CC Sabathia is a horse.
Words on a screen do not do the word “horse” justice. I meant it as a compliment, perhaps the ultimate compliment in sports. It means he’s dependable when all others shrink away. It means he’s indefatigable. It means he busts through barriers that conquer others.
It means when it’s time, he’s there. And most likely, he’ll be the last man standing.
In some regions of the country what he is would be pronounced HOSS. And there ain’t many like him.
Right now, it looks like the Milwaukee Brewers will ride him into the playoffs, a place they’ve not reached in 26 seasons. They picked him off from the Cleveland Indians a few weeks ago in exchange for a few prime prospects in hopes he’d do just that.
So far he has delivered. Big time. Here are the numbers: Nine starts. Eight Wins. An ERA below 2.
Good enough, but those numbers do not make you a hoss. These do: Five complete games Eight innings per start. Fewer than one base runner per inning. And almost 5 Ks for every walk. (On Monday, in a 9-3 complete game win over the Astros, he struck out 9 and walked but one.)
Quite simply, CC dominates. More important, he finishes.
I hate pitch counts. Or I hate how they’re being used now – to manage pitchers, limiting the number of pitches they throw under some premise of saving his arm.
I’m going old-school on this one. Pull-eze!
Pitch counts are for the young and the wimpy. Pitchers in their prime – like Sabathia, who’s 28 – should be managed by the seats of their broad behinds. Whether they stay in the game should not not a matter of how many balls and strikes they throw but how they’re throwing and the situation.
And if they want to stay in, give them at least the shot – especially if they’re Cy Young Award winners, as is Sabathia.
I can’t help but conjure the classic scene (one of many) from Blazing Saddles, except with Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal and Steve Carlton as the desperadoes: Pitch counts! We don’t need no stinkin’ pitch counts!
It’s taken weeks for Jerry Manuel, the Mets’ interim manager, to figure that out. Ace Johan Santana, a hoss as well, averaged more than seven innings and fewer than two runs in his five most recent starts before Saturday. But he was allowed to finish the game only once, a victory. On three other occasions he went to bed with a no-decision because the Mets anemic bullpen gave up the lead. Only once did they manage to close out the W.
On Saturday, Santana was CC – he hauled it the full nine innings, allowing nary a walk nor a run in a 4-0 gem over the Pirates. For the record, he threw 113 pitches.
When the Brewers acquired CC, the postseason was a hope. Now they’re 2.5 games up on St. Louis for the wild card.
Hosses show up every night – or every fifth night. And this is not an aberration for CC. He’s been a hoss for awhile. He’s made at least 30 starts during all but one of his seven previous major-league seasons. The year he failed to reach that number, he made 28 starts.
Many writers are focusing on CC as hired gun, on how he’ll likely command more than Barry Zito’s $126 million joke of a contract when he become a free agent at the end of the season. But that’s boring. It’s just business. Another big deal. There will be another.
But at least this one, we know, will have been earned. Hosses are worth every cent.