Saturday, May 30, 2009

To boo or not to boo, as CC returns to Progressive Field mound

CC Sabathia will take his first trip to the hill at Progressive Field since being traded last summer to Milwaukee.

He'll be doing it in a Yankee uniform and if you will excuse me for a moment while I lose my lunch, I'll pick up from here.

That's better.

Now back to CC.

When it became apparent two off-seasons ago that Sabathia was not going to resign with the Tribe because of the lopsided, unfair economics of today's MLB, I reluctantly accepted that fact.

I thought, "Well, he'll take us to one more shot in the post-season and then do what he has to do."

Once it became obvious the Tribe was going nowhere last season, I girded myself for the inevitable mid-season deal that would send him away - the best home-grown Tribe pitcher since God knows when.

The trade came down, the Tribe got a nice haul in return (still to be proven, but seemingly so), and I was happy to see that CC went to Milwaukee - another small-market team that was taking its one big shot at the brass ring.

I watched nearly every one of CC's starts with Milwaukee on the dish and rooted him on along the way. Then, when the Brew Crew's run ended and the bargaining began, I was OK with all that - unless CC landed in one place in particular.

Of course, as we all know, CC ended up in that very place, and as a Tribe fan living here in Yankeeland I had to watch it all first-hand. And listen to Yankee fans and the NY media talk about "CC", as if they were old buds on a first-name basis for years.

That is when it all began to turn for me.

Seeing CC on the local TV news in his first spring workout as a Yankee, I got a sick feeling in my stomach.

When he pulled on the pinstripes for the first time for real back in April it stung even more.

Seeing him playfully chatting with Victor Martinez during batting practice at the new Yankee Stadium - the former battery mates each wearing a different uniform - was almost too much to watch.

And tonight, CC will be wearing the garb of the Evil Empire when he steps on the mound of the Tribe's home field.

So the question has become, will CC be booed (a la Manny, and Jim Thome) when he takes the hill, or cheered for his past contributions to the Tribe (see Omar Vizquel).

If I were going to the game tonight, it's hard to say what I would do when CC takes the mound. But if I had to say right now what my reaction would be, I'd say I would boo - long and hard.

And for those of you with tickets tonight, I suggest you do the same.

For me though, the boo would not really be directed at CC himself. He would simply be the vehicle for the message I would be trying to send to all the powers that be in MLB - the union, the league, the owners and broadcasters, all of whom stand to gain under a system where most of the best players eventually make their way to the teams that can generate the most dough for everyone simply because they are in cities where there are more paying customers.

People argue that small-market teams make their marks in the playoffs year in and year out, and that success can come anywhere when there is smart management.

But there are at least two things wrong with that argument.

For one, while it is true that every small-market dog (except maybe Pittsburgh) has it's day, it is also true that that is about how long it lasts - a day. Or one season, two or three if you are really lucky, and smart.

Then it becomes time to kiss all the fan favorites and the team's stars goodbye, wish them well (or not) in their big-media market and try to start again from scratch.

Some point to the Tribe's long string of success in the '90's (success even though no championships were won by the way) and say it can be done in the small markets if done correctly.

The problem with that argument is that the former owners of the team, the Jacobs family, ran that team as if they were in a big market. That is, they ran it that way until they saw the revenue boost from the excitement of the new stadium would be wearing out soon. Then they were smart enough to sell out to the Dolans.

The Dolans have been running the Tribe like a small-time operation pretty much since taking it over.

Cleveland is not the only place where the odds are stacked high against prolonged success.

Detroit took its shot at the big-time last season, but injuries and a decline in its pitching staff ruined those plans. The effort seems to be revived this year, but how far beyond this season will their current crop of talent take them? Especially as the Detroit economy worsens and the payroll has to shrink.

When was the last time they had a good team in Pittsburgh? Or a sustainably good team in Oakland, or San Diego or just about any place that is not New York, Boston or Los Angeles.

Because they play in divisions full of small-market teams, the two Chicago teams (especially the Sox) can low-ball it and still not stand out as ragamuffins in their respective divisions.

