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Keefe To The City: Sudden-Lee, Yanks Are Without A Plan

By Neil Keefe
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This is not good. This. Is. Not. Good.

I was thinking of sending in the lyrics to Pearl Jam's "Black" instead of writing this since I am holding back tears and shaking, but I wasn't sure if turning in Eddie Vedder's work as my own counts as plagiarism since it's a song.

On Friday, I told Sweeny Murti that I had made a playlist of sad songs in the event that Cliff Lee didn't choose the Yankees. I asked Sweeny what the Yankees' Plan B was if he didn't sign, and he said it wouldn't be to make a sad songs playlist, but I'm not so sure it isn't. (Now playing: "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M.)

Cliff Lee wasn't Plan A. He was The Plan. There isn't another free agent pitcher even close to his abilities; in fact there isn't even another free agent pitcher I would want on the Yankees. And according to Joel Sherman, Felix Hernandez, Josh Johnson and John Danks aren't available. So I'm not exactly sure where the Yankees go from here. All I know is it's never a good thing when you are googling "Sidney Ponson" to see if he is available knowing that he is probably somewhere on Cashman's list of backup plans. And yes, he is. He was placed on the Atlantic League's retired list on June 18. Ponson Part III, anyone?

I'm scared. I'm scared of what Brian Cashman might do now. I'm scared of what will happen to the Yankees in 2011. I'm scared that CC Sabathia might opt out after this season and sign with the Phillies. I'm scared that the Yankees are banking on the idea that Larry Rothschild thinks he can fix A.J. Burnett. I'm scared that, right now, Sergio Mitre is the No. 5 starter on the $200 million New York Yankees.

Last week on Twitter I joked that this offseason Brian Cashman publicly bashed the face of the franchise, forced the best relief pitcher in the history of baseball to talk to Red Sox, scaled a building in Stamford, Conn., had dinner with Carl Crawford and then hours later Crawford signed with the Red Sox and now you can add letting a pitcher turn down seven years and $154 million to that list. His offseason has been as bad as Tim Redding's only start with the Yankees on July 15, 2005 against the Red Sox in a 17-1 loss at Fenway Park (1 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 2K). I was joking with that tweet, but now I'm not really joking because my 2011 summer hinges on whether or not Cashman can trade for a pitcher worth getting excited about. (Now playing: "All Out Of Love" by Air Supply).

I know people are sensitive about just about everything when it comes to the Yankees and there are those that get easily offended when Cashman's decision making is questioned. But on a day like today after a night like last night, I think it would be unfair not to question Cashman and his decision to leave next season in the hands of a lefty willing to leave two years and $28 million on the table. This isn't so much to blame Cashman for failing to land Lee since, according to Jon Heyman, Lee is the one that initiated talks with Philly and probably never wanted to come to New York. This is more to blame Cashman for putting the Yankees in a position in which they absolutely had to have Lee.

So, here's a look at just how much of an impact Cliff Lee's decision has on the Yankees. And to take us through all the aspects of Lee's choice to pitch for the Phillies and not the Yankees are quotes from Michael Scott of The Office because right now that is the person who most resembles our trusty GM, who is one non-move from ruining the 2011 summer the same way that Cliff Lee just ruined Christmas.

"But I always thought that the day that Steve Martin died would be the worst day of my life. I was wrong. It's this."

When Derek Jeter was still not signed, I kept thinking, "What if he goes somewhere else? What if I have to write my 'Tribute to Derek Jeter' story at least four years before I'm supposed to?" I never really thought that Jeter would leave, but there was that chance that he might.

I always thought there was a slight chance I might have to write the story you are currently reading. I thought I might have to write about being devastated that Cliff Lee didn't choose the Yankees, but really, I didn't think I would because I just figured that the Yankees would give him whatever he wanted to make sure that they would never have to face him again. And when everyone tells you he is going to be a Yankee and that they will pay whatever it takes, you believe it. So much for that. (Now playing: "Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness" by The Smashing Pumpkins.)

