published Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

5 at 10: Money matters little for Cliff Lee and Gus Malzahn

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    An Oct. 18, 2010, file photo shows Texas Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee smiling after Game 3 of baseball's American League Championship Series, in New York. Lee reached a preliminary agreement on a $100 million, five-year contract with the Phillies on Monday night Dec. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

MONEY MATTERS LITTLE, PART I

Who saw that coming?

Cliff Lee, baseball's prize free agent spurned bigger, more lucrative offers from the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers and agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies late Monday night. The Phillies gave Lee a five-year, $120 million guaranteed offer that ranks as the third largest sum of guaranteed money given to a pitcher (C.C. Sabathia and Barry Zito are the two bigger guaranteed deals).

It's a stunning development that leaves the 5-at-10 with a couple of thoughts:

— The Phillies rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Lee and anyone else walking the planet is the best in baseball and probably the best since the mid-1990s Braves. Seriously, the Giants have the next best rotation in the NL and after ace Tim Lincecum, does any of their other pitchers crack that top four? Maybe Matt Cain.

— What has happened to the Yankees? It used to be that every winter some big-name star was headed to New York, tearing up at a news conference about a lifelong dream to play in pinstripes (and cashing a paycheck bigger than the GNP of Somalia). This year, all the big names are headed elsewhere — and elsewhere in the Northeast: Lee to Philly, Jayson Werth to Washington, Carl Crawford and Adrien Gonzales to Boston. Somebody get Yogi Berra on the phone, we need answers.

— The tie-breaker apparently for Lee was how much he and his family enjoyed the Phillies' clubhouse and the city of Philadelphia. So it goes, but every Braves fan I know has a sad face this morning and will have a sadder face come June when Atlanta is 12 games out and left fighting for three months for the wildcard.



MONEY MATTERS LITTLE, PART II

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn turned down Vandy on Monday, shunning a reported offer that included an annual salary of up to $3 million offer.

Malzahn, who made $500,000 this season leading the high-octane Auburn offense on his way to winning the Broyles Award as the national assistant of the year, received a handsome raise from the Tigers, getting a four-year extension at $1.3 million per.

Malzahn surely will not finish that four-year stretch in Auburn. His name has been among the hottest non-head coaches on the rumor mill this offseason and it figures to only get hotter. In fact, now that Will Muschamp has the Florida job, Malzahn may be the hottest name among coordinators out there.

Vandy made a swing for the fences, but it looks like the 'Dores fell short.



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    Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre speaks to the media after their NFL football game against the New York Giants at Ford Field in Detroit, Monday, Dec. 13, 2010. The Giants won 21-3. (AP)

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

The 5-at-10 crew can get a little sarcastic at times (notice we did not say funny, that's up to you loyal reader). And Brett Favre has come under that sarcastic swath a few times this year.

But a tip of the 5-at-10 hat to the old guy this morning after Favre had his consecutive starts streak end Monday at 297 — 321 including regular season games.

That's right more than 18 years of football and every time there was a game, No. 4 started his. It's pretty amazing.

Peyton Manning now has the longest active streak at just a little more than 200 in a row, but let's pause a moment for Favre's run, whih started in September 1992.

Quick highlights from that glorious time:

— The Toronto Blue Jays were on their way to the World Series. They beat the Phillies that year (something tells us that only one of those teams will have a shot this year).

— Tom Kite won the U.S. Open. That's golf folks, and youngsters, goggle Kite — he has some awesome glasses.

— "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men was the Billboard No. 1 song for the entire month of September. It eventually gave way to two classics for the rest of '92. "How Do You Talk to an Angel" by The Heights had a two-week run in November before Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" controlled the top spot from Nov. 29, 1992 to March 5, 1993.



WHAT A FINISH

Two things jumped out watching the Monday Nigh Football game last night.

First, the Texans have some serious offensive pieces. Andre Johnson is the game's best receiver. Matt Schaub (remember when he was the Falcons back-up) threw for 393 yards and three TDs — and had at least a half dozen passes dropped. Arian Foster leads the NFL in rushing. Yep, that Arian Foster — but rest easy Vols fans he still has a knack for fumbling in the red zone.

Second, it's hard to ignore the divide between the teams that know they're good and the teams that are trying to be good. Take the Ravens last night. They squandered a 28-7 second-half lead last night as Schaub and Co. stormed back to force overtime. But the Ravens defense delivered, returning an overtime interception for the game-winning score in a 34-28 thriller.

The Ravens were just going to win — you knew it, I knew it, the Ravens knew it and even the Texans knew it. They had two returns for scores and improved to 16-1 under John Harbaugh against teams with losing records.



QUARTERBACK CONNECTION

Schaub's interception in overtime aside, the guy can flat-out fling it. He delivered passes for the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion in the final 30 seconds last night.

His teammates called him superhuman and his performance was eye-popping against a talented Ravens defense.

But, consider Schaub just another branch of the very talented quarterback tree that sprouted under the Falcons' time with Michael Vick. Consider the following:

The Falcons trade up with San Diego for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in 2001 to take Vick. With the first pick in the second round, the Chargers draft the next quarterback taken in that draft, selecting Drew Brees. Heard of him? Schaub was a third-round pick by the Falcons in 2004, serving as Vick's backup before being traded to Houston. Vick's troubles forced him out of Atlanta and the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan in 2008.

Other than maybe Indy, New England and say San Diego, which teams would not deal for any of those four QBs?

Until this afternoon.

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