Tag Archives: C.C. Sabathia

The Flyin’ Hawaiian returns to the Philadelphia Phillies

Shane Victorino will help out the Phillies at 2019 spring training

Six and a half years have passed since the last time ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian’ pulled on the uniform of the Philadelphia Phillies on July 29, 2012 at Turner Field in Atlanta.

The aging Phillies dropped a 6-2 decision to their NL East Division rivals that afternoon. The defeat left them 12.5 games behind the second-place Braves and 16.5 off the pace being set by the first-place Washington Nationals.
The late Roy Halladay had taken the mound for the start that day. He would strikeout seven and walk just one over six innings and leave with the Phillies trailing by just 3-2 before the bullpen surrendered three in the 7th inning to break the game open.
The first five batters in the Phillies lineup that day were familiar to fans: Jimmy Rollins, Victorino, Chase UtleyRyan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. But all were between 31-33 years of age, beginning to push past their glorious prime years together.
Two days later, Victorino was one of the first to go in what would become a major rebuilding program that would last for more than a half-decade. He was dealt on July 31 to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitchers Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin, as well as a player-to-be-named who turned out to be in infield prospect named Stefan Jarrin.

On that same day, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr dealt away another starting outfielder, Hunter Pence, signalling a surrender of his team for the season. The club would actually heat up, pulling within three games of the second NL Wildcard with 11 to play. But that was as close as they would get.

 

Victorino became the left fielder for the Dodgers, stealing 15 bases over the final third of the season for a club that finished in second place in the NL West, two games off that final Wildcard pace and just five ahead of the 81-81 Phillies.
That off-season, Victorino became a free agent for the first time. He signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the Boston Red Sox that would turn into three seasons when the Beantowners picked up his $13 million option for 2015.
In his first season with Boston, Victorino played right field. He would win his fourth career Gold Glove Award at age 33 and receive AL MVP votes as the Red Sox captured the World Series championship.
In the clinching 6-1 victory in Game 6 over the Saint Louis Cardinals, Victorino knocked in four of the runs with two hits, including a two-out, bases-clearing double to open the scoring in the bottom of the 3rd inning.
The following 2014 season was injury-riddled, with Victorino playing in just 30 games before succumbing to back surgery on August 5th. He returned in 2015 and again lost time due to a late-April hamstring injury. On July 27, 2015 the Red Sox dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Josh Rutledge.
Victorino signed with the Chicago Cubs prior to the 2016 season and went to spring training with them. He was released at the end of spring training, but signed a minor league deal to remain with the team. He was then released by the Cubs on May 23, 2016 and that was the end of his playing career.

Last July 3rd, Victorino formally announced his retirement from Major League Baseball. On August 3rd he signed a one-day contract with the Phillies in order to retire with the team for whom he had enjoyed his greatest successes.

 

Victorino was originally a 6th round draft pick of the Dodgers back in 1999 out of St. Anthony High School in Wailuki, Hawaii. Three years later he was left exposed in the Rule 5 Draft and was selected by the San Diego Padres. He broke into the big-leagues with San Diego for a 36-game cup of coffee at the start of the 2003 season.
On May 23, 2003 the Padres returned him to the Dodgers, realizing that they couldn’t carry him on their big-league roster all season. The Dodgers again exposed Victorino to the Rule 5 Draft in the next off-season, and on December 13, 2004 the Phillies pounced on him.
He would make his name in Philadelphia. In 2006, Victorino split his time between all three outfield positions. Then in 2007 he became the everyday right fielder as the Phillies won the first of what would become five consecutive NL East crowns.

When Aaron Rowand left in free agency, Victorino took over in center field. He would be the starter there for the Phillies for most of the next five years, until his 2012 trade to the Dodgers. He won three straight NL Gold Glove Awards from 2008-10, and was an NL All-Star in both 2009 and 2011. He received NL MVP votes in each of the latter two seasons.

