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Rangers CEO: We helped Phillies get Cliff Lee

CLEARING MY HEAD, cluttering yours . . . Next time you're venting about how much you hate Dallas, or Texas, or Dallas, Texas, you might want to reconsider.

Cliff Lee's return to Philadelphia was engineered in part by the Texas Rangers. (Laurence Kesterson/Staff file photo)
Cliff Lee's return to Philadelphia was engineered in part by the Texas Rangers. (Laurence Kesterson/Staff file photo)Read more

CLEARING MY HEAD, cluttering yours . . .

Next time you're venting about how much you hate Dallas, or Texas, or Dallas, Texas, you might want to reconsider.

Because Cliff Lee might be a Yankee without the help of some people down there.

That's what Chuck Greenberg, the Texas Rangers' CEO and managing general partner, said during a Fan Fest in Arlington on Sunday.

"We had three different meetings with Cliff and his wife and his agent in Little Rock," he told fans assembled at the Arlington Convention Center, adding that by stretching out the process Texas gave the Phillies a chance to enter the auction.

"Even though Philadelphia was probably not in, they were always in the back of our mind," Greenberg said. "I think if we wouldn't have gone to Arkansas that last time, I think he was going to sign with the Yankees. We pried the door open a little bit to give ourselves another opportunity. And ultimately the Phillies were able to take advantage of that opportunity that we created."

The Rangers applied the stall on Dec. 9, after the Yankees added a seventh year to their 6-year, $140 million offer, and after free- agent outfielder Carl Crawford signed a 6-year, $142 million deal to move from Tampa Bay to Boston. The Rangers presented Lee with several creative offers, none of which contained a seventh year.

That Lee would even listen to such talk offered faint hope that he would bypass guaranteed money in favor of guaranteed bliss. And in the end, that's what he did. But Lee's willingness to listen to Texas also initiated the Phillies' last-minute entrance into the mix, which initiated a weekend of financial wrangling, the Phillies gradually bumping up the years from 3 to 4 to 5, then offering an option for a sixth.

In the end, Lee's rental run to the World Series here trumped the rental run he made with the Rangers last season, Greenberg said.

"We didn't know specifically that Philadelphia was in on Cliff until the day he agreed to terms with Philadelphia," said the Texas CEO. "But all along we thought if a mystery team would come forward that there was a pretty good chance that it would be Philadelphia . . . At the very first meeting he spoke very highly of the experience he had pitching for the Phillies. And it was clear that pitching here and in Philadelphia were the two most enjoyable experiences of his career."

Seattle? Not so much. And he apparently wasn't convinced New York would have been either.

That, said Greenberg, was the silver lining. "While we would have preferred that he would have chosen to go with us, we're real pleased that he's going to the other league."

Some things I would change about the sports I cover . . .

* Hockey: Awarding a penalty shot should not eliminate a power-play opportunity. Yes, the NHL success average for penalty shots is about twice that of a power play, but a penalty kill saps energy far more.

How about a 1-minute power play if the penalty shot is not converted? Or, at the least, give a team the option to take the shot, or a 2-minute power play that does not expire if the aggrieved team scores.

* Basketball: The NBA recognizes that it needs a deeper three-point line than the one used in high school. But the court dimensions are the same.

Ignoring momentarily the obvious - that a wider, longer court would eliminate seats and revenue - wouldn't the NBA play out better on a bigger stage? More slashes to the basket perhaps, more strategy.

* Baseball: Limit catchers to two trips to the mound per inning. A third requires a pitching change. Baseball gave lip service to this after Jorge Posada used repeated strolls during the 2009 World Series as a strategy to squelch momentum. There's just no good reason for it, and it's torture to endure as a fan.

* Football (and this applies to hockey as well): Lose the plastic. Limit the weight at which offensive and defensive lineman can play. Weight is limited in boxing matches for a reason. And no one calls boxers wussies.

Troy Aikman told HBO's "Real Sports" that if he had a son, he's not sure he'd let him play football, "in light of what we are learning from head injury."

Aikman also suggested that the NFL's approach is akin to trying "to be half-pregnant," that, "They want to have the violence that is attractive to a lot of fans, but they don't want anybody to get hurt doing it."

Aikman went on to advocate the return of leather helmets.

"I think a defensive player would be much less inclined to lead with his head if he had no protection," he said.

HBO's Bryant Gumbel suggested to Aikman that maybe eliminating face masks also would eliminate some of the head-to-head recklessness and Aikman said, "I agree."

Both sound drastic. But if the rest of their body is not coated in hard plastic armor, it may be enough to put the fear of God in them. *

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