BASEBALL NOTES;Sox should take a left-hand turn

Cliff Lee has been traded twice during the past two seasons, and

this winter the 32-year-old left-hander will be the most highly

sought-after free agent pitcher.

Now that trading away young talent has been taken out of the

equation, shouldn’t the Red

Sox be all-in on Lee?

The prevailing wisdom around baseball is that the Yankees will

do whatever it takes to haul in Lee, and that if there is any

competition on the horizon, it will come from Lee’s latest home,

the Texas Rangers. That makes a lot of sense and, in the end, is

the likely outcome. Still, isn’t the time ripe for some creative,

outside-the-box thinking from the Red

Sox when it comes to improving

themselves by signing Lee?

Given the

Sox’ relatively flush position with

starters – 26-year-old stars Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz plus

underachieving righties John Lackey and Josh Beckett all are locked

up through the 2014 season – you can see why they likely will speak

with Lee and leave it at that. That will leave it to the Yankees or

Rangers to sign him to some mammoth, CC Sabathia-like deal.

After all, the Red

Sox badly need an outfielder, and

they surely will be happy just to sign either Carl Crawford or

Jayson Werth to a hefty deal, then add a corner infielder and a

reliever.

That’s the safe way of looking at it. But even though it will

cost them a lot of money – and no young prospects, remember –

stealing a page from the Yankees’ playbook and going hard after Lee

makes a lot of sense for the

Sox.

After the 2008 season, the Red

Sox’ courtship of Sabathia virtually

was a formality since they were well aware the Yankees would beat

any amount they offered. That hard truth was softened by their

backup plan to lock up first baseman Mark Teixeira later that

offseason. Of course, the Yankees paid obscene money to get the

trio of Sabathia, Teixeira and A.J. Burnett, and the

Sox have been trying to find a

substitute for Teixeira ever since.

Before the Yankees’ interest in Teixeira was unveiled – this was

a big surprise to the Red

Sox, if you recall – there was not

a crying need at that position, with Nick Swisher already on the

roster.

Look how that turned out for the Yankees.

Wouldn’t an out-of-left field move on Lee, combined with

Crawford or Werth, be a tremendous play for the Red

Sox? The splash would be enormous,

but the impact of Lee on the

Sox rotation would be even bigger.

The Red

Sox have an understandable aversion

to entering bidding wars with the Yankees, but some wars are worth

fighting. Even though the Red

Sox probably are not up for this

fight, the prospect of seeing Sabathia, Teixeira and Lee in six

series every summer for the next couple of years might lead to a

compulsive yearning to reach for the gunpowder.

It’s a money thing

For those people brushing off John Henry’s purchase of Liverpool

FC as having nothing to do with the Red

Sox, think again. This was far more

than a trivial pursuit by a wealthy owner to land another bauble

for the expanding New England Sports Venture conglomerate.

Although it appears as if the Red

Sox are insulated from the globe’s

economic strife, Henry does not need to look only at the declining

NESN ratings from this past season to understand that business

bubbles burst and markets soften. Henry knows a thing or two about

trends, and his move for Liverpool, combined with previous moves

for Roush Fenway Racing and the Fenway Sports Group, can be viewed

as a sound diversification strategy that your favorite financial

adviser would push for your own portfolio.

”It’s sports, but it’s a business, and this is business

diversification,” said Maury Brown, president of

Bizofbaseball.com. ”If it’s run correctly and collaterized

properly and doesn’t go into debt, it buffers them in case Red

Sox revenues should fall.”

Besides the insurance aspect of the move, the potential to

increase the Red

Sox brand globally certainly is

another dividend. But there is another way the move can help, not

hurt, the Red

Sox.

Liverpool FC has enough financial difficulties of its own that

will demand a great deal of attention from whatever new management

team Henry brings in, but there always is the potential to plow

increased NESV revenues back into the Red

Sox. That money likely would not be

for payroll purposes, since the team would run up against the

luxury tax, but there is nothing preventing the

Sox from using non-baseball

revenues on other areas, such as international signing bonuses,

scouting budgets, international academies and draft bonuses.

The move is significant, and it is telling that team president

and CEO Larry Lucchino sent out word in a press release that it

”will not divert our resources or focus on the job at hand –

winning a third World Series for the loyal members of Red

Sox Nation.”

The plan by Henry and Tom Werner is not ordinary at all. The

other 29 teams are free to employ as much non-baseball revenues as

their ownership group wants to use. Some owners use profits from

their own independent businesses to support their team, other

owners rely, to an excessive extent at times, on MLB’s

revenue-sharing plan to turn a profit.

”The other 29 teams are not reacting in so many directions” as

the Red

Sox are, Brown said. ”This is

different, and it is a matter of opportunity because of Liverpool’s

state.”

NESV’s opportunity is a golden one, and the Red

Sox stand to gain from it.

Going Gonzo?

Another path for self-improvement the Red

Sox might take this winter will be

to re-engage the Padres in trade talks for Adrian Gonzalez. The

Padres are expected to listen, but with Gonzalez making just $5.5

million next season and the Padres’ successful 2010 season leading

them to believe they could only make themselves weaker without him,

the pricetag in terms of talent would be enormous.

How big? For example, one executive said a package of outfielder

Jacoby Ellsbury, infielder Jed Lowrie and first base prospect

Anthony Rizzo would not be enough. Would the Red

Sox even consider such a deal in

the first place? Assuming they would and it would not be

sufficient, the names of starter Casey Kelly or shortstop Jose

Iglesias will start to get mentioned.

That is when the Red

Sox are expected to say ”pass,”

but having both Kelly and Iglesias in the Arizona Fall League right

now only gives the Red

Sox and Padres more food for

thought.

Bombers a good bet

The folks at RationalPastime.com have been running postseason

odds. Using computer simulation techniques, they gave the Yankees,

then the Phillies, the greatest chances of winning the World

Series. This was before the respective LCS began, but the Yankees

were given a 58.3 percent chance to beat the Rangers, with the

Phillies given a 54.4 percent shot to beat the Giants.

Overall, before the LCS began, the Yankees had a 33.8 percent

chance to win it all, the Phillies were at 25.8 percent and the

Giants and Rangers were basically tied at 20.2 and 20.1 percent,

respectively.

– msilverman@bostonherald.com

GRAPHIC: GENERAL LEE

The Yankees have good reason to be concerned about facing

Rangers starter Cliff Lee tomorrow night in Game 3 of the American

League Championsip Series. Lee is more than merely good. He’s been

great in his first seven career postseason starts, and two of his

six postseason wins came against the Yankees in last year’s World

Series.

Here’s a look ar how his first seven postseason starts stack up

against the first seven of a few other starters renowned for the

postseason performance:

W-L ERA IP K BB WHIP CG SHO

Cliff Lee 6-0 1.44 56-1/3 54 6 0.781 3 0

Bob Gibson 6-1 1.71 63 74 14 0.888 6 2

Sandy Koufax 4-3 0.95 57 61 11 0.825 4 2

Curt Schilling 4-1 1.70 58-1/3 58 14 0.874 4 2

Christy Matthewson 4-2 0.83 65 35 3 0.785 6 3

John Smoltz 4-0 1.98 50 45 14 1.100 1 1

Nolan Ryan 4-3 2.82 44-2/3 46 13 0.963 1 0

Whitey Ford 4-2 2.96 45-2/3 32 13 1.226 2 0

Catfish Hunter 4-3 2.89 46-2/3 31 16 1.114 1 0

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

COMPILED BY MICHAEL SILVERMAN

STAFF GRAPHIC