It’s only one game. Just one. But I have to say, I enjoyed the whole thing. If you aren’t from New York, you probably hate the Yankees. You probably hate the half-billion dollars they spent this offseason while the economy bled even closer to death. You probably hate A-Rod and the fact the Yankees aren’t even pretending to care. You probably just hate the pinstripes and all they represent. If any of that is true, yesterday was your day. Times a million.
Let me preface this by saying I like C.C. Sabathia. I think he sold out, but I like him. He had guts last year with the Brewers. He didn’t need to go on three days rest so often to make a big splash in the free agent market. He did it anyway and was a warrior, even if he ran out of steam against the Phillies. Part of me was so moved by his bravado that I was actually a little surprised the Yankees got him. I was sure he’d end up somewhere out West, maybe even the Giants, getting to hit in the lineup and bask in the sun and low expectations. But he didn’t. In fact, he took the money. And a lot of it. Still, all the more power to him.
But then the Yankees paid a fortune for A.J. Burnett and Mark Texeira and it just started getting ugly. It was a lot to spend. Deep down, I had a feeling something bad would happen. And it did.
A-Rod got busted and then gave the most ridiculous interview ever with Peter Gammons, who was doing his best to get the maligned slugger to make out with him. Still, I figured the Yankees were stacked. They are. Shoe-ins for the crown, I tell ya!
So naturally, most of us that can’t stand Yankee Nation got a real kick out of yesterday’s Opening Day for the Bronx Bombers. Texeira in pinstripes. C.C. on the bump. A lowly Orioles team to boss around. This was the Yankee coming out party.
The reality was C.C. Sabathia laying a giant egg his first time out. I know, I know. It is only one game. I know, I know, he starts slow every year. But there were some larger antediluvian bellwethers that afternoon in Baltimore. His fastball was slow for his standards topping at 93mph. His slider was not breaking hard. If you’ve seen C.C. pitch on a regular basis, you know he was struggling. To put his 6 run and 5 walk performance in perspective, it was one of five times ever he failed to record a strikeout. Out of 255 starts in a brilliant career, only five times has he failed to put a batter down on strikes. This start fell among the worst 2% of his performances ever. In short, he didn’t show up.
It’s only one game. It’s only one game. But it isn’t. Any Yankee fan telling you that is denying what it is to be a Yankee fan. It is never, ever only one game. Of course, C.C. could be great this year, but maybe he won’t be. Maybe he will be a huge waste of time. Certainly there are indicators that is possible, all of which existed before his terrible debut yesterday. For one, many players come to New York and crumble. It is the crucible. It is the thunderdome. What will C.C. do when the fans are there? The same fans that have a love/hate relationship with A-Rod for his postseason failures, let alone the fact he is a hitting machine (leaving roids out of this).
There is also the matter of big contract pitching busts. While Johan Santana has been good so far for the Mets, the record goes against spending the money on a guy who plays once a week and puts 100mph of torque on the tender ligaments and tendons of the arm over 100 times an outing. Mike Hampton and Darren Dreifort and Barry Zito and Kevin Brown. All ranking among the worst signings of all time. Barry Zito is now the most expensive #4 starter in the game. That cannot happen to C.C. He will be demonized. He was signed to be the ace.
I would have loved to have C.C. on the Dodgers when GM Ned Colletti leaked the rumor, but today, I feel differently. His weight scares me. I saw Prince Fielder in person last week and he looks horrible. In time, that has to take a toll. It is a lot of weight pressing down on a lot of moving parts.
It will be a wild ride, to say the least. And it will be talked about a lot before C.C. takes the mound again. Suffice to say, he will be well aware of what he is expected to do before his next start. Bear in mind, this isn’t the LA Dodgers where the fans are just happy to be competitive. This is New York. This is 26 World Series titles and a thousand ghosts on loan from Cooperstown. This is the ownership that tried to give Joe Torre and incentive based deal. Imagine that? Twelve straight postseasons and three World Series titles to his name, and they think they guy needed incentives to want to win. All he did is win. I wouldn’t blame C.C. for cracking. That, my friends, is the weight of the world on your shoulders.
To make matters worse, Mark Texeira went 0 for 4 yesterday, leaving five runners on base. I won’t even dignify this, because Texeira will perform. No matter how much you detest the Yankees, Texeira has the goods to do what he has always done, barring any ultra breakdown or failure. I may be curious about C.C. and A.J., Mark is good to go.
So we’ll see. We’ll wait. We’ll wonder. In the meantime, the rest of us can smile. Even if they tell you “it’s only one game”, if you know a Yankee fan, you know that isn’t the truth. Even if they aren’t worried yet, they are worrying that eventually they may need to.