When the Yankees don’t win the World Series, which is something they have only done once since 2001, Hal Steinbrener, like his father, issues an apology to Yankees fans. Last season, following a second straight postseason-less year for the Yankees, Steinbrenner offered this apology to fans:
“I apologize. We did not do the job this year. We know what you expect of us, and we expect the same thing of ourselves.”
As the Yankees are currently constructed and as the way this season has gone, much like the last two, the goal for the Yankees each season has shifted from winning the World Series to just making the playoffs. And if the Yankees keep going the way they have with their unpredictable swings and lengthy winning and losing streaks, Steinbrenner will be apologizing for the sixth straight season for not bringing a championship to New York and for the third straight season for not even giving Yankees fans a single playoff game.
If Steinbrenner does hand out his now annual apology in the first week of October after Game 162, it will be as much of a joke as CC Sabathia has become. No one wants to hear that ownership and the front office “expect the same things” as the fans while they continue to send Sabathia to the mound every fifth (or now every sixth!) day as the league leader in earned runs and home runs allowed because of his salary, which is exactly why Sabathia pitched on Tuesday night against the Phillies and why he will pitch again next week against the Angels.
Joe Girardi admitted as much after Sabathia’s latest disaster (4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 2 HR) that the former ace will remain in the rotation because of money.
“He is a starter for us. That’s what he is and that’s what we are paying him to do and that is what he is going to do.”
Sabathia is making $23 millon this season. If he makes 34 starts, that’s $676,470.59 per start. If he makes 33 starts, that’s $696,969.68 per start. If he makes 32 starts, that’s $718,750 per start. So let’s call it $700,000 per start. That means on Tuesday night, Sabathia did the equivalent of showing up to work at noon, immediately going to lunch, returning to his desk to send one email followed by taking a one hour power nap, waking up and watching the first episode of Ballers on HBO GO at his desk, calling his boss fat and then leaving at 4:00. And he made $700,000 to do that.
It only get worse when it comes to the 34-year-old lefty, who will turn 35 in July. Next season, Sabathia’s salary increase to $25 million for the season, and when you consider his 2011 ERA (33 starts) was 3.00, his 2012 ERA (28 starts) was 3.38, his 2013 ERA (32 starts) was 4.78, his 2014 ERA (eight starts) was 5.28 and his 2015 ERA (15 starts) is 5.65, well, where is this going to go? It could go through the 2017 season, as Sabathia has a $25 million vesting option, which will vest if he doesn’t finish the 2016 season on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury or if he doesn’t spend more than 45 days in 2016 on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury or if he doesn’t make more than six relief appearances in 2016 because of a left shoulder injury. (There is a $5 million buyout if any of these things happen, so the Yankees will have to pay him $5 million to not pitch, which is better than $25 million to pitch and not be good). So the only way the Yankees are getting out of paying Sabathia $50 million in 2016 and 2017 is if he injures his left shoulder, and when he’s not even going five innings in starts, that’s not going to happen. The only way to not throw away $25 million in 2017 is for Girardi to start leaving Sabathia on the mound to throw 150-pitch complete games, or hope that he retires and walks away from the money, and that’s not happening. So if you think this season has been bad or 2014 and 2013 were bad, it’s not going to get better.
I have written several times that Sabathia needs to find a way to get outs without overpowering hitters the way his former teammate Andy Pettitte and supposed best friend Cliff Lee were able to do. With the Yankees in Houston, it was made known that Pettitte and Sabathia have talked frequently as Sabathia’s velocity and repertoire has changed, and if this is true, when are the changes going to take place, or are they ever? And do we know Sabathia and Pettitte are even talking about pitching when they talk? They could be talking about anything.
At this point, I treat every Sabathia start like a trip to the casino. If you plan on spending $500 at the casino then you’re going into it assuming you’re going to lose that $500 and anything you don’t lose or if you happen to end up winning, it’s an unexpected bonus. When Sabathia takes the mound, I assume the Yankees are going to lose, and if they aren’t blown out, he will certainly blow a lead they have given him at some point in the game. If he comes out in a tie game, with the Yankees winning, it’s the unexpected bonus. That’s not how it should work for starting pitcher making $23 million this season, $25 million next season and possibly another $25 million in 2017.
During the 2011 season, I said “Jorge Posada is like the aging family dog that just wanders around aimlessly and goes to the bathroom all over the place and just lies around and sleeps all day. You try to pretend like the end isn’t near and you try to remember the good times to get through the bad times, and once in a while the dog will do something to remind you of what it used to be, but it’s just momentary tease.” Well, that aging family dog has become Sabathia.
The next time Sabathia puts the Yankees in a hole before they even come up to bat for the first time, I will try to remember his first four seasons with the Yankees when he went 74-29 with a 3.22 ERA. The next time, he lets the 7-8-9 hitters get on base to start a rally, I will try to remember his win in Game 1 of the 2009 ALDS, his dominance over the Angels and winning the ALCS MVP in 2009 and his role in beating the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. The next time he can’t get through five innings, forcing the bullpen to be overused, I will try to remember his Game 5 win in the 2010 ALCS against the Rangers to save the season. And the next time he blows a three-run lead the inning following the Yankees taking that lead, I will try to remember his wins in Games 1 and 5 against the Orioles in the 2012 ALDS to get the Yankees out of the first round.
I will try to remember the good times CC Sabathia once gave us nearly every time he took the ball because they hardly happen anymore and they are only to going to become more rare. I wish there were more good times to come, but there aren’t.