I’m not going to lie to you; I slept like a baby last night. It was the first time in a few days that I was able to fall asleep without any tension, any doubt, any uneasiness, and any concern. No, I feel asleep with a sense of satisfaction. And to my surprise it was even without news that Cliff Lee had signed with the Rangers. Because last night I didn’t need it, still want it though. Because last night something changed in the way the Texas Rangers do business, and I’ll be frank, I couldn’t be more thrilled.
We have a saying down here in Texas, “Don’t Mess with Texas.” And I know a lot of people laugh at it, but honestly I, we [all Texans], could care less, we’re Texas. Now I don’t want to be cheesy and only use that saying, but last night the Texas Rangers front office made a statement and that statement was: Don’t Mess with Texas…or a Pittsburgh sports attorney. Last night this new Rangers ownership took a new stand, and that is we will not be bullied anymore. Last night the Texas Rangers reminded all of Major League Baseball that we are here and ain’t going anywhere.
Early in the morning on the 9th of December the Yankees announced that they were upping their offer to Cliff Lee to a seven year contract, not long after Carl Crawford agreed to a contract with the Red Sox. Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes that the Yankee offers are as follows: five years - $125MM ($25MM / season), six years - $144MM ($24MM / season), and seven years - $161MM ($23MM / season). When the announcement came that the Yanks had offered seven years, and with it still being believed that Texas was only offering five years, the day began to look very gloomy. Whispers and rumblings began to spread that Lee was likely to sign with New York, that Texas couldn’t match seven years, and as always “The Yankees get what the Yankees want.”
Upon hearing about the seven-year offer the Rangers sent a contingent of front office personnel on a flight to Little Rock, Lee’s hometown, to sit down and have a face-to-face conversation. Immediately we knew that the Rangers had sent CEO Chuck Greenberg and Assistant GM Thad Levine, but there was another man going with them. It wasn’t until later in the evening did we learn that it was Ray Davis, one of the two billionaires behind the purchasing of the team. So basically the Rangers sent the man who controls the money and pulls the trigger on moves (Greenberg), the man who controls and works out player contracts (Levine), and for lack of a better phrase, the man with the checkbook (Davis).
Believe me this is where it got really hard to follow everything. For the few days prior it seemed as though there was an update every 5-30 minutes regarding Cliff Lee, but starting around 11am yesterday, everything went dead quiet. I’m talking freakishly quiet, twitter, blogs, reports, and MLB Trade Rumors all went quiet on the Cliff Lee Sweepstakes. In the mid-afternoon we learned that they would be meeting with Cliff Lee, his wife Kristen, and agent Darek Braunecker that evening, giving the Rangers trio of masterminds all day to prepare their case.
Around 7:45pm an announcement was made that Greenberg would hold a conference call with the DFW media at 8pm CST, but that was all. And for the nest 15-20 minutes the collective hearts and breaths of Ranger Nation, Yankee fans, and even most of baseball has held. Now I won’t go into too much detail of what Greenberg said because most of you have heard it and once Lee decides then the details will likely become clearer. But in the conference call Greenberg did say that Texas offered Lee a “menu of choices…we felt very good about the discussion…we made a substantial commitment in terms of years and dollars.” Greenberg would not go into details of what the Rangers offered, and don’t expect to hear anything in relation to that, that’s just not the way Texas does business.
Lee did not make a decision that night, and as far along as I published this article he was still weighing his options. In fact a decision is not really expected for the next few days. But here’s the thing, I don’t know what Lee is going to decide, at this point I think it is very much 50-50 whether he returns to Texas or heads for New York. Don’t get me wrong, I want Lee back, and I know the upsides and downsides of a six or seven year deal, and once the decision is made can get into more detail of that, but as it stands now I want Cliff Lee. However that is not the point of last night.
Cliff Lee will sign with the Rangers or he won’t, either way Texas and New York will move forward. This isn’t a move that will make or break the Rangers, even without him we are still a good team. The point of last night was the stand that the Rangers new ownership group made that we will not back down, that we will not be bullied. Though we do not have the same resources as the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, or even the Angels, if the Rangers target a player they want, we will fight until the bitter end to convince that athletes to play in Arlington.
In the past the Yankees have used their bully mentality, and I’m not going to discuss if it’s right or wrong, good or bad for baseball, or even state that they shouldn’t do it, to get what they want. The Yankees are an organization that uses long-term commitments and huge amounts of money to get the players they want, whether you like it or not, whether you agree or disagree, that’s what they do and they won’t be stopping any time soon. And in the past this maneuvering, this flash of big money, this “bullying” has won out time and time again and the Yankees have gotten the player they want. But last night the Rangers took a stand, and without knowing exactly what we offered, I’m willing to say that Texas has come incredibly close, if not matched or possibly surpassed the Yankee offers. Texas took a stand to say that we will not go quietly into the night…ever again! And I’m willing to also say that this message, this stand has been received. This morning George A. King III of the New York Post wrote and I quote, “there is a sense of apprehension running through the [Yankees] organization that any of the three contract scenarios [that New York offered] – five, six or seven years – may not be enough to lure Lee to The Bronx. They understand the Rangers aren’t going away quietly…so, the Yankees sit. And sweat.”
And it’s because of this stand that I slept like a baby last night. I could not be more thrilled to be a Ranger fan today. I could not be more excited about this new ownership and the path they are laying out. I could not be more ecstatic about the future of the Texas Rangers franchise. We, as fans, have suffered for years, some only since the end of the 90s runs, but others since the team came here in 1972. But the suffering is ending, we ended an eleven year playoff-less drought this year, we ended a lifetime of never winning a playoff series this year, we won the AL Pennant for the first time in franchise history, and we went to a World Series! Now factor in a night like last night and now we not only have the experience, the youthful core of players, the farm system, the star players, the manager, the general manager, but now we have an ownership that is going to maintain and carry this team where we have never been before.
It’s because of nights like last night that I have never been prouder to be a Ranger. So Cliff Lee, I tell, not ask, you one more time…get onboard.