"How do I feel about losing the sale? It's like if Michael Phelps, came out of retirement, jumped in the pool, belly-flopped and drowned."

This is bad for Brian Cashman. This is as bad as giving $82.5 million to A.J. Burnett or giving Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson second chances or letting Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui go. Maybe Cliff Lee was never going to come to New York, but Cashman put the Yankees in a position in which they had to have Lee because there was no other option and now they don't have him.

"My whole life, I believed that America was No. 1. That was the saying. Not, 'America is No. 2.' England is No. 2, and China should be like 8."

George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973. In the 37 ½ years of his life that he ran the team (I know that number depends on when he technically stopped being in charge and you also have take away the years he was banned), only one ace turned down the Yankees' money (to my knowledge) and that was Greg Maddux. Steinbrenner has been dead for five months, and the number of pitchers to turn down the Yankees' money has already matched the total number during Steinbrenner's 37 ½ years as The Boss.

Aside from Maddux, I never really thought anyone would turn down less money or not accept the Yankees' eagerness to overpay for someone. But at the end of the day, it turns out the Yankees didn't even offer Lee the highest contract in terms of average annual salary. Here were the offers to Lee, according to Jon Heyman:

Yankees: Six years, $148 million plus player option for seventh year at $16 million.

Phillies: Five years, $120 million.

Rangers: Six years, $138 million.

In the end, Lee left $28 million on the table, but did end up getting a higher average annual salary. (Now playing: "Every Breath You Take" by The Police.)

"Here's the sitch. Two weeks ago, I was in the worst relationship of my life. She treated me poorly, we didn't connect, I was miserable. Now, I am in the best relationship of my life, with the same woman. Love is a mystery."

Before the winter meetings, it was expected that Cliff Lee would be a Yankee, and once the Red Sox got Carl Crawford and the Yankees improved their six-year offer to seven years, it was basically a guarantee that Lee would sign with the Yankees.

And before the winter meetings, the Yankees rotation was CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre, but it was expected to improve over the next week. Guess what? That's still the rotation right now. So before the winter meetings the thought of that rotation was a joke, and now it's still our rotation. Do I expect the rotation to stay the same? No. But I also don't know how Lee's decision will impact Pettitte's.

"You know what? I had fun at prom. [pause] And no one said yes to that either."

Brian Cashman and the front office will have to speak to the media about what went wrong in trying to entice Cliff Lee to the Bronx, and I fully expect them to spin in a way that make it sound like it's no big deal. I'm sure they will tell Yankees fans how they are focused on the bullpen and the bench, and they will eventually believe their own lie that this is somehow for the better.

After the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez for prospects and not a single current major leaguer (I wonder if Jed Hoyer is still technically a Red Sox employee) and signed Carl Crawford the same night that Cashman had dinner with him, Cashman said you just have to "tip your hat" to the Red Sox for making great movies. I wonder if he will tip his hat to the Phillies too? Why not? Seems like the polite thing to do. (Now playing: "With Or Without You" by U2.)

"You know what Toby, when the son of the deposed king of Nigeria e-mails you directly, asking for help, you help! His father ran the freaking country! OK?"

Brian Cashman was embarrassed in July when the Mariners used the Yankees to get the Rangers involved in a deal for Cliff Lee. The Mariners got the Rangers to offer Justin Smoak, and once they did, they cited David Adams' ankle injury as a way to cancel the deal on the Yankees.

At the time I was crushed. The Yankees missed out on the chance to add Lee even if it came at the cost of Jesus Montero. Here is what I said to Sweeny following the deal that didn't happen:

"Many people thought that Lee to the Yankees would be too much or even "overkill" given the already star-studded roster. I was clearly not one of those people and even though I have been anxiously awaiting the debut of Jesus Montero, I could deal with the Yankees losing him given the depth of catchers in the minors. The Yankees would have gone from favorites to win the World Series to heavy favorites, and would have had a real chance to run away and hide in the AL East."

