The Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees seem to be the two favorite suitors for Cliff Lee’s left-handed, bulldog, quietly-intense pitching services. The Yankess have offered him a seven-year deal worth a stupid amount of money each year, and reporters think the Rangers will offer him at least a six-year deal for similarly stupid money.
The Rangers and the Yankees will both be serious impediments to the Mariners making the playoffs in the next six years. As a Mariner fan, I root for both teams’ failure. But in considering where I’d prefer Cliff Lee to sign, I realized a way in which my Yankee hating differs from my dislike for other teams: I can endure a Rangers title much more easily than I can suffer a Yankees title.
The Rangers are a young team built largely around homegrown talent. Like most teams without bottomless resources, they have a window in which to compete for a title, and that window is now open. It may be open for another 3-4 years. I respect “windows,” and I obviously like the implication that the Rangers’ window will eventually close, and they’ll have to rebuild.
The Yankees don’t have windows. They keep the window open constantly by buying the best players on the market, season after season. As such, desiring the Yankees’ failure is an exercise in year-to-year vitriol-spewing. Any title for the Yankees is a disaster, because they are just as likely to win next year, or six years later, as they are this year.
Cliff Lee will sign a contract for about $20 million a year, for 6-7 years. He will be, in my estimation, one of the best pitchers in the game for the next 2-3 seasons, and then he will decline. Cliff Lee will not be worth $20 million a year in the last 2-3 seasons of the contract, and as such he will be an anchor on his team’s budget. Unless he’s a Yankee. The Yankees can afford to pay anybody, anything, because their resources outpace the economics of the game. In other words, they can afford a decent 37-year old pitcher making $20 million a year. They will still be competitive that season.
So let Cliff Lee go to the Rangers. I will respect, and try to wait out, the next 2-3 seasons of Texas domination in the AL West. Maybe they’ll win a World Series title, and I will probably be happy for them. After three seasons or so, Lee will begin to weigh down their budget, hastening the closing of their window, and the Mariners will have a better shot in the division.
The lesson? Rooting against teams in your own division is an exercise in patience and timing. Like body surfing, you time the waves and wait for a trough to make your move. Rooting against the Yankees is like fighting against the inexhaustible spray from a fire hose. It will never get easier and the water smells of iron.