There is an irony in the fate of the Yankees season falling into the hands of CC Sabathia tonight that warms the soul. It’s been that way for a decade now, and this year is no different.
Those days are gone. The days when Sabathia first came to the Yankees in the last ditch attempt by George Steinbrenner, whose health was failing, to win one more for the Gipper in 2009. Pile it on the Yankees did, adding Mark Teixeria and Sabathia as free agents to a team that already included Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, spending $800 million in contracts to these four players.
It paid off in the end, though, as CC Sabathia contributed 19 wins and 230 innings to the Yankees 27th and last World Championship.
A lot has changed since then, and no one has changed more than CC Sabathia, at least in the way he pitches a baseball. We’ll witness it tonight when Sabathia, a pitcher’s pitcher takes the mound dishing up his assortment of slurves, sliders, and changeups, while occasionally mixing in a 91mph well placed “fastball” that looks like 98 as an at-bat plays out.
CC Sabathia has learned over the years as his body can no longer do what it did with natural talent that pitching is all about the location of pitches. Moreover, Sabathia has learned that pitching is about getting outs, any which way you can. His strikeouts, when they come now, are usually due to “fooling” a batter or placing a pitch in the batters “out zone,” and not via the oohs and ahs of a 101 mph heater.
The one thing the Yankees can be sure of tonight, though, is that CC Sabathia’s head will not beat him. He may get taken for a couple of long ones when he misses his location by inches, but he will not beat himself.
The jury is still out on Luis Severino, as it should be, following another disastrous start in a post-season environment last night. But there is at least cause to ask the question if Severino is the “big guy” the Yankees need when all the money is in the center of the table.
It’s also telling that Aaron Boone could have come back with J.A. Happ on four days rest to pitch tonight’s game. Instead, he chose the War Horse, Sabathia, who let’s face it, was almost an afterthought by Brian Cashman when he was added to the Yankees staff as a free agent. And it wasn’t until the Toronto Blue Jays put an offer on the table that Sabathia almost took, that Cashman was forced to act.
Strangely, the same scenario is likely to take place again this offseason as CC Sabathia tests the free agent waters once more, seeking another (and final) year of pitching in the major leagues.
No one can predict the fate of Sabathia and the Yankees tonight as they seek to force a return to Fenway for the fifth and final game of this series. But I do know this…CC Sabathia will not falter under the lights. He knows already how he will want to pitch to each Boston hitter. The suspense will come only from his ability to execute those pitches, one by one, out by out.
CC Sabathia has thrown 1,810 innings in a Yankee uniform. None will be more important or fun to watch than the four or five he will throw tonight.
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