Over the past few weeks we’ve heard all manner of things about what may or may not motivate Cliff Lee. His wife hates New York. He’s a country boy who wants to stay near Arkansas. Yankee fans are rude, rude rude!
I think this kind of thing is somewhat meaningless — the contract offers are ultimately going to decide where he goes — but let’s add one more non-monetary consideration to the pile: a little birdie tells me that Lee was not terribly happy in Texas, and that he is particularly concerned about how his body would hold up pitching an entire season in the North Texas heat.
It’s not clear if his unhappiness in Texas has to do specifically with the heat, if it also involves discombobulation over the fact that he was traded there in mid-season or if he just hates the place. And yeah, that’s second hand info. And yeah, I’m sure Lee and his agent will deny because they have absolutely zero interest in limiting their market right now, but it is what I’m hearing and you can place as much weight on it as you’d like.
But assuming Lee is concerned about the heat: is it a rational concern? I don’t have all of his box scores sitting in a database now in order to graph them against game time temperature, but just eyeballing it, I see that for his career he’s 6-5 with a 5.07 ERA in Arlington (of course he’s 2-2 with a 5.91 in the Bronx). He made eight regular season starts there in 2010, seven with the Rangers, one with the Mariners. He was shelled in two of them and was his Cliff Lee-like-self in the other six. On those two bad days the game time temperature was 85 and 91 degrees. Overall, he doesn’t show a big first half/second half split. His ERA is a bit higher in the second half but he strikes more guys out. If he’s concerned about wearing down over the course of a long hot season in Texas, there certainly isn’t a ton of empirical evidence to support it. He’s a good pitcher in the heat. He’s a good pitcher in the cold. He’d probably be a good pitcher in a biodome planted on the lunar surface.
But we’re not dealing with empirical evidence here. We’re dealing with the notion — a notion gossiped my way, but which purports to reflects Lee’s feelings on the matter — that he is worried about pitching in the hot Texas weather over the course of a season. It won’t make a difference if the Yankees do what everyone expects them to do and substantially outbid the Rangers. But if it’s close? This may just be something that pushes Lee towards Gotham.