UPDATE: Cliff Lee chooses Phillies

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UPDATE: Amazing. Absolutely amazing. According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, the Rangers have been told that Cliff Lee has chosen the Phillies.

10:42 PM: Todd Zolecki of MLB.com confirms that the Phillies are a legitimate suitor for Lee and adds that the team is shopping Joe Blanton, Raul Ibanez and Kyle Kendrick in order to free up salary.

10:09 PM: I don’t think I have ever seen a story like this evolve so dramatically and unexpectedly in such a short period of time, but here we are. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees “have become increasingly negative” about landing Lee and believe that he is “edging towards the Phillies.”

10:02 PM: This baby is getting serious. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com hears that this is NOT a leverage play on behalf of Darek Braunecker and that Cliff Lee is indeed interested in returning to Philadelphia.

9:48 PM: Jack Curry of YES Network writes that “there is a belief” that Cliff Lee is headed to the Phillies. Curry continues by saying that if he goes to Philadelphia, it will be for “a lot” less money than the Yankees offered.

8:48 PM: According to Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record, it is “highly unlikely” that the Yankees will increase their offer to Cliff Lee. In fact, executives are starting to think that if Lee wanted to be in New York, he would have accepted today.

In other news, first mentioned by Brandon Worley of Lone Star Ball and passed along by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, a private plane left from Love Field (Dallas, TX) this afternoon bound for Little Rock and returned to Love Field this evening. Oh, this is Hot Stove drama at its best.

8:08 PM: A “well-placed source” tells Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia that Lee’s decision is “close.” He names the Phillies as a finalist along with the Yankees and Rangers.

Meanwhile, emboldened after the identity of the “mystery team” was finally revealed, Jon Heyman of SI.com hears that the Phillies are looking for takers for Joe Blanton in order to free up some cash. In other words, Lee should sign with the Long Island Ducks any minute now.

7:42 PM: Jayson Stark of ESPN.com speculated earlier that the Phillies could be the “mystery team” involved on Cliff Lee and now we have it confirmed.

A source with direct knowledge of the talks tells Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com that the Phillies are still bidding on the free-agent left-hander.

It’s not clear how involved they are in negotiations, but the source tells Rosenthal that the Phillies are “not out.”

It would obviously be quite a swerve if Lee ended up signing with the Phillies. It would also give them one of the most incredible starting rotations in recent memory. But before we get too far into that, just recognize that the timing on this information is curious to say the least.

We know that the Yankees have a seven-year offer on the table while the Rangers have a six-year offer with an option for a seventh year. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told George King III of the New York Post on Sunday that he would not increase the club’s current offer, which is believed to be worth around $161 million. Is there a chance that Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker is trying to make Cashman and/or Jon Daniels sweat at the last minute? I’d say at least a little bit.

Derek Jeter calls Bryant Gumbel “mentally weak”

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Derek Jeter has not covered himself in glory since taking over the Miami Marlins. His reign atop the team’s baseball operations department has been characterized by the slashing of payroll in order to help his new ownership group make more money amid some pretty crushing debt service by virtue of what was, in effect, the leveraged buyout of the club. A club which is now 5-16 and seems destined for five months more and change of some pretty miserable baseball.

Jeter has nonetheless cast the moves the Marlins have made as good for fans in the long run. And, yes, I suppose it’s likely that things will be better in the long run, if for no other reason than they cannot be much worse. Still, such reasoning, while often accepted when a lesser light like, say, White Sox GM Rick Hahn employs it, isn’t accepted as easily when a guy who has been defined by his hand full of championship rings offers it. How can Derek Jeter, of all people, accept losing?

That’s the question HBO’s Bryant Gumbel asked of Jeter in an interview that aired over the weekend (see the video at the end of the post). How can he accept — and why should fans accept — a subpar baseball product which is not intended to win? Jeter’s response? To claim that the 2018 Marlins are totally expected to win and that Gumbel himself is “mentally weak” for not understanding it:

JETER: “We’re trying to win ball games every day.”

GUMBEL: “If you trade your best players in exchange for prospects it’s unlikely you’re going to win more games in the immediate future–”

JETER: “When you take the field, you have an opportunity to win each and every day. Each and every day. You never tell your team that they’re expected to lose. Never.”

GUMBEL: “Not in so–”

JETER: “Now, you can think — now– now, I can’t tell you how you think. Like, I see your mind. I see that’s how you think. I don’t think like that. That’s your mind working like that.”

. . .

DEREK JETER: “You don’t. We have two different mi– I can’t wait to get you on the golf course, man. We got– I mean, I can’t wait for this one.”

BRYANT GUMBEL: “No, I mean–”

DEREK JETER: “You’re mentally weak.”

I sort of get what Jeter was trying to do here. He was trying to take this out the realm of second guessing among people who know some stuff about sports and subtly make it an appeal to authority, implying that he was an athlete and that only he, unlike Gumbel, can understand that mindset and competitiveness of the athlete. That’s what the “get you on the golf course” jazz was about. Probably worth noting at this point that that tack has never worked for Michael Jordan as a basketball executive, even if his singular competitiveness made him the legend he was on the court. An executive makes decisions which can and should be second-guessed, and it seems Jeter cannot handle that.

That being said, Gumbel did sort of open the door for Jeter to do that. Suggesting that baseball players on the 2018 Marlins don’t expect to win is not the best angle for him here because, I am certain, if you ask those players, they would say much the same thing Jeter said. That’s what makes them athletes.

No, what Gumbel should have asked Jeter was “of COURSE you tell your players to win and of COURSE they try their hardest and think they can win every night. My question to you is this: did YOU try YOUR hardest to get the BEST players? And if not, why not?”

Question him like you’d question Rick Hahn. Not like you’d question Future Hall of Fame Shortstop, Derek Jeter.