KC and Milwaukee currently are having a little run. But this is their "window." In a few short years the young, talented players they are developing will move on to greener pastures and the success of these small-market teams will fade again

The big-market teams can spend to their hearts content on the best talent. That is obvious. What is less obvious is they can also take chances that the smaller teams can't. "Well, let's sign three of these big-name pitchers and if even one works out big-time, we'll be all set." And, in the case of the Yankees, "let's sign the best hitter available out their as well."

At the same time, the best the little guys can do most off-seasons is put their money down on a Mark DeRosa and hope that it makes some sort of difference.

Baseball's system is broken, and has been for a while. At least for those who truly appreciate real, fair competition.

With the economy in sad shape right now, the unfairness of the system is beginning to manifest itself as people with very little discretionary income are beginning to realize that spending it to watch a sub-par baseball team may not be the best use of their money.

That will only exacerbate the gap between baseball haves and have-nots.

So, if you decide to let out a lusty boo for CC tonight, I hope you'll do it in the right spirit.

CC just played the system the way any smart, talented person would play it.

It's the system that deserves a great big Bronx cheer.


Anonymous said...

good bye delucci !!!

Ron Vallo said...

Amen to that!!

Anonymous said...

moose says

great article about CC - regarding the AL central - yo uare right on KC has fallen back with all that youn talent and Zack Grienke can't keep it up all year. Minnesota is Minnesota and if there pitching straightens out they will get their act together with 2 super stars morneau and mauer. Detroit pitching is a surprise and they might just hang around - verlander has come back , jackson, and the rookies bonderman may be next - Chicago is also tough with pitching coming around danks, floyd, etc and veterans in the bullpen and a good group to mix with the youth

now the indians -dont let the tampa 4 game sweep fool you -as the yanks are about to pay back the favor. First problem NO starting pitching after lee although give pavano credit. Fausto is a bust, and what is after that Huff, lewis, sowers , and 3 days of rain. The seniors in the bullpen have shown some life lately and maybe the raffies are getting it together. But damage is done

Offense you got victor. Cabrera has been a surprise and looks like derosa will get more OF time and peralta more at 3B - How is casey blake doing this year

OF Shoo is OK concern is sizemore - health cant let him DH all year

put Garko at first and let him play for awhile - Shoppach looks like a true backup catcher

How is Ed Mujchica doing this year

I dont think they wiil get to 500
even if westbrook comes back - lee will not sign extension - he could be 8-0 with the yankees

How is Franklin Gutierrez doing this year

They dont know what to do wih laporta

Where i kenny lofton and julio franco

Maybe lebron wants to be like Mike and give baseball a try

have a great sunday

Ron Vallo said...


I guess you are right about Sizemore as he has just been put on the DL, replaced by utility player Chris Jimenez.

I guess we had to assume that was coming at some point.

But Jimenez plays C, LF, and 1B - positions where Wedgie already has too many toys to play with and to move around day-in and day-out.

Let's hope Jiminez is just up long enough for the Tribe to get a better read on the extent of Victor's injury and then sent back down if/when they find out that Victor won't be out too long.

You are right about Westbrook too. I think people have the expectation he'll step in and start throwing groundballs immediately. He's coming back a bit sooner than originally expected and it usually takes guys with TJ-like surgery a good half season or so just to build back up and sharpen their skills. No fault of his own, but I suspect Jake will fit in about right with the rest of the bottom three in the rotation.

Mujica and Blake - I think we all (or most of us) wanted them gone. And no one was too thrilled with Fanklin Gutierrez either. No one protested too much when any of those guys were sent packing.

We got Valbuena in return for Gutierrez and why he is wasting away on a big-league bench I'll never know. He should play, or be sent back to the minors. I advocate the latter. Why rush the guy up in a season where the team is clearly going nowhere.

Even if the Tigers continue to come back to the pack and the Tribe should sneak into a division title, just how far would they go in the playoffs? My guess is four games - maybe five.

Anonymous said...

moose said

bullpen strikes again against the yankees

raffie P - nor very good

carl pavano - good start again