Keidel: 2018 Yankees Needed An Elder Statesman Like Sabathia

By Jason Keidel
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These new-age Yankees have all but shed the shards of the old days. With the Core Four long gone and Tex and A-Rod retired, the Yankees have morphed into a Millennial club. Yet they were aware enough to keep an old-timer on the payroll.

The Yankees are bringing back CC Sabathia for one more season. Maybe the one-year, $10 million deal doesn’t have the splash of his prior nine-figure contracts — or his $25 million salary last year — but this move is way more than cosmetic or to satisfy any sense of nostalgia.

Indeed, Sabathia was the glue that kept the 2017 Yankees together. At least their pitching staff. Not only did he have a fine year (14-5, 3.69 ERA), the 37-year-old Sabathia also had a sublime run of starts after a Yankees loss, never losing a single game in 2017 when his club did the day before. Sabathia also had three solid starts in the playoffs before his left arm was drained of its magic in Game 7 of the ALCS in Houston.

Yankees starter CC Sabathia reacts after getting the final out of the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 19, 2017. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

The Yanks will not only bank on another fine string of starts from their old ace — the 27 he had last year would do just fine — but also lean on his experience and wisdom, which no doubt doubled as an anchor for younger pitchers. Sabathia can also serve as a managerial appendage for new skipper Aaron Boone, who’s only seven years older than his veteran hurler.

Sabathia met with the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels and received competitive offers, according to his agent from Roc Nation. But Sabathia loves it here, has seen his kids grow up here. And if there was one more tiebreaker, it’s that the Yankees will be playoff chalk next year, surely more than the Angels and Blue Jays, if not the entire American League.

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Consider how far Sabathia has traveled, in actual and emotional miles, over the last decade. He signed with the Yankees in 2009 to lead a World Series pitching staff, and he did exactly that during his maiden year in pinstripes. He’s made more money than his kids can spend. And he even fell through a familiar trap door, with alcoholism swallowing him whole, to the point where he had to check out of a playoff chase two years ago and into rehab.

The hypocrites, sycophants and online gangsters all piled on Sabathia then, calling him weak, a quitter, and a traitor. It’s always the weakest among us who are also the most judgmental. Despite Sabathia’s sprawling résumé of toughness, of victory, of overall success, Twitter tough guys can’t see past their own posts. So, of course, when Sabathia not only came back but got even better than he was before he left, the anonymous critics vanished.

Sabathia is long past that and now can take a new, perhaps more refreshing role, as back-end starter and elder statesman. For so long, the hefty lefty was expected to carry a pitching staff on the most successful team in the history of sports. Now the baseball graybeard can ease into a more paternal role while still pitching every five days.

And perhaps leave the Bronx with one more World Series ring.

Please follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel