The Yankees aren’t having the year they’d like to have. I could go into great detail about the decline of Alex Rodriguez (and the satisfaction I take in that), the implosion of Michael Pineda, or just blame it all on Father Time. Instead I’d like to bring up a positive note, and talk about the recent success of CC Sabathia. On October 5th, just days before the start of the 2015 playoffs, Sabathia announced that he would not be joining his teammates in pursuit of a World Championship, as he was checking himself into an alcohol rehab center. The Yankees as a team are certainly disappointing this season, but Sabathia is enjoying success in a way he never has before, and that’s commendable.
When I first heard the news, my initial thought was, “bad timing for the Yankees.” Now I realize how selfish I was being. I was looking at “CC Sabathia: Yankees Pitcher” before I thought about “CC Sabathia: Human Being,” and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to do so. Many people let their “inner fan” interpret this kind of news by the impact it has on the team, while the actual person is an afterthought. That isn’t fair to the men that sacrifice their bodies for the game we all love, and it needs to stop. No matter how much “his team needed him,” Sabathia had to do what was best for himself and his family. To him, that meant leaving in October to get the help he needed.
Judging by his performance last year, Sabathia was not going to factor into that Wild Card game he missed. This is especially true when you consider that he wasn’t expected to be the starter. Even though they shouldn’t need an excuse, the simple fact that Sabathia’s ineligibility didn’t factor into the Yankees’ elimination should give fans enough reason to pardon his absence. Now moving on from that, all there is to do is appreciate what CC has done since coming back.
While he’s only on pace to pitch roughly 150 innings, the results are promising. Despite the consistent decline of his average fastball velocity, which is currently sitting around 87.1 MPH, Sabathia is sporting a rather surprising ERA of 2.58. Either he’s turned into Cliff Lee overnight, or the decision to address his alcoholism has been beneficial to more than just his health. I’d like to think it’s the latter, because he deserves a great deal of credit for doing what he did. After reading Sabathia’s self-published retelling of the story at The Player’s Tribune, it’s more than apparent that the man was dependent on alcohol.
I am only speculating here, but I can imagine that Sabathia’s had to teach himself how to focus in a ways never done before. My retelling is not as meaningful, but CC expressed that alcohol was the way for him to silence his nerves, and that’s incredibly important for a Major League pitcher. Finding a new way to ease the stress, as well as committing to that, deserve people’s respect.
He should not be criticized for taking the time to fix his issues, even if some die-hard fans can’t help themselves from doing so. Sabathia has given spectators 15 seasons of competitive baseball, and he’s committed most of his life to the game itself. So whether he needed the 29 days he took, or whether he needed the rest of his life, baseball and its fans owed CC that respect, let alone some time to himself. He’s earned it.
Thankfully he’s back now and pitching like an ace, albeit a different kind of ace. Nowadays, Sabathia will win playing “the finesse game.” He must begin using location and movement to defeat his opponents, rather than a blistering fastball. So far this season, as a clear-headed individual, he’s done a fine job at it. My respect goes out to you, CC Sabathia, for defeating the demons that some people never choose to face. I can only imagine how difficult that must be to do in the national spotlight, so congratulations to the man that wouldn’t give up.