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:
“Q. In a perfect world, is your preference be to stay in Cleveland? [sic]
A. In a perfect world, of course, I've been here since I was 17. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
Locally, that is as much of an admission that Sabathia is going to New York as anything else fans are likely to hear all season. Cleveland is not now nor will it ever be considered “a perfect world.” But beyond the lack of trappings of a city in a perpetual struggle with respectability, it won’t be a “perfect world” because what Cleveland lacks in cache it also lacks in cash. New York is flush with both.
When fans see the fact that Sabathia shut down off-season negotiations without even giving the Indians the courtesy of a response to its four year deal at approximately $17.5 million a season plus a healthy raise on this year’s salary, they naturally draw two conclusions: Sabathia is after the last dollar, and there is no chance that the Indians will pay it. It’s hard to argue either point. The fact, though, that Indians fans next assume that Sabathia’s destination has to be the Yankees is fed less on fact and more on envy.
No matter how great a city New York might be in general, it might as well be Gomorrah on steroids to Clevelanders who see the Yankees as an embodiment of the arrogance and swagger that offend the Midwest sensibilities of a once proud industrial town. They may not be alone in that view, but Clevelanders also see a healthy dose of the Yankees success over the last three or so decades being fed in some measure by various Cleveland connections, not the least of which is owner George Steinbrenner.