‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Throughout his major league career, CC Sabathia has been known as a true class act around baseball.  I’d find it hard to imagine fans of the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers or New York Yankees saying a derogatory word about this humble superstar.

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Heck, I bet even Red Sox fans wouldn’t be able to come up with a reason to jeer Sabathia besides the fact that he wears a cap displaying the famous interlocking ‘NY.’  Thankfully for Yankees fans, their staff ace agreed to a new deal that will allow him to suit up in pinstripes at minimum through 2016.

Even while the option existed for CC to opt out of his previous contract with the Yankees, he instead renegotiated a fresh 5-year, $122 million dollar deal that was fair for all parties.  Sabathia could have easily gone the route Alex Rodriguez chose in October 2007 by upstaging the World Series to declare his opt-out. Like A-Rod, he could have shaken down the Steinbrenners for much more than his $1.4 million dollar per year increase by pursuing free agency.

If Sabathia wanted to, he and his representatives could have invited the Red Sox, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and whoever else wanted to get in on the action to drive the Yankees’ price well above the $24.4 million per year he signed on for Monday night.

But CC isn’t that kind of guy.

His ambition was to remain with the Yankees and negotiate a deal that was on par with Cliff Lee — without any of the mess that comes with the opt-out.

He even went as far as delivering a personal message to Yankees fans, a nice touch.  Through a video link posted to his Twitter account, Sabathia wished fans a happy Halloween and explained, “I just wanted to be the first to let Yankee fans know that we agreed to a contract extension.  I want to thank the Steinbrenner family for making that happen.  My goal the whole time was to be able to finish my career as a Yankee.  I look forward to seeing everybody out at the ballpark next year.  Thanks.”

It’s no different than class CC demonstrated when he was traded from the Indians to the Brewers in July 2008.  Sabathia soon after took out a $12,870 ad in the sports section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer thanking Indians fans for their support.  The ad read: Thank you for 10 great years … You’ve touched our lives with your kindness, love and generosity. We are forever grateful! It’s been a privilege and an honor!

Most athletes would have reacted much differently after being traded to a World Series contender.  Some tend to throw their former employers and teammates under the bus while others would boast about their new surroundings.  Actually, as you’ll read later… A-Rod did both when he first joined the Yankees.

CC’s only request when he landed in Milwaukee was that his first name initials were used without separating periods.  It wasn’t even something he demanded as it took a dedicated member of the Brewers’ PR staff to discover that Sabathia preferred CC and not C.C.  When asked about it during his introductory Brewers press conference he replied, “I guess I’d go no periods.”

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Sabathia later spoke to Yahoo Sports in February 2009, “I have no clue how that even started or anything.  When I got traded to Milwaukee, they called and asked if I wanted the dots.  I said, ‘I really don’t care,’ and they took the dots out.”

When CC became a free agent in the winter of 2008, there wasn’t any ‘cross-country Carl Pavano-like wining and dining’ or LeBron James ESPN-contrived spectacle announcement.  Writers dubbed Pavano’s 2004 free agent tour ‘Carlpalooza’ after the coveted hurler and his agent Scott Shapiro jet set across the country in search of a new home.

Who could forget Alex Rodriguez’s quest for the almighty free agent dollar?  A-Rod and past agent Scott Boras famously met with former New York Mets general manager Steve Phillips in November 2000.  For all the reasons that Mets fans may despise Phillips, they do owe him a debt of gratitude for steering clear of A-Rod and his massive ego.

Boras began rattling off a list of must-have perks that included billboards around New York City, an office at Shea Stadium, his own marketing staff, an A-Rod merchandise tent set up at Spring Training, luxury boxes and a private jet that allowed him privacy from the rest of his teammates.  Phillips intelligently ended the meeting and eventually former Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks jumped in with a Texas-size pact of 10 years and $252 million.

It’s little wonder why the majority of his Rangers’ teammates hated A-Rod during his time in the Lone Star State.  Not only was he the highest paid player in the game but he was also enjoying perks separate from the rest of the ballclub and had a clause that allowed him to walk away from the Rangers in 2008 if his contract wasn’t increased by $5 million per year or was paid $1 million dollars more than the highest-paid MLB position player.

Rodriguez made sure to stick the knife into his teammates after he left Texas in February 2004 by revealing that he wouldn’t have signed with the Rangers had he known the rosters consisted of “24 kids and me.”  Funny, I can recall plenty of veterans around him in Texas like Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Kenny Rogers, Chan Ho Park, Juan Gonzalez and Rusty Greer just to name a few.

Sabathia on the other hand, is the kind of player who attempts to bring a team together.  Brian Cashman not only pursued CC in 2008 for his tremendous ability on the mound but also for his ability to build camaraderie within the clubhouse.

Cashman released a statement on Monday, “CC is the ace of our pitching staff, a leader in our clubhouse and a driving force for the Yankees in our community.  He is exactly the type player and person that Yankees fans and this organization can be proud of.  We are excited that he will be wearing the pinstripes for many years to come.”

If I can speak for fellow Yankees fans, we’re very excited and glad that we have CC Sabathia representing the legendary Bronx Bombers name.  He is the kind of player like Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera that wears the pinstripes with pride and honor.

We are thankful that CC Sabathia is everything that Alex Rodriguez isn’t.

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Yankees fans – how pleased are you that Sabathia extended his contract without an ugly opt-out?  Share your thoughts and opinions below.  Sean Hartnett will be covering the Yankees’ Hot Stove all winter long.  Send him your tweets @HartyLFC.