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

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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.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.