By Sweeny Murti
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The waiting is the hardest part.

Tom Petty, Brian Cashman, Nolan Ryan, or all of the above. Why is Cliff Lee taking so long to decide which bazillion dollar offer he will accept? Probably because he can.

The biggest problem facing the Yankees here is not about proximity to Arkansas or state income tax. The problem is that there is not a suitable alternative. After Cliff Lee, the Yankee choices don’t come close to measuring up to Lee himself.

Zack Grienke is available, but beyond the haul in prospects it would take to get Grienke from Kansas City, there are legitimate questions about the 2009 Cy Young Award winner’s ability to pitch in New York. The guy hates media attention so much he would not pose for a Sports Illustrated cover shot in ’09 and later that year had to be convinced by a team official to hold a press conference after winning the Cy Young. You want this guy in New York? And never mind that he’s never even pitched for a team that won more than 75 games, let alone in the postseason. Grienke is not the must-have ace the Yankees crave.

The other top pitchers in the game are not moving—Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Jon Lester, David Price, Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander…the Yankees aren’t getting any of these guys.

For Pete’s sake, the second best free agent pitcher available is Carl Pavano!!

One executive mentioned to me last week that Mark Buehrle might be available from the White Sox or perhaps a Matt Garza or James Shields, although a three-way deal would probably be needed to pull those guys away from division rival Tampa Bay. Still, all this really emphasizes is that in this winter’s chase for pitching there are only two categories: Cliff Lee and Not Cliff Lee.

From Lee’s perspective, you’re talking about taking time to choose your new baseball home after barely unpacking your bags the last two seasons. At the All-Star break in 2009 Cliff Lee was a Cleveland Indian. By the All-Star break in 2010 Lee was a Texas Ranger, with stops in Philadelphia and Seattle in between. He has the right to choose carefully.

But when you sign a six or seven year contract, don’t you have to think a little bit about where the team you sign with is headed? You have to pretty sure the Yankees are going to field contending teams every year, but no such guarantee for the Rangers who just made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. And if you’re going to take up a big chunk of the payroll, a long commitment to playing in Texas might not work out as well you hoped. Just ask Alex Rodriguez.

And we all assume that being close to home is a big pull for Lee. We can all understand that, can’t we? Of course we can. But here’s what I don’t get. The drive from Arlington to Little Rock is five hours. Five hours in a car. That’s comfortable?! I would think a private jet can get him home easily from New York in about 3 hours, no? Andy Pettitte manages to find his way home to Texas a few times each year. Maybe they can share a flight and slow down long enough for Lee to parachute out.

Andy Pettitte….hmmm, whatever happened to that guy? We’ll tackle that another time.

And remember, as the weather turns frigid this week in New York, there are only two months until pitchers and catchers. If only we knew which pitchers were throwing to which catchers. The waiting really is the hardest part.

Sweeny Murti

pixy Sweeny Says: The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

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