The scheduled column for this morning, the second part of “Where the Wild Cards Are,” will have to be delayed owing to the astounding news that came over the radio yesterday afternoon. Let me say for starters, I have been a Yankee fan since 1974 and no matter how sad they’ve been the last few years I wanted the Yankees to win. Some 30 hours before the Yankees were to play the Astros in the American League wild card playoff game, the biggest physical presence, if not the most important part of their badly used starting rotation checked himself into alcohol rehab.
His given name is Carsten Charles Sabathia JR., a 35-year-old lefty from Vallejo, California. He prefers CC, not the more customary C. C. as he told the Milwaukee media when he was sent there in 2008. The Indians took him in the first round of the 1998 draft. Had they not done this, he meant to play at University of Hawaii. From the very beginning in Cleveland, he was a vast presence on the mound. On the Jim Rome syndicated radio show, Rome’s listeners who he has dubbed “clones,” came up with food-related words for the initials CC. They leaned heavily toward sweets-chocolate cake, carrot cake, Captain Crunch, and such things. I thought I would branch out a bit, so I dubbed him Commander Calzone, for the overstuffed Italian delight with ricotta, mozzarella and whatever meats and veggies you wish to add. Its unmanageable size can be daunting to all but the best appetites, as his bulk on the hill and his blazing fast ball daunted American League hitters. Now, it appears Canadian Club would be a more appropriate sobriquet or alias for CC, especially since a fight at a Canadian club in Toronto seems to be the final act which led to this move.
Any Yankee fan could tell you Sabathia’s returns have diminished steadily over the last few years. His only Cy Young award was in 2007 when he was still toiling in obscurity in Cleveland. The only World Championship he guided the Yankees to after signing a monster contract was back in 2009. He last led the league in wins in 2010. He was last an All-Star in 2012. Injuries had begun to take their toll as early as 2010. Following that season he needed surgery on his right knee. Two years later, after the 2012 ALCS loss to the Tigers he had surgery on his left elbow. hSince then, is velocity has never approached what it was before that. In 2013 his ERA was 4.78, a career high and a strained hamstring ended his season early. Last season he didn’t last beyond May 11 with a knee injury.
Starting last December, odd things began to happen involving Sabathia, a couple of which only surfaced after it was announced he was heading for rehab. In December, he was ordered to leave a flight from New York to Jamaica. When the big man wouldn’t comply the police were summoned, which left him little choice but to get off. The airlines want more than anything to get from here to there on time. They won’t order a passenger off the plane for dissing a flight attendant or any such minor annoyance. This past June, CC was ejected from a game for an argument with umpire Dan Bellino-an unprecedented event in his 15 years in the big leagues. Then in August came the skirmish north of the border. What they sell up there is even better than the Canadian stuff available in this country. I nearly got into it with a bouncer in a Winnipeg bar when he wouldn’t allow my Seeing Eye dog and I to enter. Instead of trying anything dumb, I just took my Seeing Eye dog’s harness and left for a friendlier place down the street. That wasn’t the road traveled by CC.
The problem I have isn’t that he went into rehab. Josh Hamilton has been there and back again several times and is still playing baseball. My problem is his timing. The playoffs start at 8 PM this evening, and I fear the Yankees’ part in them will be over by Midnight. It’s not like Sabathia would have had to wait long to go to rehab and still be there for his team. The rehab place will still be there Wednesday, or next week if the Yanks win later tonight, or next month if they win the World Series. Now his team is shorthanded and I’m one fan who feels betrayed. If he had damaged his arm or knee, that happens. This was an elective move which means he won’t be available when he could have been of some help. The Yankees’ pitching is a shambles even with him. Tonight’s starter Masahiro Tanaka might throw one pitch and lose his elbow ligament for all any of us knows. He’s barely been able to survive the season and has taken at least one lengthy stint on the DL. Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova have been ineffective of late. In fact Nova probably would have been excluded from the roster before the word about sabathia came down. Nate Eovaldi has been hurt for weeks and may or may not play at all in the postseason. Chasen Shreve, so good early on has been dreadful in September and will see the wild card game on TV. Bottom line, without being forced to do so Sabathia has left his team in the lurch.
My other issue is bound to upset some people. It has done so when I mentioned it on Facebook. I don’t see alcoholism as a disease, any more than I see my being overweight as a disease. When this year began, I weighed 250 pounds. I only stand five-eight. At that height, that’s too much weight to lug around. But I never claimed it was a disease. I have both asthma and diabetes-now those are diseases. Since I injured my back in mid-January, I wound up spending 3 months in the hospital, and when I came out I weighed 50 pounds less than I did at New Year’s. Thanks to not eating the slop I regularly ate in South Carolina, I have not put back the bulk I was carrying then. I ate the wrong stuff and too much of it for reasons that were nothing to do with any disease. The statement the Yankees put out on radio repeatedly mentioned CC’s “disease.” i don’t see not being able to manage his booze or his temper as being an illness. I see it as a lack of self-control the way I lacked it for all the years I ate too much. Even if it is a disease, Sabathia owed it to his team and his fans to be there until the end of the season. That done he could have gone quietly into rehab, and maybe played next year or maybe not. The Yanks are in a spot concerning that-they owe him $25 million for 2016. If they couldn’t void Alex Rodriguez’ contract, which they tried to do, they’ll never get away with not paying CC despite his being MIA and leaving their playoff hopes DOA.0