CC Sabathia Acts As The Pace Car – Now It’s Up To The Team To Follow

CC Sabathia - Grit And Determination (Photo: USA Today)

CC Sabathia, returning from the IL, mustered up five innings of no-run ball, awakening his teammates to respond from their woe is me attitude…

CC Sabathia comes out of the woodwork to pitch (the operative word) five innings of one-hit no-run ball, leading to a Yankees victory, using Small Ball, to gain a victory over what should be the hapless Chicago White Sox on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Fifteen outs, two times through the batting order, with four days “rest” in between starts, what is so hard about that for an athlete making upwards of $20 million per season? It depends on who you ask.

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CC Sabathia has been in this game for almost two decades, leading all active pitchers in complete games with 38, and over the years he has transformed himself at least once from the hard-throwing strike-’em-out thrower to what we now call a “crafty” left-handed artist.

Sabathia doesn’t give in, and if a pitch isn’t working one day, he goes to the next, and if necessary to another until he finds the recipe enabling him to record a minimum of fifteen outs in any of his starts.

The Yankees sealed a victory on Saturday afternoon against the White Sox to back up CC Sabathia’s effort. A sac fly by Luke Voit and a squeeze bunt by Tyler Wade sealed the win. But it was the initial effort by Sabathia, back up by Domingo German for two innings, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman for one clean inning each that secured the victory.

CC Sabathia – Difference Maker And Team Leader

Sabathia’s performance on Saturday seemed to change the entire tenor or the team. More relaxed, players delivered in the way they are supposed to when called upon. Much maligned Zack Britton tosses a scoreless eighth, Chapman eclipses 100 MPH just like the old days, and JA Happ, who’s having a very forgetful season to date, gets into the spirit turning into a reporter during CC’s post-game press conference (video).

It’s only one game for the Yankees and one start for CC Sabathia, but it’s the backdrop for what could be the “turnaround” Aaron Boone has relentlessly been trying to sell.

CC Sabathia has what the rest of the staff (excepting Tanaka) is lacking – it’s best described perhaps as a fierce determination to out-think his opponent. Whatever is working on a given day becomes Sabathia’s go-to pitch. Everything else is show-me pitches to the batter. It’s called pitching.

The Power To Alter The Tone Of A Team

Nineteen years and CC Sabathia still gets no respect. He’s too old, he’s too fat, he doesn’t throw hard enough, he’s a five-inning pitcher – you name it – Sabathia isn’t what a major league pitcher should be or look like.

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But inside the Yankees clubhouse, his teammates tell a different story, and one that hopefully will stick six years from now when Sabathia’s name appears for the first time on the Hall Of Fame ballot.

Aaron Judge explains:

“For CC to do what he did and how he has impacted communities around the U.S. and how he has impacted New York and impacted so many people, I think he has always had that chip on his shoulder that, ‘Hey, people are still doubting me, I am going to go out there and prove them wrong.’ Especially now. “Now that he is in his last year, people are still doubting him. Kind of like ‘Oh, this guy, he probably doesn’t have anything left.’ And he’s like, ‘You know what, I’m going to show you what I have left.’ “That’s what I see from afar.’’Kevin Kernan, New York Post

Sabathia adds leverage to his leadership by keeping himself toned down and on the fringes of the team. He leads, not as a rah-rah, let’s win this one for the Gipper, cheerleader. Instead, he leads by example, and more significantly, by his performance on the field when the chips are down.

CC Sabathia: A Family Portrait Photo Credit:
CC Sabathia: A Family Portrait Photo Credit:

To wit, CC Sabathia has become the Yankees stopper, going 14-1 with a 2.81 ERA since the start of 2017 after a Yankees loss. This has proved especially true when the team reaches the playoffs  – and they reach for Sabathia.

Over the winter, one of my columns written during Sabathia’s bout with a heart ailment suggested he should retire, taking his ball home to be with his family while the getting’s good. How wrong, I was.

My mistake was that the career of CC Sabathia goes far beyond the 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts he’ll have before the season closes. Sabathia reminded me and others, though, putting a stamp on the fact that it’s all about character, desire, and winning…

Footnote: Not today, though as the Yankees bats were stymied by White Sox pitching as the Bombers use six pitchers in a 5-2 loss, losing yet another series at home. James Paxton and JA Happ – you’re up!

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.

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