- Last Updated: 8:16 PM, July 29, 2012
- Posted: 2:03 AM, July 29, 2012
They love CC Sabathia here, and for good reason. The big lefty has been pretty much everything the Yankees hoped they were getting when they signed him to a mammoth contract in December 2008.
It’s one thing to be loved in The Bronx, however, and another to be trusted. Games like yesterday, which the Yankees lost to the Red Sox, 8-6 at Yankee Stadium, don’t help Sabathia’s case for the latter.
“It’s tough. It [stinks],” Sabathia said, after allowing a season-high six runs over six innings and escaping with a no-decision. “Not being able to go out and pitch the way you want. Especially against a team in your division.”
Though the Yankees lost, just their second in eight games with the Red Sox this season, they maintained an 81⁄2-game lead in the AL East. They have shown little indication that they’re about to collapse. Nor has any of their four division neighbors displayed the potential to go on a run.
Therefore, Yankees fans have plenty of time to look ahead to the postseason. To cultivate those largely unfounded Sabathia concerns.
Sabathia pitched very well (4-1, 3.04 ERA in eight starts) against the Red Sox in his first two years as a Yankee. Since the start of the 2011 campaign, though, he now has a 1-4 record and 6.81 ERA in six starts opposing Boston. Yesterday, the key culprit was first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who began the day 5-for-25 lifetime off Sabathia and delivered a run-scoring double in the first (off a fastball) and three-run homer in the fifth (off a cut fastball).
“I think they’re just being patient, making me throw a lot of pitches, fouling off some good pitches,” Sabathia said of the Red Sox. “It’s a case of me not making pitches and them having good at-bats.”
When you combine that data with Sabathia’s 5.84 ERA in the prior two postseasons, you get … a total of 61 1⁄3 innings pitched, which is about one-quarter of a standard regular season for the 31-year-old. Nothing over which you should generate much worry.
Many of you will, though. Because Sabathia, despite living up to his staff ace salary, despite winning Most Valuable Player honors in the 2009 ALCS, hasn’t yet established full-time residence in the Bronx circle of trust.
It’s not Sabathia’s fault. Beyond his overall excellent pitching, he has become a leader in the Yankees’ clubhouse and a respected figure in the greater community, thanks to his PitCCh In Foundation. In most places, he would carry on without a whisper of doubt.
And really, it’s not Yankees fans’ fault, either. What do you expect from a group that has enjoyed five World Series titles, three more than anyone else, in the wild-card era? Through a pinstriped prism, they look at Sabathia, one of the finest pitchers of his era, and hold him up against the rehabilitating Andy Pettitte, the man with the most postseason victories in baseball history.
As we creep toward Tuesday’s non-waivers trade deadline, the Yankees don’t appear likely to acquire an impact starting pitcher. They were interested in Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, who wound up signing a six-year, $144-million extension with the Phillies, and not interested in Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke, whom the Angels acquired on Friday. They’re unlikely to wind up with Miami’s Josh Johnson or Tampa Bay’s James Shields because they’re protecting their prospects, and old pal Cliff Lee of Philadelphia costs too much money as the Yankees aim to get their payroll to $189 million for the 2012 season.
Today, you would project the Yankees’ postseason starting rotation to be Sabathia, Pettitte (assuming he heals his fractured left ankle in time), Hiroki Kuroda and either Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova. That group is perfectly capable of pitching its way to a parade up the Canyon of Heroes. Nevertheless, because Sabathia, Kuroda, Hughes and Nova can’t match the jewelry of Pettitte and his retired teammates Roger Clemens, David Cone and Orlando Hernandez, fans can find questions if they look hard enough.
“He’s pitched very well over the four years he’s been here,” manager Joe Girardi said of Sabathia. “I’m not concerned about it.”
Sabathia has earned that benefit of the doubt. Then again, Yankees fans pay ultra-high ticket prices to hold ultra-high expectations. The only thing both sides have in common is a resolution must wait until October.