Cliff Lee throws a pitch during simulated game in a...

Cliff Lee throws a pitch during simulated game in a spring training workout. (Mar. 5, 2010) Credit: AP

Mark Teixeira, determined to explore free agency, found himself traded twice - from the Rangers to the Braves and then the Braves to the Angels - as he approached his big payday. Now, could Cliff Lee top Teixeira's legacy as a rent-a-star?

The lefthander went from the Indians to the Phillies last July and from the Phillies to the Mariners in December. The Mariners hope to be in contention with Lee this season. But if they're not . . .

"Any general manager has to consider all options," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said Friday in a telephone interview. "When you make any move, you think about the best-case scenario and how that could help us. And you think about the worst-case scenario and what our options will be."

Zduriencik stressed, "I don't think we'll go down that road" of trading Lee. But there is that worst-case scenario. We think the Mariners, even though they're on the right track, could struggle this season.

Would the Yankees make an in-season play for Lee if their starting rotation falters? Perhaps, but keep in mind that the Yankees have passed on trades for Johan Santana, CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay because they didn't want to pay the high price in prospects and then pay those pitchers like free agents. In Sabathia's case, the Yankees simply waited for the lefty to enter free agency.

Lee, meanwhile, is on the disabled list with an abdominal injury. He hopes to be activated in early May - more than enough time to help the Mariners' playoff hopes or build up his trade value.

 

The break-up

The Mets acquired Gary Carter from the Expos on Dec. 10, 1984, and "within a day or so," Manhattan resident John Hogan recalled, he purchased Mets season tickets for the first time. This past offseason, after 25 years of loyalty, Hogan declined to renew those tickets.

Hogan's story, however, speaks only somewhat to the struggles of the 2009 Mets. It also reflects the growing pains that fans and teams experience when they change ballparks.

In 1986, Hogan said, he paid $8 a ticket at Shea Stadium. By last year, at Citi Field, his tickets averaged $75. He didn't want to attend every single game, so he had to find takers.

"I wound up becoming a ticket agent," Hogan said in a telephone interview. "I'm sitting here trying to sell the tickets, making sure the tickets go. It just didn't make any sense."

Furthermore, when the Mets moved, Hogan's seats moved back. "We used to get foul balls often," he said. "I could probably name six or eight guys who got the first foul balls in their life in my seats. I didn't go to as many games last year, but nothing came near us.

"That's not a big thing for a lot of people, but it was a big thing for me. When you have a chance to get a ball, you stay alert and in the game."

 

Around the leagues

Umpire Joe West should be fined heavily by Major League Baseball, and that fine should be announced, for his asinine comments to The Bergen Record about the pace of the games between the Yankees and Red Sox. If only monitoring the Yankees' and Red Sox's patience at the plate was the game's biggest problem.

The Red Sox complained about playing host to the Sunday night opener against the Yankees, a person in the loop said. Boston officials expressed concern about the cold weather and the field's readiness. Thanks to the unseasonable warmth, those concerns proved unnecessary.