Cliff Lee: “Philly fans don’t need a teleprompter to tell them to cheer”

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Cliff Lee gave his introductory news conference with the Phillies earlier this afternoon (see the video below).  There were a few notable quotes from Lee. One was about how Philly fans are great because “they don’t need a teleprompter to tell them too cheer.” I suppose that could be construed as a swipe at the fans in either Texas or Seattle, so that’s fun.

More interesting to me was when he was asked about taking the shorter, less-guaranteed money deal to come to Philly.  His response.

“When you hit a certain point, enough is enough.”

Money, that is.  Which I imagine is a quote that some people will run with in the next 24 hours as evidence that Lee is selfless and team-oriented and stuff. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone who does run with it also notes that, if Lee pitches as well as he believes he can over the next five years, he’ll end up making more money on this deal than he would have on the Yankees deal. And that he’s making more per-year for each of the next five years than he would have on the Yankees.

Which isn’t to slam Lee, of course. Good for him for going where he wanted on what are really great terms.  But just be wary of anyone who spins this as a selfless deal in which he turned down the big Yankee dollars on a matter of principle. Because anyone writing that is distorting things pretty significantly.

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Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.