Hey, New York, what's happened to us?
First, the Knicks tank two entire seasons on the assumption that LeBron James will sign with them if they clear enough cap room, then watch him decide to take his talents to South Beach.
Now, Cliff Lee turns down millions of Yankees dollars to take his own considerable talents to grungy, grimy, second-rate Philadelphia.
And while it might seem easy to write that decision off to the whims of an Arkansas bumpkin, the fallout is actually kind of startling. If you're the Yankees, Lee's decision leaves you without a Plan B. There's no other front-line starter on the market, Carl Crawford signed with the Red Sox and Brian Cashman is sitting around with a big bag of money and nobody who warrants it.
But if you're part of the significant sector of the New York fan population that doesn't mind seeing the Yankees get hosed, this is still a worrisome development.
Since when does it make sense for anybody -- a free-agent pitcher, an investment banker, a sportswriter or a garbage man -- to turn down New York for Philadelphia?
Hey, I know the Phillies have won their division four years in a row, been to the World Series twice in the past three years. I know Lee's pitched there and has people on the team and in the town that he likes. I know his wife got spat on during a playoff game at Yankee Stadium, and I know it can be tough for a guy to sign with a team he's spent good chunks of the past two postseasons trying his hardest to beat.
I am not, nor have I ever been, a Yankees fan, and I can certainly understand what grounds a person might have to detest them.
But if the Yankees were offering $161 million for seven years, or even $142 million for six, and Lee instead took $120 for five from the Phillies, this isn't just a life decision. It's a big left middle finger in the face of the Yankees and New York City.
LeBron was one thing. He wanted to go play with his buddies. The Knicks hadn't exactly established a pattern of winning, or even competence, during LeBron's lifetime. He wanted to go to soulless Miami and play in front of New York transplants, so be it. That one was on the Knicks for foolishly assuming he'd swoon for them as they'd been swooning for him.
But this Cliff Lee thing, this one hurts. This one makes you wonder if our city, which we all know to be the world's greatest, is slipping a little in the reputation department. If glitz, glamour, money and the promise of World Series glory on the biggest stage isn't enough to lure the game's best free agents to New York, it makes you think something's changed somewhere along the line.
Cliff Lee in pinstripes was one of this baseball offseason's foregone conclusions. It didn't happen. Instead, he's in Phila-freaking-delphia. If you're a New Yorker, you don't have to be a Yankees fan to feel like that's somehow very, very wrong.