Heard This: Cliff Lee has concerns about Texas

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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.

Former U.S. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning dies at age 85

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Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame right-handed pitcher and former U.S. Senator, died on Friday at age 85. He suffered a stroke in October 2016 and was in hospice care when he died, according to former Senate chief of staff Jon Deuser.

Bunning rose to prominence in Major League Baseball during his first full season with the Tigers in 1957, recording 14 complete games and a league-leading 20 wins. The following year, Bunning pitched his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox, just the fourth no-hitter in franchise history. During his first season with the Phillies in 1964, Bunning followed up his no-hitter with a perfect game against the Mets, marking the first National League perfecto in the 20th century. By the time he retired in 1971, he boasted seven All-Star nominations, 2,855 strikeouts (maintaining his second-place ranking on the all-time strikeout list from 1967-1971) and a 224-184 record over 17 seasons.

Following a storied major league career, Bunning entered politics at age 46, serving 12 years in the House and eventually getting elected to the Senate at age 67, where he served two terms. The Republican senator was famously outspoken for his opposition to steroids in baseball, illegal immigration and an extension of unemployment benefits, among other issues, and drew criticism within his party for his ornery nature and controversial statements. He declined to run for a third term in 2010, citing a lack of financial support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and choosing instead to throw his weight behind fellow candidate Rand Paul.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement following news of Bunning’s death on Saturday:

Jim Bunning led an extraordinary life in the National Pastime and in public service.  He was a consistent winner and workhorse pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies.  Jim threw no-hitters in both leagues, pitched a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964 and, at his retirement, had more strikeouts than any pitcher in history except Walter Johnson.

“In his baseball career, Jim was proud of always taking the ball.  The work ethic that made him a Hall of Famer led him to the House of Representatives and the United Stated Senate.  He served the state of Kentucky for more than two decades and became the only Hall of Famer ever to serve in Congress.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Senator Bunning’s family, friends, constituents and the many fans who admired his career in our game.

Homer Simpson was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Twenty-five years ago, “Homer at the Bat” became one of the most iconic Simpsons episodes of all time. Legendary talents like Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ozzie Smith, Jose Canseco, Mike Scioscia, Steve Sax, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey, Jr. lent their talents to the episode while their cartoon doppelgängers were put through the ringer, leaving only Homer Simpson and Darryl Strawberry to clinch the city softball championship for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant squad. On Saturday, the show’s creators were recognized when Homer Simpson was awarded a long-overdue membership in the Hall of Fame.

The full text from Homer’s honorary plaque is below:

Inept safety inspector turned city-wide softball hero. Right fielder led Springfield nuclear plant to city championship game, then sacrificed his body to win it all. Nearly supplanted by lineup of all-world superstar ringers, came through in a pinch — and came to in time for the next episode. Girthy right-handed hitter powered many a mighty wallop during celebrated 1992 season with “Wonderbat” — his secret weapon. Lack of mobility in the field was no match for moves atop the dugout. Found fame as bush league mascot phenom, parlaying his “elephant walk” into a taste of the majors. Unacquainted with scientific concepts, only isotopes of which he was aware played at Duff Stadium, where uncanny knowledge of southwestern palate exposed team’s impending move to Albuquerque.

“Homer at the Bat” will be enshrined in Cooperstown with a special display, featuring the plaque alongside some of the more memorable moments of the episode.