He’s tired. You know he is. He’s been pitching out of trouble this entire hypothetical contest. It’s hot and your clothes are sticking to you and your date just from watching him work. She clutches your arm because the situation seems dire and the game is American League East pivotal. In front of a nothing different Bronx crowd, the big fella mows down the last two batters on full count sliders to get out of a bases loaded jam and protect a 2-0 lead. The crowd cheers and tips their beer. He tips his hat. His work is done and that’s why he’s here…
He’s here to do just that. He’s here to get his 50th Yankee win in just his 85th start…tying Chien-Ming Wang as the fastest New York pitcher to do so in the last 30 years. The dominating victory ran his record to 10-4 and CC became the first Major League pitcher to hit double digits before Justin Verlander and Jair Jurrjens joined him just the same later yesterday.
Could it be that Carsten Charles Sabathia is actually unappreciated? When speaking the best in the game, is his name readily mentioned? You know…as Lincecum and Halladay fly off gushing announcer’s lips in late May when baseball gets into full swing and everything seems OK?
Check his wins. Check his innings pitched. Check his strikeouts. Check his walks allowed. It’s not how he starts but how he finishes. His will to win is unemotional at times because he knows it’s his responsibility as the Yankees ace to send the fans home happy but he’s done it before.
I said he was the next great pitcher electric when he was a Brewer carrying the entire franchise on every outing it seemed on short days rest. Yeah, when they needed him the most just to get into the playoffs when he went 11-2 for the Brew Crew after being traded from Cleveland. The fans loved him in Milwaukee despite common knowledge his stay was nothing more than temporary…because he got it done. The Cleveland Indians 20th pick in the 1998 draft has gotten it done many times. He seems to thrive when the ball is handed to him heavy under pressure to pitch a gem…a diamond on the diamond when fans are rocking back and forth, biting finger nails and blood pressure is rising.
It’s expected in New York and while the Yankees are loved by their fans, hatred of the Boogie Down is pronounced. Those seeking to diminish CC’s career will say he gets run support or the Yankees payroll is stratospheric or New York is the league’s darling…but remember…he’s done the same thing for franchises not exactly known for post season baseball. Seems absurd to belabor the point but he took Cleveland to the playoffs and did the same in Milwaukee.
Last season he was 21-7…the only American hurler to win 20 games with a 3.18 earned run average…in 237 innings and allowed just 74 walks and he came in third (David Price 2nd) to Felix Hernandez in Cy Young voting. Felix Hernandez had an incredible season but his record was 13-12 with a 2.27 era and 70 walks. He basically won the Cy Young for doing what CC did in the past…which is show and prove for a team that needs him to keep the entire franchise above water.
This is no knock on King Felix but taking a team with a tattered rotation to the playoffs in Gotham City is a lot more difficult than winning 13 games for a team in the great northwest. No disrespect to Seattle and their fans but a championship legacy is something they just don’t have so there’s a minimal amount of pressure. Yes Felix had to perform so don’t get this misconstrued but that we haven’t seen anything similar before and that it came virtually at CC’s expense is telling. Did CC not win because of his demeanor? Was it because of his race (I hope not)? Was it because he’s 6’7″ 300 pounds and he hit the jackpot so the money is enough? We’ll never know. What we do know is CC didn’t gripe. His personality doesn’t allow it. He’s a bear. His cap is tipped to the right as if he’s Bumpin’ Wes Montgomery in quiet responsible measure. He lets his game do the talking and while he’s not perfect he just gets it done.
Sabathia is the Dave Stewart of his era…where “Smoke” shook lineups with a stare and unmeasured heat…CC does it with his battleship frame launching cruise missiles at some of the game’s most feared batters to the tune of 93 strikeouts against only 30 walks this season. Sabathia is the rock of a Yankees rotation seemingly changing season after season with Sabathia being the one constant.
In 11 seasons he’s 167 and 92. He has an outside chance at winning 300 games and possibly becoming one of the last to achieve the victory landmark in this age of stretched rotations with long and short relief specialists. Will he add a couple of rings to Yankee lore? How about a couple more awards to go along with his 2007 Cy Young and 2009 ALCS MVP? What if he goes 22 and 8 this season and the Yankees don’t win the championship? Does he win his 2nd Cy Young? If he does hit the 300 mark will the accomplishment be diminished because he did so with a payroll the size of 5 boroughs as his wind? I hope that’s not the case. CC is one of the best people in sports and in an era where athletes are slammed for their greed, the only greed in CC’s life is making sure he does everything in his power to give back any way possible.
Sabathia is a jewel in the crown of the Yankees 27th World Championship…where others have questioned his everything from his weight to his cocked hat…he is royalty in the Bronx. Win or lose Sabathia is theirs.
He’s about the game and he’s about charity so instead of falling in hate for players who make mistakes, focus the attention on one of the good guys and watch as his career shines.