ORLANDO, FL — Since when did the Washington Nationals think they could compete in the same arena as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox?
They already splashed into the deep end of the free-agent pool by reeling in the “Catch of the Day” in Jayson Werth before the Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL, began.
Today they decided to widen their fishing nets for Cliff Lee with an offer of seven years. However, no matter how creative the Nationals can get with dollars and length of contract, I doubt seriously if Lee will bite.
Lee has tasted the big stage twice in the past two seasons with the Phillies and the Rangers. In both cases he was so close but lost to the Yankees and Giants.
Sure he can take a seven-year, $140 million deal and live with the Nationals. But what guarantee does Lee have reaching the playoffs with the Nationals? With the Phillies in the same division and the Braves and Mets around it would seem the Nationals have a long way to go before making a breakthrough.
Werth, notwithstanding, the Nationals lack a competitive lineup, rotation and bullpen to be serious contenders in the short term. For Lee, that speaks volumes. I doubt the lure of an extra year will change his desire to pitch for a contender that he can count on making the playoffs.
So look for the Yankees, who are offering six years, and the Rangers, who are holding firm on five, as the major players in this drama. In these deep ends of the free-agent pools in which the Nationals have decided to swim, when it comes to Lee they will get blown out of the water.
Here is another prediction: Werth will flop in a bigger ballpark and with all the focus on him instead of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins.
JETER JABS . . . Things got a little testy this afternoon in Tampa, FL, as the Yankees announced the signing of Derek Jeter. Make no mistake, this press conference was not a “lovey-dovey” affair. Yankee co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman were not smiling.
The reason is because Jeter was playing the good soldier who took a pay cut to stay with the Yankees in public. But privately Jeter is very unhappy with the way the Yankees leaked their offer and Jeter’s demands.
Jeter was also not happy with Cashman’s pronouncement the contract was a “fair offer” or his advice to Derek to “test the market.”
Jeter’s comment “I would be lying to you if I said I was not angry” raised a more than a few eyebrow in the room. Though Jeter refused to name anyone, it was clear his jab was aimed at the media shills of Cashman and the Steinbrenners who made the dirty laundry too public for The Captain’s taste.
At one time, I believed that would remain loyal to the Yankees and they would remain loyal to him. Down the road I saw the Yankees offering Jeter a personal services contract extending after his career and possibly an offer to coach or manage when his career was over.
That would have made sense given what Jeter means to the Yankees and their fans. Think about this: If you are a Yankee fan who is 45 years old or less, Derek Jeter is your Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig.
To see the team captain and the face of the franchise being treated like Johnny Damon was last season is just distasteful and unnecessarily cruel. Yeah, the Yankees had “leverage” in negotiations because Jeter never wanted to even seek an offer from another team.
But just because you have leverage does not mean you have to use it.
Perhaps Derek should have a chat with his old mentor Joe Torre for perspective on handling an organization that seems to preach class and doing things the right way but does the exact opposite when it suits their wallets.
Oh the stories Joe could tell.
GONZO FOR ADRIAN . . . It is very lucky for the Boston Red Sox that they are able to staff the San Diego Padres with stooges who used to work for them in order to get Adrian Gonzalez at a cut-rate price.
However, the Red Sox allowed their team to collapse last season beyond a point where any one player can make much of a difference.
They still have holes that have to be addressed. Werth is off the market and Carl Crawford is very unlikely to play for an organization that booed its best Afro-American player (Jim Rice) unmercifully for the decade he played with the team.
Crawford is not a fool and he is also not happy with the way Red Sox fans treated him at Fenway Park and Tropicana Field. They yelled racial slurs at him from the bleachers. He knows just donning a Red Sox uniform will not change their views.
Why did the Celtic fans cheer Brian Scalabrine louder than for Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett? Hmmm!
They Red Sox also have issues now than Victor Martinez has decided to leave. They also have to address whether Jonathan Papelbon is their “fair-haired” boy after they so publicly courted Mariano Rivera.
Jacoby Ellsbury has to bounce back, Marco Scutaro has to prove he is not a stiff and they seem to be stuck with aging has-beens like David Ortiz and J.D. Drew. I am not convinced a starting staff that includes an ailing Josh Beckett, an overachieving John Lackey and an overrated Daisuke Matsuzaka is going anywhere.
There is always Tim Wakefield around to abuse in the bullpen or fill in as a starter.
Maybe the Padres can help by providing more talent. But, other than Gonzalez and free-agent closer Heath Bell, it appears the Padres have already tanked their hopes in 2011 in order to restock their pals in Boston.
Maybe the Padres should change their name to Pawtucket. It would be fitting.