One of the more interesting byproducts of Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia’s shutting down of negotiations for his next contract until after the upcoming season is how it plays so perfectly into the massive inferiority complex of the Cleveland populace. Call it the law of unintended consequences.
When Sabathia pitched in a meaningless pre-season game against the Yankees on Sunday, a game in which Sabathia was about as effective as he was in the playoffs last season, it sent both the Cleveland and the New York media into a minor frenzy. No matter how posed, the essence of the questions was the same: will Sabathia find himself in New York after this season?
It’s a question that Indians fans have basically been asking since Sabathia signed his last contract. In fact, it’s a question that Cleveland fans ask every time any decent player on any Cleveland team gets within sniffing distance of free agency, if the fascination of Cavaliers fans with LeBron James speculation is any indication, and it is.
If the deciding factor for Sabathia is money and length of contract, then the answer as to whether he’ll be in New York next season is probably. The Yankees, along with a handful of other teams, don’t ascribe to the same sort of business metrics to which most of the rest of the league pay attention.
They stake no claim to adhering to a budget, at least in the common definition of that term, and thus embrace the freedom that comes with the removal of such pedestrian and self-imposed restraints. No one anywhere doubts that if it takes coming up with the most money and the longest term contract to land Sabathia, the Yankees will find a way to make that happen. They always do.
But if securing that last dollar available isn’t as much of a priority as quality of life, then fans of the Yankees probably won’t see Sabathia leading their young rotation next year. This isn’t a slam on life as lived in the big city, either. It has much more to do with not grabbing the last buck as the tradeoff for enduring the unflinching and often unfair scrutiny of the New York media market.
According to Paul Hoynes’ summary in Monday’s Plain Dealer, after his outing Sabathia encountered the usual three or four Cleveland-based reporters, who undoubtedly lobbed the usual softball questions. This would have been followed by the inevitable puff piece profile in the local paper which seeks to neither enlighten nor inform.
But when Sabathia looked surprised that the locker room wasn’t overrun with the drones from Sector G in the form of the New York media horde, it was a look that lasted but an extra second or two as several reporters from New York, as Hoynes describes, streamed into the locker room.
Though Sabathia seemed somewhat ready for the obvious questions coming his way this time, it would be best for him to take note that it won’t always be that way. In Cleveland, a bad outing elicits nothing more than a shrug from the local media, or perhaps just a mild "tsk tsk." Throw a bad pitch in New York and Sabathia’s liable to find a reporter from the Post sifting through his garbage cans looking for reasons.
Sabathia, of course, isn’t talking much in the way of contract specifics. He merely repeats the same tired lines he’s been coached to say in order to deflect the inquiries his self-imposed status created. But it was that one answer that undoubtedly will most feed the inferiority complex beast that hovers over Cleveland and its sports teams. As reported by Hoynes: