Despite a tail-off in recent years, New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia makes an interesting case for the Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame has the general tendency of being a slippery slope. In so many ways can you go wrong, yet in so few ways you can go right.
Near perfection is needed in order to have your name enshrined in Cooperstown, NY.
Too often it is milestones that define the inductees. 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, 300 wins. Often will you hear landmarks associated directly with Hall of Fame qualifications.
Few and far between are the inductees who are truly judged for the impact they had on the teams they represented.
After all, greatness should be represented by value rather than pure compilation. Correct?
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When it comes to a candidate like CC Sabathia, strength of impact should be put up against the face of value numbers. Wins should take precedent over awards. Workload over a period of time should outweigh longevity.
By highlighting select instances in the southpaw’s career, substantiation can be provided making him undoubtedly worthy of a Hall of Fame nod.
His case goes beyond 221 career wins, 2,672 career strikeouts, six all-star nods, and a Cy Young award. Stretches of sheer dominance, carrying loads heavier than himself, define the big left-hander.
2007’s significance was not indicated by his AL Cy Young award, the only such honor he has earned in his career. In a year the Cleveland Indians went to the postseason, Sabathia was the horse.
His 34 starts and 241 innings pitched led the league, numbers you just do not see nowadays. He was on the mound to finish four games, including a complete game shutout. Without CC, the Tribe does not flirt with relevancy.
Sure, he was a deserving Cy Young award winner. However, the honor is simply a flawed form of generosity which demonstrates individual efforts, not to be used in identifying Cooperstown nominees.
Those efforts got him shipped off to Milwaukee when he was needed most in 2008.
After recording 18 starts in Cleveland through July 2, he astonishingly recorded 17 starts through the end of the season, carrying the Brewers to a playoff berth. He won 11 games, pitched to a microscopic 1.65 ERA, hurled seven complete games (three shutouts), and pitched on three days of rest thrice — his final three starts — to catapult the ‘Brew Crew’.
To cap it off, on the final day of the season, he completed a four-hit masterpiece in a “win and you are in” scenario.
The second half earned him a $161 million contract in the Big Apple, but he did not rest on his laurels.
In 2009, he delivered a 19-win season while registering 230 innings over 34 starts. Yet again, it was the second half providing the difference for both himself and the team.
11-2 with a 2.74 ERA was the output coming out of the powerful left arm of CC, who helped lead the Yankees to a 103-win campaign and an AL East championship.
He went 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five postseason starts, anchoring a World Series staff while pitching on short rest twice. In taking home the ALCS MVP, he shut down Games 1 and 4, hurling eight innings of one-run ball in both contests.
Those are the stretches needed to make your mark, put forth a profound impact on the game, and alter the outcome of a major league baseball season. Those are the stretches that place you with the greats.
Sure, the BBWAA may be looking for that exclusive 300th win, 3,000th strikeout, or a half run dip in his career ERA (3.71), all feats Sabathia would have to pitch another four or five years to accomplish. Given his recent success and body type, that becomes tough to fathom.
The BBWAA needs to look beyond the numbers, seeking out characteristics that stack him up with the best that have ever hurled a baseball.
Think of a commonly used phrase with evaluating Hall of Famers: “At any time throughout their career, did I wake up and think that they were the best player at their position?”
For Sabathia, yes, you can make that claim.
If it has to come down to numbers, consider this: he essentially compiled all of his meaningful numbers throughout an 11 year stretch of dominance before injuries and mishaps acted as a shield from immortality. He did not have the 27 years of a Nolan Ryan, but rather 11 to fulfill greatness.
It is an intriguing and certainly tricky case, but a case worth making nonetheless. When push comes to shove, CC Sabathia — regardless of ballot — should be inducted into Cooperstown.
The MLB would be doing a disservice to the game by excluding one of the most dominant arms of the era.