UPDATE: 11:39 a.m.: Just got word that Ryan Langerhans and three others signed minor league deals with the Mariners. RHP Denny Bautista (just when you learned to spell Miguel’s name right), catcher Chris Giminez (minor league depth) and LHP Royce (not the brass) Ring also signed.
Well, the rich keep on getting richer in baseball, it would seem. But at least, where the Mariners are concerned, efforts by the Texas Rangers to join the ranks of the cash-happy elite teams in baseball just got thwarted by their wealthy National League rivals in Philadelphia.
Yes, folks, Cliff Lee isn’t going to the Yankees after all. More importantly, he’s not staying in Texas, where his arrival last summer had given the Rangers that long-elusive elite rotation they’d sought. Sure, the Rangers still have C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. They still have a young Derek Holland.
But without Lee tying it all together, the Rangers are just another good team. Not the dynasty that might have kept the Mariners from sniffing the post-season for another five, eight, or maybe 10 more years.
Hey, the M’s have enough problems in their quest to make something happen before Jack Zduriencik hits the mandatory retirement age. Right now, their offense still looks like the worst in the AL. Maybe not historically awful like last season, but still pretty bad. Seattle faces some tough seasons — more than just 2011 — as it prepares to apparently go the long route in waiting to see whether certain prospects can play.
The upside now is, if those prospects turn out to be as good as touted, they won’t have to worry about a Lee-fronted AL West dynasty standing in their way.
That’s now the New York Mets’ problem.
Have fun Sandy Alderson. Hey, if Alderson’s new assistant GM, J.P. Ricciardi, thought he faced an uphill climb in the AL East over the past decade, wait until he gets a glimpse of the NL East Phillies for a couple of years. The Phils spent four months messing around last year, toying with Mariners-style offensive production at times, and still wound up winning 97 games.
Photo Credit: AP
Now, they’ve got what some are calling the best starting rotation of all-time. It just might be. I’ve seen the comparisons with the 1990s Braves staff of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery. But frankly, the Phillies front-four looks better. Both Roy Halladay and Lee are battle-tested against the best the American League has to offer. Both have won Cy Young Awards in the better league, which, since free agency in the early 1970s and the onset of the Steroids Era in the 1980s, had been catching up to and surpassing the so-called “senior circuit” in terms of talent.
By the 1990s, the AL was clearly the better league. From 1991-2000, the AL won seven of nine World Series, often at the Braves’ expense. Prior to that, you had the A’s “dynasty that wasn’t” that should have won three straight titles if games were played on paper. I mean, this isn’t bombast. The AL has been the better league for a long time. It didn’t just start with Joe Torre’s Yankees.
Maddux and Glavine were two of the best pitchers of their era, no question. I saw them pitch often as an Expos fan in Montreal. But they also got to face the pitcher every third inning. They faced a bottom third of the order that was nowhere near as good as what most AL pitchers faced.
Especially these days.
Comparing pitchers across varying eras is a difficult thing at the best of times. But look at what Halladay just accomplished — as a 13-year vet — the very first time he was turned loose against inferior NL opposition. A perfect game. A no-hitter in the playoffs. Could have won close to 30 games had his offense not gone on hiatus for nearly two months. A unanimous Cy Young win. Remember, Halladay is supposedly entering his twilight years.
In the AL, I go with Halladay and Lee over Glavine and Maddux every time. The first two guys have overwhelmed — not just beaten, but beaten into submission — the best the AL has had to offer when its players were juiced up and pounding the baseball harder and further than in any prior era.
Halladay and Lee haven’t needed strike calls on pitches a half-foot off the plate. Lee’s accuracy is such that his self-induced margin for error comes down to an inch or two. Big difference.
Not trying to diss Glavine and Maddux, who were great in their own right. But they didn’t have to face the 2000’s version of the Yankees and Red Sox five times per season the way Halladay has. Didn’t have to continue their dominance for both great teams and terrible ones, the way Lee just did the past three years.
For those pointing out that the Giants just managed to beat all four of Philadelphia’s top starters in last year’s playoffs, well, you are technically correct. But I’ll note that there’s a huge difference between beating Halladay in one playoff series and Lee in another one, and having to defeat them in the same series on consecutive nights. A completely different proposition. Besides, the Giants have to make it back to the post-season again, which, well…just remember, plenty of folks thought The Turtles would have a few more No. 1 hits after Happy Together.
When Cole Hamels risks being bumped from the rotation in a best-of-five series, that’s a staff that compares with the best. The best ever.
And now, M’s fans can relax, knowing that, until they make it to their first World Series, it will be somebody else’s problem.