Tuesday, September 21, 2010

20 for CC Sabathia - A Black Ace

When CC Sabathia lost on Monday, I was hoping he'd redeem himself this past weekend and add some more birthday mojo to a great weekend. Sitting in the karoake lounge Saturday, I was happy to see he did - finally winning his 20th game for the first time in his career.

In the past four seasons, Sabathia's become something we haven't seen in baseball since Dave Stewart in the late 80's/early 90's - a Black pitcher who's the proven ace of a staff. It's a tradition that started with Don Newcombe and continued with the likes Bob Gibson, Vida Blue, Fergie Jenkins and briefly Dwight Gooden.

With the number of Black players dwindling in baseball, the Black pitchers dropped severely. If you look at all the great pitchers from the mid-90's to 2007, there's nary a Black face in the bunch. Sabathia's changed that.

Over the past 3 years, he's won a Cy Young, nearly took Cleveland to their first WS since 1997, singlehandedly led the Milwaukee Brewers to the first playoff appearance since 1982, helped the Yankees win their first World Series since 2000 (shaking off his own postseason demons) and became the youngest pitcher to win 150 games.

Now he's finally a member of the Black Aces with the other 13 Black pitchers who have won 20 games. He may be with the Yankees but I always root for him because of what he represents.

He's a power pitcher with great control. He's a workhorse who can be counted on to go 7 innings or more - pitch counts be darned. He's also the only pitcher in my opinion who has a chance to win 300 games if he keeps it up for another decade.

(FYI. All-time winningest Black pitchers. Fergie Jenkis (284), Gibson (251), Blue (209), Doc Gooden (194), Dave Stewart (168). CC's gonna be top-5 next year at 156,)

Personal note, I worked with a cousin of his at my last job and when he started heating up in 07, we used to always talk about him and his family. In 2008, he pitched at Dodger Stadium and showed his brilliance on the mound (7 innings, 5 hits) and the plate (hitting a 440-foot shot to right field that nearly made me jump in the press box).

I wrote about that game as a potential showcase for the Dodgers acquiring him. CC was intimidating at 6-7, 290 lbs but he was also friendly to the press. It was a homecoming for him almost with 30 of his family from up North in Vallejo and down South in Louisiana.

Watching him pitch for the Yankees makes me a bit bitter because I wish the Dodgers acquired him in the winter of '08. He wanted to pitch on the West Coast, he wanted to pitch for the Dodgers, he told GM Ned Colletti he wanted to meet with them. But the team never even met with him or followed up.

Needless to say, I was disappointed. It prompted to me to write this furious response to the team (probably my best impression of LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke).

That aside, he's still my favorite pitcher and I root for him every time he takes the mound. I was privately happy when I watched him win Game 4 of the ALCS last year and I'll be rooting for him to have another great postseason this year, along with hopefully winning his second Cy Young award.

In the same way, I root for David Price - another upstanding young pitcher who throws hard with great control and has a great story.

He's a model of class (taking out a full page ad to thank Cleveland and Milwaukee), professionalism and service (constantly giving back to Oakland and other communities). Congrats but as he'll be the first to say, the job ain't done til he gets another ring.

(Apologies for the grammatical errors in those stories - the drawback of being your own proofreader and not having another pair of eyes see it)


  1. Great piece. Props to all the Black Aces! Love that name.

  2. All props to Mudcat Grant, who started it to highlight the success of Black pitchers. Wish David Price joined this year but least we can pray for Price-Sabathia Round 3-4 in the ALCS.