Brian Cashman

Cliff Lee is going to the Phillies. What do the Yankees do now?

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It’s not just a Yankees world in which we’re all living, but in this case, the implications for the Bombers losing out on Cliff Lee are the most interesting.  Philly? Heck, print up their NL East championship t-shirts already.  The Rangers? They seem like they felt they were out of it for a week now, complete with reports of going after Adrian Beltre as a second place prize.  And really: Texas is a team that didn’t need to go all-in on a 32-year-old pitcher.

But the Yankees wanted Cliff Lee. The Yankees needed Cliff Lee. The Yankees failed to get Cliff Lee, however, and it was the first time that they failed to get their big-fish free agent target since they lost out on Greg Maddux back in 1992.   They’re a well-prepared team and I assume that the panic in the Yankee Universe is about 98% in the fan base and 2% in the front office right now, even if they are reeling somewhat.  This was the plan. All possible Plan Bs are a big, big step down.  So what do the Yankees do?

  • Don’t panic.  This is a team that won 95 games last year and is going to bring back every single player that was on that team. Yes, they’re older, but many stand to improve over last season. Yes, one of their main competitors got better, but the other is getting worse. Reasonable people should have the Yankees as their wild card team at the moment, and they will add before the winter is over.  They’re not rebuilding from some disaster.  They missed a chance to improve greatly in one fell swoop. They’ll make other moves to make up the difference, or to at least try.
  • Get on the phone to Deer Park, Texas first thing in the morning and make a strong pitch to Andy Pettitte.  He may be the biggest immediate beneficiary out of anyone in this deal. The whole “Andy is leaning retirement” thing has seemed overblown to me.  I think it was a negotiation tactic, frankly. Both by Pettitte, whose claims to be leaning towards retirement seemed calculated to make the Yankees desperate, and the team, whose “we think Andy is probably retiring” stuff seemed calculated to act as if they didn’t care.  Now all pretense is gone. The Yankees need Pettitte, and they will pay to get him. Someone besides CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes has to start.
  • Think hard about trading Jesus Montero.  That could be a panic move. I’m not sure.  But if they want another impact starter — and I think they’ll think that — it’s going to take more than the Joba Chamberlain pupu platter to get it done.  Zack Greinke or someone like him — if there is someone like him — will take top flight talent to acquire. Nothing should be off the table for New York right now.
  • Mostly, though, the Yankees should take a few days to think. And to wait.  Because just like Cliff Lee going to Philly was a shock to all of us, it was a shock to many people in baseball who didn’t see it coming. And who may now have a desire to see if they can’t pry something away from the Yankees.  Some offers will come their way.  Brian Cashman will think up some on their own.  They always do.

Mostly, though, we need to remember: the Yankees are not dead until you see their body on the slab. They are far from there right now. And to count them out an hour after they lost out on Lee would be foolish in the extreme.

Reds sign Ryan Raburn to minor league deal

DENVER, COLORADO - APRIL 10:  Ryan Raburn #6 of the Colorado Rockies rounds the bases on his solo home run off of James Shields #33 of the San Diego Padres to take a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning on April 10, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Padres 6-3.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Veteran infielder/outfielder Ryan Raburn has a minor league contract with the Reds, the club announced on Sunday. The deal was reported last week, but had been pending a physical. It includes an invitation to spring training, where Raburn is expected to compete against Desmond Jennings for a major league utility role. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans, there’s a $900,000 base salary waiting for him if he makes the big league roster by Opening Day.

Raburn, 35, is coming off of a down year with the Rockies in 2016. He slashed .220/.309/.404 for the team last season, clubbing nine home runs as he struggled to stay above the Mendoza line. Raburn was stationed in left field for much of the season, but also saw some time at DH, first base and right field toward the end of the year. Assuming he can turn out a production rate that skews closer to the .301 average and .936 OPS he put up with the Indians in 2015, however, the Reds should have little trouble finding a place for him off the bench or as a platoon option with Scott Schebler in right field.

Dexter Fowler unhappy with President Trump’s attempts to institute a travel ban

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Mark Saxon reports that new Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler isn’t a fan of President Trump’s ongoing effort to institute a travel ban. Trump signed Executive Order 13769 on January 27, 2017, which limited incoming travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. However, a temporary restraining order was placed by Judge James L. Robart following Washington v. Trump.

Fowler’s wife was born in Iran. Fowler said that her sister delayed her return from a business trip to Qatar to avoid potentially being detained. Fowler and his wife have also delayed traveling to visit her relatives in Iran.

Fowler said, “It’s huge. Especially any time you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

The response by Cardinals fans was predictably terrible. Via the BestFansStLouis Twitter account:

One of the commenters wrote, “He signed a contract with the Cardinals so that makes him property of stl cardinals and mlb so he needs to keep his mouth shut. His personal opinions, problems, beliefs and political views should be kept to himself as long as he’s under a mlb contract…” He continued, “It’s not our fault he married someone from another country.”

Fowler caught wind of this and other responses to his statement, so he tweeted:

Fowler, of course, is one thousand percent correct.

These same “stick to sports,” “keep your politics out of my sports” people either said nothing or cheered when athletes and coaches espoused political views from the other side of the spectrum. Like when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hung a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker. Or when reliever Jonathan Papelbon played a pro-Trump song in the clubhouse. Or when former NFL head coach and ESPN commentator Mike Ditka said last year, “Obama’s the worst president we’ve ever had.”

Even Saxon and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have received myriad “stick to sports” comments simply for acknowledging that Fowler made a comment on the matter.

As we’ve pointed out here countless times, it is impossible to separate sports from politics. It is irresponsible to pretend like it’s even possible. Sports and politics intersect in so many ways, including race, religion, gender, sexuality, and class. This particular situation with Trump’s executive order impacts baseball quite a bit as Fowler’s individual situation shows. He’s certainly not the only player to have a loved one who came from one of the seven aforementioned countries. Non-white players are also much more likely to have a bad experience at the airport — consider how often players are at the airport during the season — and their family and friends may be subject to one of the many ugly ICE raids that have taken place over the last three weeks.

Kudos to Fowler for speaking up and kudos for Saxon and others for reporting on it. This is certainly not a time during which we should pretend we can keep sports and politics separate.