There is only one person that can keep Cliff Lee as a member of the Texas Rangers. That is the team President and former pitcher, Nolan Ryan.

The Texas Rangers are in a position to (and certainly will) make Lee an attractive offer. But they aren’t in a position to outbid the high budget Yankees. So if it’s just a matter of current money, Lee heads Northeast (if not to New York, then to say, Boston or Philadelphia).

But there is one consideration where Texas can trump the other teams. That is what I call “A.B.,” or After Baseball.

Too many baseball, and sports players generally, take their golden years of stardom for granted, and don’t give much thought to what their careers, or lives, will be like, after they’ve left the sport.

After Ryan stopped pitching, he became an owner of minor league feeder teams (to the Houston Astros), then an Assistant General Manager, before becoming the President of the Texas Rangers. So baseball has remained a part of his life, except in managerial, rather than player, roles. “Management” is an option for Lee as well. 

So Ryan is uniquely positioned to make Lee the following long-term offer: “Wouldn’t you like to be me someday after I retire?”

It would, of course, require that Lee play several years for the Rangers, hopefully leading them to more World Series, including a victory. But Texas now has the stuff to be a contender without Lee, and could be a winner with Lee (e.g., if Lee had won his two games, allowing Colby Lewis a shot in Game 7).

The New York Yankees are a family organization, which is to say that unless you are one of two brothers named Steinbrenner, “team president” isn’t likely to be in your future. On a team of stars, even a “homegrown” Yankee might have trouble making his mark, “A.B.,” never mind an outsider. Derek Jeter is reportedly getting antsy over his future role, which would involve transitioning OFF the team.

On the other hand, the Texas Rangers is a new team, one that “transplants” well. (Nolan Ryan was such as transplant.) As an Arkansan and a fellow southerner, Lee would be a natural transplant.

At age 32, Cliff Lee is at a crossroads, with an enviable set of choices. Hopefully for him, and for Texas, an appeal will be made to his long—and not just short-term interests, and that he heeds that appeal.

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