Cliff Lee Family

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

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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.

Giants and Brandon Belt have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Wednesday

San Francisco Giants'  Brandon Belt reacts after being called out on strikes by home plate umpire Jim Joyce to end the top of the first inning against the Colorado Rockies in a baseball game Friday, Sept.. 4, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.

Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.

Padres sign veteran utility player Skip Schumaker

Cincinnati Reds' Skip Schumaker is tagged out at home plate by San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.

While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.

Report: MLB, union making progress on new slide rule at second base

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada falls after a slide by Los Angeles Dodgers' Chase Utley during the seventh inning of an NL Division Series baseball game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP)
John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP
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After Ruben Tejada suffered a fractured right fibula on a takeout slide from Chase Utley during the playoffs, there was momentum for a new rule about slides at second base. We haven’t heard much about it since the Owners’ Meetings in November, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that talks between MLB and the players’ union are making progress and a change is expected for the 2016 season.

The exact wording of the new rule is still unclear, but Olney hears that there’s a focus toward “ensuring that sliding runners either touch the base or make an effort to touch the base.” Below are some more details:

Sources said that in the union’s internal discussions, players made it clear they had been taught since they first began playing baseball to go into second base with the intent of breaking up double-play attempts. Although the union wants to improve safety for middle infielders, it does not want to eliminate players’ aggressiveness on slides or the ability to break up a double play.

However, there is a desire on both sides to eliminate slides on which a baserunner goes beyond the effort to reach second to make contact with middle infielders.

There’s already a rule in place for a situation like we saw with Utley, but it’s rarely, if ever, enforced. It’s unfortunate that Tejada’s fractured fibula had to be the catalyst for change or clarification with the rules, but hopefully this will result in fewer injuries in the future. Similar to the “Buster Posey Rule” for plays at home plate, get ready for life with the “Chase Utley Rule.”

Here’s the video of the Tejada/Utley play:

And here’s the video of another high-profile play from 2015 which resulted in a torn lateral meniscus and a fractured tibia for Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang:

Report: Tigers and J.D. Martinez agree to a two-year, $18.5 million deal

J.D. Martinez
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
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UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.

After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.