‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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When you pitch for most recognizable team in American professional sports and are listed at 6’7” and 290 pounds, it’s hard to fly under the radar. You would think that CC Sabathia would be as heralded as ‘Louisiana Lightning’ Ron Guidry considering the amount of success he’s had since donning pinstripes.
Maybe it’s because he slimmed down roughly 25-30 pounds this off-season but CC should be the owning the Big Apple. When Roger Clemens arrived in the Bronx, there was a huge buzz and marketing campaigns behind him. Heck, even Hideki Irabu was given the red carpet treatment before he had even thrown a pitch in the major leagues. You would think for a team that likes to do everything big, the Yankees’ marketing people would seriously get behind their mammoth ace.
We all remember the charade put on by the franchise when Clemens made his return from ‘retirement’ when he ‘unexpectedly’ graced George Steinbrenner’s box at the old Yankee Stadium. After all the ridiculousness of the staged WWE-type announcement, Suzyn Waldman’s infamous live reaction and the playing of Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man,’ the only thing missing was Clemens taking the field dressed like “Cowboy” Bob Orton.
‘The Rocket’ turned out to be a dud who was paid $4.7M per month to finish the season 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA and was later shelled in his lone 2 1/3 inning postseason appearance against the Cleveland Indians. For all the things you could label Clemens with during his career: (cheater, egomaniac, intolerant racist, diva, adulterer, etc.) Sabathia is the complete polar opposite, an anti-Clemens if you will.
Whereas Clemens injected himself to gain superhuman powers on the mound, CC is a naturally hulking presence. He doesn’t need anything to boost his already considerable pitching gifts and is indeed the genuine article. Sabathia prefers to stay away from the limelight and lets his pitching do the talking. Maybe that’s the reason why he isn’t getting the attention he deserves even though every season he’s pitched as a Yankee has been better and better.
Despite leading the majors with 13 wins and logging in a sparkling 2.72 ERA, Sabathia was left off the original American League All-Star roster. Eventually, he was named as an All-Star replacement but won’t pitch in the Midsummer Classic as his last start came this past Sunday. In his final appearance before the All-Star break, CC went the distance as he pitched a nine inning shutout. He was as dominant as ever, only walking a single batter while striking out nine Tampa Bay Rays.
Still, I don’t feel that Sabathia gets the sort of credit he deserves in this town. Outside of Justin Verlander, I can’t think of another starter as crucial to his own team’s success this season. Without the retired Andy Pettitte, CC is joined by the enigmatic A.J. Burnett and a cast of stopgap starters. Until the return of Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon, the Yankees were dealing with journeyman Brian Gordon who was released to sign with Korea’s SK Wyverns. Ivan Nova had his share of successes and bumps in the road and is better suited developing where he is now, back in Triple-A.
Hughes may need time to settle back into the rotation and both Colon and Freddy Garcia could revert back to mediocrity at any moment. Who knows if Burnett will ever find the consistency he requires to go along with his top-notch stuff? The pressure of carrying the Yankees’ rotation is on CC’s broad shoulders and it’s time the fans, media and baseball universe wakes up and realizes just how special Sabathia is.
Is CC in fact an under-appreciated ace? Leave your comments below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.