Sunday, February 17, 2019

Meet the 2019 Yankees: CC Sabathia

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“That’s for you, bitch.” I may or may not have imagined the Yankees and their GM, Brian Cashman, saying this as they offered CC Sabathia a one-year deal to anchor the Yankees rotation here in 2019. CC is a grizzly veteran and a great clubhouse presence that everyone around the league, players and fans alike, not only know, but respect as well. We don’t really need to re-introduce you to Mr. Sabathia, so we will more just check in with the big Yankees lefty.

CC Sabathia, 38-years old, is a veteran left-handed starting pitcher for the New York Yankees that is expected to anchor the rotation here in 2019 as the team’s fifth starter. CC will go out to the mound every fifth day or so and look to give the Yankees at least five innings of work with his 89 MPH cutter, 81 MPH slider, 91 MPH sinker, 84 MPH changeup and some impeccable command and control. CC is a big man, standing 6’6” and weighing in at 300 lbs. prior to his weight loss this winter, and comes with constant concerns about his right knee and the lack of cartilage surrounding it.

Carsten Charles “CC” Sabathia was born on July 21, 1980 in Vallejo, California where he attended Vallejo High School and played baseball for the school’s team while also playing football and basket as well. Sabathia was a pitcher in high school in baseball and a tight end in football, drawing scholarship opportunities from UCLA and Hawaii. Hawaii gave Sabathia the opportunity to play both football and baseball, so Sabathia signed a letter of intent to play there during his collegiate career. Instead, the Cleveland Indians came calling in the first round, 20th overall, of the 1998 MLB First Year Players Draft, signing for $1.3 million. Sabathia would make his MLB debut with the Indians by the 2001 season and stayed with the Indians until the 2008 season when Cleveland moved the big left-hander to the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade. On July 7, 2008 the Indians traded Sabathia to the playoff-hopeful Brewers for Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson. Sabathia dominated down the stretch and led the Brewers into the NLDS, but Milwaukee would eventually falter and fall to the eventual World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies. Sabathia would hit the free agent market for the first time in his career at the conclusion of the 2008 season.

On December 18, 2008 the New York Yankees agreed to sign the big left-hander to a seven-year deal worth $161 million, the biggest contract ever given to a pitcher at the time. Sabathia was named the Yankees Opening Day starter in 2009 as the team opened up the newest version of Yankee Stadium. Sabathia, along with new arrivals in AJ Burnett, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira, led the Yankees to a World Series championship in his first season, the team’s 27th World Series championship in their history. Sabathia pitched well again in 2010, finishing third in the AL Cy Young Award vote, but his offseason was disrupted after a scan found a torn meniscus in his right knee. Sabathia was the Yankees Opening Day starter for the third year in a row in 2011, fresh off recovering from his torn meniscus surgery, with a little added pressure on the big lefty. Sabathia had an opt-out clause written into his contract that would have allowed Sabathia to opt-out of his deal after the 2011 season, but Sabathia made it clear that he had no intentions of doing so. Instead, Sabathia signed an extension with the Yankees worth an additional year and $25 million in salary, along with a $25 million vesting option for the 2018 season.

Another year in 2012 and another Opening Day start for Sabathia and for the New York Yankees. Sabathia was also named to his third consecutive All-Star Game with the Yankees in 2012, but a strained abductor muscle kept the lefty out of the game. Sabathia led the Yankees to the ALCS, but New York could not overcome a broken ankle from their captain and shortstop, Derek Jeter, and ultimately fell to the Detroit Tigers. After the season, Sabathia has surgery on his left elbow to remove bone spurs and was ready for the start of the 2013 season, another Opening Day start. Sabathia had to learn how to pitch with diminished velocity in 2013, and it was not always an easy transition. Sabathia struggled throughout the season after dropping 40 lbs. but did see flashes of improvement as he moved towards the 2014 season. His 2014 season was cut short, though, after learning that CC had a degenerative knee condition that cost him all but eight of his starts in 2014. The Yankees initially worried that CC needed microfracture surgery on the knee, a surgery that would have essentially ended his career, and were pleased with the relatively good news.

CC returned to the mound in 2015 fresh off the degenerative knee condition diagnosis still trying to learn to pitch without being able to rear back and blow away opposing hitters with his fastball. Sabathia had his worst statistical season of his career this year, but he improved after coming back towards the end of the season with a new brace on his knee. CC pitched the Yankees into the 2015 postseason, but the team ultimately lost the Wild Card Game against the Houston Astros. CC missed the game after checking himself into a rehabilitation center after a struggle with alcoholism became too much for him to handle on his own. Sabathia continued to improve with his pitching in 2016 after the surgery before seeing his career revitalized in 2017. CC posted his best statistical season since 2012 back in 2017 and ended up finishing the season with a 14-5 record and a 3.69 ERA with 120 strikeouts in 148.2 innings pitched. CC pitched the Yankees to the American League Championship Series before ultimately losing to the Houston Astros in seven games. Sabathia became a free agent after the season and quickly agreed to a one-year deal worth $10 million for the 2018 season.

CC continued to finesse his way through his starts in 2018, well until a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, Andrew Kittredge, threw at the head of Austin Romine. In response, CC hit the Rays catcher Jesus Sucre and was seen leaving the field pointing into the Rays dugout yelling “That’s for you, bitch!” CC was suspended for five games and will serve the suspension at the beginning of the 2019 season after agreeing to return to the New York Yankees on a one-year deal worth $8 million. CC is the heart and soul of this pitching staff, both on and off the field, in my opinion and is an asset worth $8 million tenfold. We all love you, CC, and we can’t wait to see what you bring us here in 2019.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)