Saturday, April 9, 2016

Yogi Vu: Today starts the CC "End of Times" Watch, and we have been here before

Today, CC Sabathia launches what has become his annual bid to remain relevant. He seeks to hold the coveted Yankee fifth starter slot, and his truest competition just underwent surgery and will miss four months. Of course, CC still must stave off the immortal Ivan Nova to spare himself - a borderline Hall of Famer - the indignity of bullpen duty, a role he has never known.

It's hard to imagine a more larger-than-life Yankee shrinking more painfully, right before our eyes - stuck in the purgatory between mediocrity and retirement. CC is heading into the Place of Pavano, the Ismuth of Igawa. In a perfect world, he would announce that 2017 will be his final season, triggering a farewell tour. The fact is, he'll be lucky to make the start of 2017.

So here we are... watching the last throes - or throws - of another great.

We saw Roger Clemens devolve into a hyperventilating psychopath, whose idea of a quality start was five innings and four runs. (A-Rod, Bonds and McGwire have mended fences; why is Clemens still a baseball pariah?) We watched David Cone, Jimmy Key and Doc Gooden fall apart. We never really saw the heydays of Randy Johnson or Kenny Rogers, who arrived past their sell-by dates. Part of the legends of Andy Pettite and Mike Mussina was their ability to finish their careers as quality pitchers. Not many do.

Well, you can't predict baseball, somebody once said. Today, we'll begin to see how much CC has left. But he has been collapsing for four years. He tried losing weight. He tried putting it back on. He even tried drinking. He is a Dorian Gray painting of scarred knees, inflamed hamstrings and overworked capillaries. If there is one inevitability about the 2016 Yankees, it is that CC will tweak something. And he'll still have 2017 on his contract.

In this world, I have no problem with players getting all the money they can. As far as I'm concerned, CC has earned every penny of the Steinbrenner inheritance, and any fan who would deride him, because the Yankees cut a bad deal should go root for the Brewers. Unlike his dad, though, Food Stamps Hal Steinbrenner refuses to spend on a replacement. He'll wring the final innings out of every paycheck. I'd rather boo the owner than a guy who helped us win the World Series.

Today, we'll get a glimpse of what's to come. But we have been here before. A season is beginning, and a career is ending. To honor CC, we had better score some runs.

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