Is Nolan Ryan backing down from a Yankee gunfight?

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We have a good idea of what the Yankees have offered to free agent Cliff Lee — six years and $140 million, at least initially — but what about the Rangers?

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News spoke with club president Nolan Ryan on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings, and Ryan told him that the Rangers are asking Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, to “tell them what it would take to sign” the ace lefty.

Odd, right?  Most front offices would simply make a solid counter-offer and hope for the best.

It sounds like Ryan is wary of getting into a bidding war with the Yankees, however unavoidable it may be.  That, or the Rangers are so confident in their ability to sign the left-hander that they are offering a proverbial blank check.  We’re thinking it’s the former.

The Yankees seem really serious about wanting Lee.  So much so that they haven’t made significant contact with any other free agent this winter.  When they fall in love with a player, and are given an opportunity to sign that player, it’s not often that it falls flat.

Oh, and you know they’re going to want to steal the spotlight from the Red Sox, who just made Carl Crawford the highest-paid outfielder in major league history.

Eyes are upon you, Texas.

Nolan and his partner Chuck Greenberg won the ownership rights to the Rangers in August after bidding $593 million and besting Mark Cuban.  Can they now go to seven years and $163 million for Lee?  If Crawford can get a seven-year, $142 million pact from Boston, $160-plus million may be the going rate for baseball’s best strike-thrower.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: