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When the Rangers made an 11th hour deal to acquire Cliff Lee from Seattle in early July, fans thought that it locked up the American League West and the first Rangers postseason appearance in more than a decade.
C.J. Wilson had bigger plans.
"I grabbed my cell," the Rangers defacto No. 2 starter told USA Today, "and sent a message to my friends. 'We are going to the World Series.' "
If only he could've gone to Vegas.
Lee was only .500 in the regular season after he came to Arlington, and the Rangers pretty well had the division in a stranglehold when they acquired him. They would've most likely been in the playoffs, but they most likely would not be here. As a favorite. In the World Series.
No matter what happens in the next week, the Rangers will have a big move to make in the off-season as they'll look to re-sign Lee and keep him from going to the hated New York Yankees.
Before Lee was traded to Texas, a deal was all but done with the Yankees for him to go there and join his friend and former Cleveland teammate CC Sabathia. Then one of the Yankees prospects in the deal failed his physical, the Rangers offered Justin Smoak, and the rest was history. Even after the trade, Lee made no bones about it. He eventually wanted to be a Yankee.
But now, the tide is changing.
After his Game 5 shutdown of the Tampa Bay Rays and his Game 3 masterpiece in New York, Lee was quoted as saying if the Rangers went on to the World Series ... and won ... it would be a hard situation to walk away from. Well, we're four games away from that.
Lee was able to see exactly why he shouldn't want to go to the Yankees. They're an aging franchise with a 36-year-old shortstop that is Mr. Yankee and likely will retire a Yankee. Now, Cliff has a 22-year-old shortstop who is growing up in front of us in this postseason. The Yankees' offense sputtered not only against him, but against Wilson, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland.
Then, there's the wife factor, which we all know pulls a lot of weight.
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."
Add in the fact that Mrs. Lee seems ecstatic to be watching her husband so close to home (the family is from Benton, Ark., and resides in Little Rock, a less-than-an-hour flight from DFW).
Heck, that's close enough for Cliff to drive home to let his wife do his laundry in between starts, like I used to do with my mom in college.
Of course, money will be an issue, and it's likely the Yankees will offer more cash. But will it be enough more? Remember, New York has that pesky income tax that Texas does not. With all the positives of staying in Arlington, how much more cash will it take to lure Lee away? If you listen to, and more importantly believe, new Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg, you'd think the Rangers will be competing with any and everyone when it comes to free agency from now on.
The New York media sees it as basically a done deal that Lee will be in pinstripes next year, as numerous media are already speculating what the Yankees' rotation would look like with not two, but THREE good starters!
So, Yankees fans spit and poured beer on Lee's wife, Nick Swisher hates him, he can drive home and back in one day to do his month's worth of laundry AND he can deer hunt? Not much hunting going on in Manhattan unless it's hunting for bargains for Kristen at Prada and all those long, foreign names for stores.
I think Clifton Lee belongs in Texas. Fortunately for us, so does his wife.