Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Yankees Must Extend CC Sabathia

Danville, Kentucky -- Everyone has a happy place. A special place, soaked with sepia-toned memories of golden days gone-by and childhood friends; an old playground, a quaint ice-cream shop, or a scenic vista perfect for watching sunsets. Folks, I had a special place. The Bowlarama Lanes on East Lexington Road in my hometown, Danville. This joint used to be the premier social gathering spot in all of Danville. The bowling experience was unparalleled. The Danville Bowlarama attracted serious bowlers and the casual crowd alike. But for me, the banging eats were the real selling point. Plump onion rings, perfectly round and shimmering with luminous fried grease. Thick french fries, recently unfrozen and heated in a microwave, coated in rich brown chili and bright orange nacho cheese. Watery yellow beer, lovingly poured into a dirty pitcher for a criminally cheap price.

The Danville Bowlarama was a special place, appropriate for any occasion. The bowling alley's rental shoes were always in good condition, if a little musty and well-trodden. The jukebox was always playing the greatest hits of the mid-seventies and eighties: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bon Jovi, and Aerosmith songs written before Joe Perry and Brad Whitford departed the band in untimely fashion. At this bowling alley, a man could escape a furious ex-wife and maybe even fall in love at first sight with his next ex-wife. The alley offered escapism at an affordable price, and there was nowhere in Danville that a man could find a meal as satisfying. The Bowlarama was and is among the best attractions that the city of Danville has to offer.

Yet, not everybody recognizes and appreciates the sublime excellence of Danville's finest bowling alley. The rise of 21st century technology and globalization has all but cast the Bowlarama into the dustbin of history. Kids don't come to the alley anymore; they'd rather play Angry Birds on their smart phones, or watch bad movies while wearing goofy 3D glasses, or ride around in Uber-mobiles.

CC Sabathia, the 35 year-old lefty veteran ace of the New York Yankees, long dismissed as washed up and beyond his expiration date, has been similarly dismissed as a relic of a more glorious past. Prognosticating Mr. Sabathia's doom has become something of a hobby for sabermetrically-inclined nerds. In 2014, nerd extraordinaire Buster Olney wrote: 'Better for Yanks if Sabathia calls it quits'. The vicious New York media has been calling for his demotion for years. Earlier this spring a writer at Pinstripe Alley boldly proclaimed: 'Ivan Nova should be the fifth starter over CC Sabathia,' arguing that CC "looks like a shell of his old self" and writing him off due to pessimistic ZiPs projections. The chorus of cries announcing CC's demise are now looking like the worst predictions since Norman Angell wrote that economic integration would make interstate war obsolete in 1909, on the eve of the first World War.

Yet, in spite of the doomsayers or perhaps because of them, CC has rediscovered his happy place. Far from being washed up or useless, CC has been the Yankees' best starting pitcher. As of writing this he has pitched 59.1 innings of 2.28 ERA ball. The 2.28 ERA is the best of any Yankees starting pitcher and trails only the unhittable Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman for the team lead. CC has not only been one of the best pitchers on the Yankees, a team stacked with pitching talent, but one of the best pitchers in the MLB period.

Most incredibly, CC has conquered adversity and silenced his haters after battling his own personal demons in the most public way possible. Folks, wise baseball fans could've told you not to sleep on a guy who is a World Series champion and Cy Young award winner. CC has proven he is capable of putting the team on his prolific back and anchoring the Yankees rotation for years to come in spite of his diminished velocity. Bulldog innings-eaters like CC don't grow on trees. It's time for Brian Cashman to show he's serious about the team's future and lock up CC Sabathia long-term, at least through his age 40 season. Folks, I know he's got a year or two left on his current contract and a vesting option as well. But the free agent market for starting pitchers has been bonkers, and the next few years there will be a dearth of good arms available with aces like Scherzer, Strasberg, Price, and Alfredo Simon having been recently locked up. The Yankees cannot afford to let CC hit the open market, where his asking price will inflate beyond the means of even a high payroll team like the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees need to do everything they can to keep the core of A-Rod, Carlos Beltran, and CC together. Cashman must be proactive and immediately sign CC to another contract extension, so that he can retire a Yankee.

CC Sabathia, like the Danville Bowlarama, is a timeless treasure, even if his critics don't always acknowledge it. At the Danville Bowlarama, it always feels like 1975 -- just as CC is pitching like it's 2008. In the interest of keeping the dream of the Yankees' golden days alive, CC Sabathia must be extended.