And here is Sweeny's response:

"I don't think it was a necessary move to make, but I'll repeat what one GM said to me last week when I told him the Yankees didn't need Cliff Lee. He said to me, "Everybody needs a Cliff Lee!"

If Lee gets traded to the Yankees, they probably would have beaten the Rangers and might have won the World Series. Lee would have had a half season under his belt in New York and been reunited with his so-called "best friend" CC Sabathia (maybe they aren't exactly best friends after all) and fellow Arkansas native A.J. Burnett, and would have never had a taste of the Rangers, so they wouldn't have had much of a say in the sweepstakes. The Yankees could have signed him to an extension after trading for him or waiting until right after the season, and just like that there would be no problems.

Then again, what if the Yankees had traded Montero for Lee, and then Lee still left for Philly the way that the Rangers traded Smoak for a half-year rental? I'm just glad Chuck Greenberg made it impossible for me to feel sorry for Rangers fans. (Now playing: "How's It Going To Be" by Third Eye Blind.)

"There are ten rules of business that you need to learn. Number one: You need to play to win. But, you also have to … win, to play."

Here is the Yankees rotation as of today:

CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre.

One second, I need to grab a tissue.

Here is the Red Sox rotation as of today:

Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Am I the only one that sees a problem here?

Let's not forget that the Red Sox were without Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis for a large portion of the year and still caused me to hyperventilate as late in the season as September 26 when there were only seven games left. A healthy Red Sox team in 2011 with the additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford has kept me awake for nearly a week and will probably cause a great deal of stress this winter and eventually ruin my summer. Merry Christmas, Cliff Lee!

"I miss the feeling of knowing you did a good job because someone gives you proof of it. 'Sir, you're awesome, let me give you a plaque! What? A whole year has gone by? You need more proof? Here is a certificate.' They stopped making plaques that year."

Two years ago, Brian Cashman ended the World Series drought by unloading the Yankees' checking account on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira, and the Yankees won the World Series. Then, instead of doing all he knows how to do (spend money), he tried to be a real general manager and get creative. So he traded for Javier Vazquez and signed Nick Johnson. He let the No. 2 hitter and the World Series MVP both leave via free agency and essentially ripped apart two of the Yankees' most important offensive weapons and two players essential with winning and big-game pedigrees. He did trade for Curtis Granderson, so it wasn't all bad.

Now, Cashman is going to need to get creative again. The problem is being creative doesn't win in baseball. You either have a lot of money to spend or you have enough homegrown starting pitching that you don't need to spend money. Look at the Red Sox. After trying to save some pennies on Mark Teixeira and trying to get creative with reclamation projects like John Smoltz and Brad Penny and Mike Cameron, and winning zero postseason games since all of this, the Red Sox went to the winter meetings with Adrian Gonzalez already in hand and left with Carl Crawford. Lots of money. Zero creativity.

I can't wait for the creativity era to begin. (Now playing: "The Heart Of The Matter" by Don Henley.)

"Andy Bernard. Pros: he's classy. He gets me. He went to Cornell. I trust him. Cons: I don't really trust him."

I'm supposed to like Brian Cashman, but I don't. It's not because of this or that he told No. 2 to test the market if he didn't like the Yankees' offer, but they are just the icing on the cake of a mountain of problems in the last decade. I have no idea what Brian Cashman is going to do now. No one does. I don't even know if Brian Cashman knows what he's going to do.

Cashman's biggest flaw has always been that he doesn't know pitching and to think that he is now being asked to make a move regarding pitching to save the 2011 season before it even starts is as bad as it gets.

Now playing until the Yankees bring back Andy Pettitte and trade for a front-end starter: "Wake Me Up When September Ends" by Green Day. September 2011 that is.

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