CC Sabathia is back. Not back to his 2007 Cy Young award winning form with the Indians or 2009 ALCS MVP gangster with the Yankees, but gone is the alcoholism, injuries and the lack of production that's plagued his recent past and had once faithful fans turning their backs on the Yankees star.
You saw the struggle between sobriety and success in 2016 when CC triumphantly returned to the mound. His numbers weren't spectacular as he went 9-12 with a respectable 3.91 ERA, but he was able to make 30 starts, something he hasn't done since 2014. You also saw his progression from heat-hurler to a technically savvy veteran. Sabathia was getting closer to being a productive pitcher again.
This season he is finally hitting his stride. Overall he has a 5-2 record and this past weekend CC recorded a season-high nine K’s and has allowed just three earned runs over his last 18 innings in his past three outings after getting tagged for a 9.58 ERA over his previous four starts.
It was Sabathia’s 238th career start for the Yankees, who signed the hurler to a seven-year, $161 million contract in 2008. It was the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history until 2013, when Félix Hernández of the Seattle Mariners signed a seven-year $175 million contract. The Yankees re-upped with CC in 2011 for another five-years, $122 million.
When CC entered MLB as a pitcher for the Indians and one of the youngest players in baseball in 2001, he was a shy California kid who turned to drinking as a way of loosening up around people. He has spoken about his addiction publicly at length; on radio and in a first-personPlayers’ Tribune piece in March of 2016.
In the beginning, the drinking was never a public issue as Sabathia became one of baseball’s workhorse stud pitchers, a 20-game winningBlack Ace and eventually a rich celebrity pitching for baseball’s most prestigious franchise. CC says he was a “functioning alcoholic”and the sauce never affected his illustrious pitching prowess. Like all demons, eventually the alcoholism caught up with him and his pitching wasn’t up to par anymore.
After averaging 18.5 wins and winning a championship in his first four seasons with the Yankees (2009-2012), the bottom fell out, and from 2013-15 he averaged just below eight wins a game and he wasn't the same dude. People gave him excuses, citing everything from his age and robust weight to the wear and tear of pitching more innings than any other pitcher in the game for a stretch.
There was a larger issue driving his unprecedented baseball failures and CC picked a strange but necessary time to address it.
In the Fall of 2015, CC spent the final weekend of the regular season drinking heavily, and he reached his moment of clarity on the final Sunday of the season when he came to Camden Yards, told Joe Girardi he needed to get right in rehab. Soon he would be at Connecticut’s Silver Hill Hospital, still so full with liquor that he’d need 36 hours to detoxify before he could join the program.
Sabathia’s decision to announce that he would be checking into rehab the day before the Yankees lost 3-0 in a one-game wild card against the Astros didn’t sit well with a lot of folk. As popular a player as he was, some media mouths suggested that his time with the Yankees as a productive pitcher were over. With his weight issues, injuries, alcohol problems and declining production, maybe it was time to part ways.
The Yankees felt otherwise and have continued to stick with him and pay him exorbitant amounts of money. In light of everything he’s been through, the season CC is having is commendableand the Yankees will need their 36-year-old vet if they want to remain in first place in the AL East.