Over the past few weeks we’ve heard all manner of things about what may or may not motivate Cliff Lee. His wife hates New York. He’s a country boy who wants to stay near Arkansas. Yankee fans are rude, rude rude!
I think this kind of thing is somewhat meaningless — the contract offers are ultimately going to decide where he goes — but let’s add one more non-monetary consideration to the pile: a little birdie tells me that Lee was not terribly happy in Texas, and that he is particularly concerned about how his body would hold up pitching an entire season in the North Texas heat.
It’s not clear if his unhappiness in Texas has to do specifically with the heat, if it also involves discombobulation over the fact that he was traded there in mid-season or if he just hates the place. And yeah, that’s second hand info. And yeah, I’m sure Lee and his agent will deny because they have absolutely zero interest in limiting their market right now, but it is what I’m hearing and you can place as much weight on it as you’d like.
But assuming Lee is concerned about the heat: is it a rational concern? I don’t have all of his box scores sitting in a database now in order to graph them against game time temperature, but just eyeballing it, I see that for his career he’s 6-5 with a 5.07 ERA in Arlington (of course he’s 2-2 with a 5.91 in the Bronx). He made eight regular season starts there in 2010, seven with the Rangers, one with the Mariners. He was shelled in two of them and was his Cliff Lee-like-self in the other six. On those two bad days the game time temperature was 85 and 91 degrees. Overall, he doesn’t show a big first half/second half split. His ERA is a bit higher in the second half but he strikes more guys out. If he’s concerned about wearing down over the course of a long hot season in Texas, there certainly isn’t a ton of empirical evidence to support it. He’s a good pitcher in the heat. He’s a good pitcher in the cold. He’d probably be a good pitcher in a biodome planted on the lunar surface.
But we’re not dealing with empirical evidence here. We’re dealing with the notion — a notion gossiped my way, but which purports to reflects Lee’s feelings on the matter — that he is worried about pitching in the hot Texas weather over the course of a season. It won’t make a difference if the Yankees do what everyone expects them to do and substantially outbid the Rangers. But if it’s close? This may just be something that pushes Lee towards Gotham.
The Yankees are facing a convoluted path to the postseason, and they didn’t do themselves any favors after Todd Frazier fell for Ryan Goins‘ hidden ball trick in the third inning of Friday’s series opener. With one out and Frazier on second base, Jacoby Ellsbury skied a deep fly ball to right field, where it was caught by Jose Bautista just shy of the warning track and tossed back to Goins at second. Goins faked the throw to Marco Estrada, then sneakily (or not so sneakily, depending on your vantage point) gloved the ball and caught Frazier off the bag for the third out.
Of course, it helped that Frazier’s back was turned during the throw, so Goins’ fake-out may not have been as obvious as it was when the Yankees reviewed the tape several minutes later.
Goins earned another spot on the highlight reel in the sixth inning, mashing his second grand slam of the season while Frazier — and the rest of the Yankees’ offense, sans one home-run-record-slaying Aaron Judge — scrambled to catch up. The Yankees currently trail the Blue Jays 8-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, and will need to pull off a comeback (and hope the Astros and Athletics clinch their respective games) before they can lay claim to a playoff spot.
The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.
Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.
With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.