Full disclosure: I am a big CC Sabathia fan. I’ll forever remember his performance in 2009 in the regular season and the post season. Those two starts against the Angels in the A.L.C.S, the last on three days rest, were the exact reason the Yankees brought him in and paid him well more than any other team was even considering.
The fireball throwing, fist pumping, roaring southpaw quickly became one of my favorite Yankee imports. He’s not home grown but he seemed to embrace that Yankee quality that all fans admire: a dedication to win and a willingness to put everything on the line to do so.
That’s the only championship he has won thus far in his seven year Yankees tenure but he was still a dominant pitcher for five (2009 - 2013) of those years. According to Fangraphs, Sabathia was worth $147.1MM across those years (including a whopping $48.5MM in his 2013 opt out year) vs. the $115MM the Yankees paid him.
Then came 2013, the season when Sabathia’s career took a downturn. He still threw over 200 innings but with an ERA of 4.78. He got even worse in 2014 as he made only 14 starts in an injury plagued season and his velocity continued to dip under 90 mph.
In Spring Training this year, Sabathia answered questions about his velocity, about whether it would come back and, if it didn’t, whether he’d be able to pitch without it. Sabathia insisted that he was healthy and purposefully heavier, and it would all add up to a better season.
I, for one, wanted to believe him. I wanted to believe that the pitcher who had put this team on his back so often could have a bounce back season. A season worthy of a major league starter. I hoped that his pride, his talent and his team would find a way to make him successful again.
Instead, he is 3-7, with an ERA over 5. He has given up well over a hit per inning and has already given up 15+ HRs. Sabathia has time and again failed to rise to the occasion.
On Tuesday evening against the Phillies, easily the worst team in baseball so far this season, Sabathia lasted just 4.2 IP and gave up 6 ERs. It was a terrible start in the midst of an ongoing nightmare season for Sabathia.
I’d like to believe this is his low point. That CC will make it to the all-star break, take a breather, sit down with Larry Rothschild and somehow, some way figure out a way to be a decent pitcher. Not a number one, those days are long gone, but a number 3 or 4 would be nice. Right now he's not even a 5th starter.
It’s tough to watch him struggle and, right now, he’s not helping the team. In a few days, when the Yankees decide who to remove from the rotation upon Nova’s return, he might even be hurting them if they leave him in and remove Adam Warren.
It’s a tough call that Joe Girardi and the rest of the Yankees brain trust might have to make, but there’s one thing working for them. CC has a solid reputation of being a great teammate. Whatever choice they make, Sabathia will do what’s best for the team. He always has.