Yankees official says shot of landing Cliff Lee only “50-50”

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We aren’t the only ones searching for clues as to where free agent left-hander Cliff Lee might sign.

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney has also been doing a bit of digging and wrote Sunday at ESPN Insider that a Yankees executive has put New York’s chances at only “50-50.”

Perhaps that’s because there are two teams left in the running — the Yanks and Rangers — and simple math would give each club a 1-in-2 shot.  Or maybe this report Saturday from Jack Curry of the YES Network has some legs.  Curry wrote that Yankees officials have expressed a “bit of skepticism” about signing Lee, even after out-doing the Rangers with a seven-year contract offer.

This is all speculation at the moment.  Lee is not expected to make a decision until Monday, or even later in the week, and his agent has remained silent all weekend.

But it’s not unprecedented for a top tier free agent to turn down more guaranteed money from one club to stay in a place where he feels comfortable.  Lee only spent a couple of months this year in Texas, but maybe he really enjoyed himself.  It’s rare, but not unprecedented.

Rangers manager Ron Washington seems like a player’s coach and having Nolan Ryan as a boss would be a surreal experience for any pitcher.

Also, let’s not forget that Lee is from Arkansas — a bordering state of Texas — and still has a home there.

James Paxton has a fantastic new nickname

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James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.

And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:

“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”

“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.

“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.

The Rays gave Seth Smith a little league homer last night

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I mentioned this in the recaps this morning, but I think it deserves it’s own special place. Get what went down in the second inning of last night’s Rays-O’s game:

Ryan Flaherty was on first with Seth Smith up to bat. Smith hit a single to center. Flaherty, who was running with the pitch, was making for third base. All-world defender Kevin Kiermaier tried to gun him down but threw wildly to third, causing Flaherty to break for home.

Pitcher Alex Cobb had the play backed up, however! He got the ball near the dugout. Flaherty scampered back to third and Cobb tried to throw him out. The ball hit Flaherty’s helmet, richocheting into left field, allowing both Flaherty and Smith — who had stopped at first and then stopped at second, like a kid at tee ball or something — to come around and score.

Watch:

 

I still think the Rays walking home the winning run on four pitches in the 11th inning was worse, but this looked worse.

Oh well: the Rays get the day off today and tomorrow, of course, is another day.