Is CC Sabathia a Bust If the Yankees Don't Win the World Series?

Joseph DelGrippoAnalyst IMarch 30, 2009

One of the pretty cool things about Bleacher Report is that so many people look at your work. One of the best features is the editing format, and through the plethora of editors on this site, I have improved my writing skills.

Thanks to all who have helped me along the way.

Another great feature is when your name gets out there, other writers want your opinions on their articles, and even more information gets flowing through my brain.

My brain is working on overload now. Danger! Will Robinson! (You really need to be over 40 to understand that.)

A fellow writer sent me a piece on CC Sabathia and I then thought how the Yankee fans would react to a slow Sabathia start to 2009, similar to the 0-3, 13.50 ERA in his first four starts last year.

Some baseball writers and pundits have spoken of the New York Yankees trying to buy themselves a World Series Championship with the signings of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett. 

All indications are that all three multi-zillionaires are great fits for the team. Sabathia and Tex always appeared to be good teammates, but I had my doubts about Burnett.

But, Sabathia and Burnett have become quite buddy-buddy. If the Yankees start slowly, I guess they both realize it might be easier if they had two drivers in the getaway vehicle out of New York.

Also, Burnett has not shown any of the immaturity which has plagued him in his career.

Teixeira is also a great fit with Sabathia and not because he and Sabathia share the same middle name of Charles. I wrote here how Brian Cashman really played everything out very nicely when trying to land both of the nine-figure free agents.

But, these same New York area writers and other assorted media also say that it would be a Yankee bust if the newly formed rotation does not help win the Yankees that title.

For example, take Matt Loede of Indians Confidential. Loede is trying to worry the New York fans of Sabathia’s weight and conditioning, saying that CC will not be effective in New York.

Sabathia did have that terrible April in 2008, but if it was due to conditioning (and likely partying off his 2007 Cy Young campaign), do you think he’ll make that same mistake again?

According to all people who know Sabathia, he is terrific guy and great teammate. I believe he would not come into camp out of baseball shape again, especially after signing the big contract.

If Sabathia gets off to a bad start in 2009, it will not be the first time a high-priced Yankee free-agent-pitcher got off to a rough start.

Jim “Catfish” Hunter became a free agent after the 1974 season, and, became the first big money free agent, signing a HUGE $3.75 million, five-year contract on New Year’s Eve 1974, which at that time it was THE landmark contract. 

After his first four starts, Hunter was 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA, while the Yanks were 0-4 in his four starts, including two losses to the rival Boston Red Sox. George Steinbrenner was none too thrilled, and neither were Yankee fans.

In a positive trend for current Yankee fans, Hunter went on to pitch into the eighth inning over his next 32 starts, including 27 complete games. Catfish ended that season at 23-14 with a 2.58 ERA, throwing 328 innings.

If Sabathia gets off to a similar start in 2009 as Hunter did in 1975, ignorant Yankee media and fans will pummel him in the papers and on talk radio. But, as Sabathia showed last season, and Hunter showed in 1975, a season is not made over a four start sample.

The next point made by Loede was Sabathia’s post season record. Every pitcher cannot be Christy Mathewson, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Allie Reynolds (check out his 1952 World Series performance) or even (gasp!) Curt Schilling in the post season.

Just because a pitcher (or position player) signed a huge contract does not mean they will come through in every situation in every postseason game. But, the New York fans will always pressure all players who don’t perform up to the fans expectations.

But, New York fans only categorize a player’s career based upon the post season. That is why Scott Brosius and Jim Leyritz are heroes, and Alex Rodriguez is considered a bum. So, in the minds of most New York fans, if you have a great regular season and lose a post season series, you are basically worthless. 

In four World Series appearances, Willie Mays hit ZERO home runs, drove in six runs with a .239 BA, .308 OBP, .282 SLG for an OPS of .560.

In three World Series appearances, Ty Cobb hit for a combined .262 batting average, .314 on base percentage, and .354 slugging percentage. His complete OPS was .576, far below his career OPS of .945. Were Mays and Cobb not good players because they did not perform in the post season? Absolutely not. Both players were the primary reasons their teams were IN the post season.

So, before the New York Yankee fans begin to put pressure on Sabathia, understand that baseball is a game of failure, and all the top players in the game’s history did not come through in every clutch situation. 

Even the great Babe Ruth failed miserably during some big moments, and his 1922 World Series performance against the New York Giants will never be the strength of his resume.  

Ruth did make up for that transgression, but recent New York fans usually think more about a players failures than his successes. Not many fans remember how A-Rod had a game-winning hit after game-winning hit in 2007, but they do remember his 16 hit-into-double-plays in 2008.

The Yankees needed Sabathia to be that top-of-the-rotation starter and a major reason why they needed to pay him $161 million.

Yankee fans should support anyone who plays hard for their team, and there is no indication Sabathia ever dogs it for his teams, so the fans should support CC in every game—even the ones he loses.

But, the jury might still be out on AJ Burnett.


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