2010 MLB PLAYOFFS;ALCS BEAT;Lee to Yankees scary thought

ARLINGTON, Texas – The most feared player in the AL Championship

Series isn’t MVP candidate Josh Hamilton. It isn’t future Hall of

Famer and certified Yankees icon Derek Jeter. It isn’t Greatest

Closer of All Time Mariano Rivera. Nor is it Alex Rodriguez,

Robinson Cano or CC Sabathia. It’s Cliff Lee.

The indomitable left-hander is really the only reason anyone’s

giving the Rangers a chance in the ALCS. Just get to Game 7, and

let Lee do his thing.

Whatever happens, now probably would be a good time for Red

Sox fans to frown. Because this

probably isn’t the last Yankees series Lee will impact.

The impending free agent will be the highest sought commodity on

the market this offseason, and there’s little debate where he’ll

land.

It’s pretty much the way of the world that when the Yankees want

a big-name free agent, they get him.

There’s no reason to think Lee will be any different, probably

for a contract of at least $100 million. And that will make things

very difficult on the Red

Sox.

Last winter, the

Sox realized they wouldn’t sign

outfielders Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, so they pounced on

right-hander John Lackey for five years and $82.5 million.

The team preferred shorter-term contracts, but at least Lackey

had the track record to justify such an expenditure. The Red

Sox also liked the idea of adding

one of the two marquee starters that projected to be on the market

in 2010 or ’11.

The other, of course, was Lee. One now must wonder if the

Sox would have been better served

earmarking the money they spent on Lackey toward a big offer to

Lee, the former Cy Young Award-winning left-hander who has proven

fearless in big games.

Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, since they always knew the

Yankees would be lurking.

Lee understandably wasn’t keen on discussing his future

yesterday.

”I don’t really get caught up in that, to be honest with you,”

he said. ”I’m a Texas Ranger right now, and we’re in a good

position and we’re going to try to win a World Series ring. That’s

where my focus is. I’m not worried at all about what’s going to

happen in the offseason or any of that. That’s not consuming any of

my thoughts.”

It will be shortly, particularly if the Yankees end the series

before Game 7. Then they’ll be able to employ the fullcourt press,

and once the Yanks are seriously involved, it’s hard to say no.

Red

Sox fans need no reminder of Mark

Teixeira’s free agent experience. The

Sox thought they had him in December

2008, only to watch the Yankees descend with an eight-year, $180

million offer.

”It was the chance to win every year. Simple as that,”

Teixeira said yesterday. ”Greatest franchise in sports history. I

hate losing. I absolutely hate it, with a passion. So when you’re

with the Yankees, you have a chance to win every single year.”

Teixeira wasn’t done gushing.

”It has everything,” he said of New York. ”It’s the center of

the earth. It’s the center of the baseball world, the greatest

stadium in baseball, the greatest fans, New York City . . . you

can’t say enough about it. As long as the contract is acceptable,

it’s really hard to turn them down.

”It was a very tough decision for me, but putting on those

pinstripes every day is special. I wish every major leaguer had

just one day to put on the pinstripes to see what it feels like. To

hear that roll call in the starting lineup at Yankee Stadium is

pretty special.”

Cliff Lee may soon find out just how special. And the separation

between the Yankees and Red

Sox may get a bit wider.