Phillies.
      The Rangers offered him at least as much money as the Phillies, The Rangers are a younger team than the Phillies and supposedly he enjoyed his time in Arlington. I’m of the opinion that age had absolutely nothing to due with his choice. His choice had everything to do with where he thought he would have an easier time pitching and more success because of the competition. Of course all of this is conjecture and just my opinion.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:53 PM

        But what you’re saying is exactly what it’s clear he was saying: because of the competition from Boston getting better and the Yankees getting older, he thought he would have more success with the Rangers. It’s not about age (to him). He only mentioned age in reference to the Yankees getting older and Boston getting better.

      • uyf1950 - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:07 PM

        Ari – In all fairness the Red Sox couldn’t help but get better then last year. I know you will disagree with me and I have no intention of arguing the point with you but the main reason the Sox are going to be better this season is because they have their injured players back from last year. If the only difference was Crawford and Gonzalez in the 2 years they would only be marginally better in 2011 than 2010. Remember they lost 2 pretty good players and replaced those players with 2 good players but now they have a sub-standard catcher in fact 2 sub-standard catchers. Again I’m not going to argue the point with you. But like I said they couldn’t help but be better in 2011 than in 2010 and the main reason is the injuries and hopefully the lack of injuries come the 2011 season.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:15 PM

        Hey uyf, I wasn’t talking about Boston’s offseason. Lee was! I agree that more of their improvement for just 2011 over 2010 will come from better health than anything else. (70%? Sounds about right for a made-up percentage.)

        I’m just saying that Lee is claiming he had Texas over New York because he thought Boston had gotten better and New York gotten older, which is pretty clear if you read what he said. Not because he was comparing the ages of New York/Philadelphia/Texas.

  9. nyyankeefanforever - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    Thank you, Craig, for pointing out that oft-neglected yet salient fact the regarding the Yankees’ team age relative to the rest of MLB. I agree with the above posters who point out the public relations wisdom of Lee’s answer to the “who was number two” query.

    I too found Lee’s explanation after the fact hollow and unconvincing. At the time of his signing, the recently departed Rangers CEO Chuckie Greenberg fell all over himself to confirm the Rangers were never in the hunt and the only reason the Yankees didn’t land him was the Rangers’ sabotaging the Bombers by prolonging the negotiations with their third courtesy visit to Lee’s Little Rock home.

    Also interesting is Lee’s opinion the Rangers, Phillies and Red Sox all have a better shot at a ring than the Yankees when the only two Series losses on his resume were with Texas just four months ago, the team he’s on now lost to the Yankees just 15 months ago, and the Red Sox haven’t been within sniffing distance of a ring in four years.

    Lastly, I find it amusingly ironic that the oft-injured Lee — who will turn 33 this season — cites age as a factor when his own mortality made any long-term deal for him a risky crapshoot. Me thinkst the Bombers dodged an expensive bullet when he followed Doc Halladay to Philly. (Hey Cliff, how’s that theory of yours working out for Utley, Howard and Rollins?)

  10. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Why didn’t the Yankees sign Crawford? Because that would have made them older! Crawford is 2 years older than Gardner, and was only worth 1.5 WAR more than little Brett last year. Brett is making the MLB minimum…not a tough call in my mind.

    I suppose Lee has to say SOMETHING to the press, but I think his agent could have given him something more credible that that drivel…

  11. f1shcustoms - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    At least the old Yankees don’t have an elbow ready to blow any moment now.

  12. apr680 - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Cliff Lee is a lot more smug and conceded than people think.

    • Ari Collins - Mar 11, 2011 at 9:02 PM

      I haven’t conceited that yet. : P

      • billythekidinny - Mar 14, 2011 at 11:46 PM

        The word is CONCEDED, not conceited. The words have entirely different meanings. Invest in a dictionary.

  13. rapmusicmademedoit - Mar 11, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    Player – bWAR – fWAR
    CC – 4.8 – 6.9
    BG – 4.0 – 5.4

    what the hell is this???

    why do people make up all this crap stats, is baseball that boring.

  14. rapmusicmademedoit - Mar 11, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    I remember when you turned on the game of the week and the team with the most runs wins.
    What happened……………

  15. mrznyc - Mar 12, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    Talk to Mrs. Lee, she’ll give you the reason.

  16. jaokguy - Mar 14, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    oh please…does he think we’re all that stupid. “the yankees are getting older”?…yeah right, and he’s such a spring chicken. this moron is just as old as any guy on the yanks. i never could stand cliff lee. the look on his face always says something like “i’m the king and nobody is better”. now he doesn’t only think he’s god, but he’s also a liar.

  17. garlicfriesandbaseball - Mar 14, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    Oh, c’mon Jaokguy. Tell us what you “really” think.

  18. billythekidinny - Mar 14, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    Say what you will, but I go along with what was first reported. I think it was because his wife doesn’t like New York.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Wright (2981)
  2. J. Fernandez (2401)
  3. Y. Cespedes (2348)
  4. G. Stanton (2233)
  5. D. Span (2044)
  1. Y. Puig (1975)
  2. M. Teixeira (1939)
  3. F. Rodney (1919)
  4. G. Springer (1894)
  5. H. Olivera (1879)