Good story from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale this morning about Cliff Lee. After the familiar “holy crap, this guy is good” stuff, Nightengale talks to Lee’s wife Kristen.
Now, every marriage is different and I don’t deign to suggest that Lee’s marriage is like mine, but I will say this much: if my wife and I were in the Lees’ position, and if she was exercised enough to say this kind of stuff to a reporter, it would be because, privately, we’d already made up our minds to stay in Texas:
“That’s the greatest thing, being so close to home . . . Cliff can fit in anywhere, but it makes my life a lot easier. We’ve never had a short commute before. Having a direct flight from Little Rock is great . . .”
. . . Perhaps the Rangers’ greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above.
“The fans did not do good things in my heart,” Kristen says.
“When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it’s hard not to take it personal.”
Which isn’t to say that a substantial difference in money wouldn’t make Lee pick New York anyway. It’s just that if things are even close to equal, you have figure that lifestyle would win out. And remember: “close to equal” doesn’t require that the Rangers come terribly close to what the Yankees offer. Why? Because there’s no income tax in Texas. So discount whatever the Yankees offer by Lee’s effective tax rate before you compare offers. And, given that proximity to Little Rock is so appealing to the Lees, if the Rangers are willing to throw in a no-trade clause, the cash part of the deal could likely be even less.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?