CC Sabathia’s role with the New York Yankees has extended past the pitcher’s mound, making him an asset the team can ill-afford to squander.
In the midst of an unconventional youth movement, the imperative roles of certain New York Yankees veterans cannot be overlooked.
Whether it be Matt Holliday’s run-producing ability and leadership by example, Brett Gardner’s captain-like attitude on and off the field or Jacoby Ellsbury’s experience and prestige on the basepaths, paving way for the team’s offensive success, the veterans contribute in more ways than one — both directly and indirectly.
When it comes to the starting rotation, which has been the biggest surprise early on, effectively catalyzing the team’s early outburst, CC Sabathia has been more than a serviceable, crafty veteran arm.
The 36-year-old’s impact on the entire pitching staff thus far in 2017 has been astounding, warranting consideration as to whether the organization should bring him back next year and beyond.
Documentation of Sabathia’s success in revitalizing his career and finessing his arsenal has already hit the worldwide web on numerous occasions. This column will not focus on his brilliant turnaround and tremendous performance.
Sure, his ability to keep the Yankees in games, give the team depth and paint corners consistently would play into a decision to keep him around, but it is not the true reason why, as there are several starting pitchers throughout baseball who can deliver the same (or further) output.
The pure reason he should be staying in pinstripes has to do with his ability to mentor the youth, bring the pitching staff together and pass down the vital information he has obtained throughout his storied career.
Andy Pettitte’s lessons, which took a few years to translate into results with Sabathia, have evidently been handed down to the rest of the starting rotation. Every young arm that cracks big leagues — and there will be plenty of depth in the Yankees’ farm system — should be afforded the same mentorship.
Simply from judging the first three weeks of the campaign, the increased encouragement of everyone on the staff can be noted.
Every time someone takes the hill, the other four starters are on the top step of the dugout, with CC often being the one shown on camera, barking orders and shoving increased morale at his fellow teammate.
Furthermore, the starting rotation has a new ritual.
When a starter is taking his pregame warmups in the right-center field bullpen, the other four hurlers are all on hand — witnessing the warmups and potentially offering their insight.
For example, if Luis Severino is warming up for his start, Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Jordan Montgomery can all be found directly behind the bullpen mound.
That kind of unity is rare, particularly at the major league level.
Thus far, the command CC has found in the late stages of his career has translated to increased control with the rest of the starters.
Severino has already taken a major step forward in his quest to become more consistent with a 98 mph fastball, Pineda has been pounding the strike zone and burying his dominant slider, Montgomery, while still a rookie with only two big league starts, looks like a veteran on the hill, and Tanaka, after a few rough outings, has regained his poise and turned in two consecutive quality starts.
This is not to say that Sabathia has single-handedly resurrected an entire starting rotation, which was widely viewed as brutally mediocre entering the season. It is to say, however, that his impact is being felt and should not be left out of the mix come 2018.
When Severino hits a rough patch over the course of a long, grueling season, who will be there to explain exactly how to cope with ups and downs? When Pineda loses a tick on his fastball, who will be there to make sure his changeup is being utilized at a more substantial rate? Perhaps most importantly, when Tanaka eventually — a few years down the road — has to start Game 1 of the ALCS in a hostile environment, who will be there to give his two cents about opening a pivotal playoff series?
CC Sabathia will be that guy.
A contract that the Yankees dreaded two years ago is finally coming to an end, but that does not mean the Sabathia era has to end with the contract’s expiration.
Even on a one-year deal, the big left-hander is integral to this youth movement and, more importantly, the movement’s ability to spiral into championship-caliber baseball.
Barring issues with health or an unforeseen desire of CC to take his talents elsewhere, New York must consider renewing its southpaw’s services. Otherwise, the front office will be blaming themselves when they no longer have a pitching mind capable of weathering the storm.