The New York Yankees could easily have decided against re-signing CC Sabathia for the 2018 season. They chose not to, and there’s a good reason why.
Last season, the New York Yankees came to know that wins and losses, earned run average and strikeout-to-walk ratios are all overrated when it comes to the character of the person occupying a locker in the clubhouse.
Intangibles and what a player brings to a team like the Yankees, who are on the precipice of jumping into a World Series for the first time in nine years (yes, it’s been that long), outweigh the all-important “numbers” baseball analytics will shower upon us.
CC Sabathia will add to the mix of what the Yankees need to take them to the next level from where they left off in 2017, and while his value on the field remains to be seen, there is no question he’s already setting the tone for the team.
Sabathia was ecstatic when asked how he felt about the 2018 version of the New York Yankees:
“Last year, we were the team that everybody loved, that feel-good story,” Sabathia — who signed a one-year, $10 million deal — told MLB Network on Thursday, per Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News. “But getting Giancarlo [Stanton] just brings us back to being that hated team. That’s what we like. We want to go out there, put the best team on the field and crush everybody every game.”
That kind of spirit carries into the clubhouse, becoming a key ingredient in the winning formula for the Yankees. In future years, the team could see the emergence of Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, or perhaps in the distant future even Gleyber Torres assuming the role.
It can be understood that Stanton, Aaron Judge, Sanchez, Greg Bird and the top four of the starting rotation will be able to assume the burden of production the Yankees will need in 2018.
But it’s mainly about Sabathia, who holds his own in any discussion about his value to the team regarding production on the field. Think back only to last season when Joe Girardi went to Sabathia on successive occasions when the Yankees were one game away from elimination in the playoffs.
Despite all the ballyhoo regarding Judge, Stanton, et al., the Yankees season will begin and end in the clubhouse, because that’s where winning teams are formed. In that light, consider the thoughts of Wayne McDonnell Jr., who writes of Sabathia for Forbes.com:
“In truth, Sabathia is indispensable as first-time manager Aaron Boone will undoubtedly learn quickly how harmony and effective communication within the clubhouse will be essential for on-field success, especially in the Yankees’ fishbowl. The pressures of managing the Yankees are enormous and having someone like Sabathia who could assist Boone as a clubhouse interpreter and spokesman while directing the daily traffic surrounding the ball club and its players is pivotal.”
Not to be forgotten is Sabathia’s legacy as a New York Yankee. Entering his 10th season with the team, the 37-year old sits with a record of 120-73, which represents a .622 winning percentage. With 13 wins this season, Sabathia will reach the coveted 250 win mark, launching him into the outer rings of the Hall of Fame discussion when he retires.
While Mazzeo’s story in the New York Daily News headlines Sabathia’s stirring the pot a bit with “the Yankees back to being that hated team,” it’s likely Sabathia was in a joking mood that day. And a minute following the interview, he was back to being his introspective self, thinking and wondering about the season—perhaps his last season— which lies ahead.
Along with all the ways he can help the Yankees, and in particular rookie manager Aaron Boone, both on and off the field, Sabathia’s influence may ultimately force Hal Steinbrenner to cough up some big bucks for one of those diamond studded rings with a big number 28 sitting right on top.