 

And, of course, he was leaping on top of a pile of teammates as the Phillies won the second World Series championship in franchise history on October 29, 2008. Earlier in the month his grand slam home run off Milwaukee Brewers ace C.C. Sabathia had been one of the key hits in that entire postseason.
Victorino continues to call his native Hawaii as home for much of the year. His father, Mike Victorino, was elected as the Mayor of Maui last November. Back in November, Robert Collias at The Maui News asked Victorino what has become his focus in retirement:
Watching my children grow up, getting that opportunity as a father, to not have to worry about that 9-to-5 grind every day, but to have an opportunity to help be a part of their lives and their upbringing, basically be there for moral support.
Shane Victorino joined the Phillies today as a guest instructor. This is his first time in uniform since he left the Phillies in 2012.

 

 

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And now, for the first time since he pulled his uniform off on that late-July day nearly six years ago, Victorino will don a full Phillies uniform and take the field. He joins a long list of former Phillies players who have helped the team prepare this season including former 2008 World Series-winning teammates Jimmy Rollins and Chad Durbin.

 

When it was first announced back in mid-February that Victorino would be helping out at spring training this year, Tim Klepac at 12up described well what the Phillies hope to get from him: “Victorino’s relaxing demeanor is infectious and the front office hopes that will carry into their clubhouse in March.”
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Shane Victorino back in a Phillies uniform

Yankees find life as C.C. Sabathia turns back the clock

Sabathia gem helps cut Yankees ALCS deficit in half

The New York Yankees were in desperate shape entering Game Three of the 2017 American League Championship Series.

The Yanks trailed the Houston Astros by two games to none in the best-of-seven series. A loss back home in the Bronx would put them in an almost impossible 3-0 hole.

Manager Joe Girardi handed the ball to 37-year old, 17-year veteran C.C. Sabathia for the pivotal starting assignment on the mound.

Sabathia delivered, and then some. He would shut out the tough Houston lineup for six innings over which he threw 99 pitches. The big lefty surrendered just three hits, walked four, and struck out five batters in what he described as a “smoke and mirrors” performance per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch.

Despite his age, there is no one his team would have wanted more in that position. Per Hoch, Sabathia is now 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts following a Yankees loss during the 2017 regular season and postseason.

“Obviously you want to go out and have a good performance in the playoffs and give us a chance to get back in the series. Hopefully we did that tonight. We can come out tomorrow, swing the bats and score some more runs.” ~ Sabathia, per Hoch

Swing the bats they did last night as well. The Bronx Bombers came out bombing early and often against Houston starter Charlie Morton. The veteran right-hander yielded seven earned runs on six hits and two walks over just 3.2 innings of work.

Todd Frazier got it started in the bottom of the second inning. The former Little League World Series hero reached out and poked a three-run homer just over the right field wall. That blast got the offense rolling in what would become an eventual 8-1 Yankees victory.

For all of the offensive fireworks that followed, including yet another prodigious home run from mammoth rookie Aaron Judge, it was the work of Sabathia in keeping Houston’s own potent offense in check that would make the biggest difference.

With the left-hander taking the hill against his club, Houston skipper A.J. Hinch loaded his lineup with right-handed hitters. Hinch had Evan Gattis and Cameron Maybin take the places of Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. He also moved shortstop Alex Bregman up into the two-hole in the batting order.

None of it mattered in the end. Maybin delivered a hit, but it was one of only four that the Houston order would generate on the night against Sabathia and a trio of Yankees relievers.

He comes up big for us when we need him,’’ said outfielder Brett Gardner per Mark Herrmann for Newsday. “He’s a big-game pitcher. He might not have the velocity that he used to have, but he’s a better pitcher and has better command than he’s had. He knows what he’s doing out there. We’re lucky to have him on our side.”

SABATHIA’S BIG LEAGUE HISTORY

Sabathia was the first round pick of the Cleveland Indians all the way back in the 1998 MLB Draft at 20th overall. Just three years later he was in Cleveland, winning 17 games as a 20-year old and finishing as the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up to a legend named Ichiro Suzuki.

In parts of eight seasons with the Tribe, Sabathia amassed a 106-71 record. He was the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner, as well as a three-time AL All-Star.


With Sabathia headed for free agency, the Indians dealt him to the Milwaukee Brewers at the 2008 trade deadline. He went 11-2 for the Brew Crew, helping them to the playoffs, and then entered free agency.


Entering his age 28 season, an ace-caliber starting pitcher, Sabathia was one of the most coveted free agents on the market. He received a huge nine-year, $202 million dollar contract from the Yankees. That deal expires following this season.




With the Yankees, Sabathia has added on another 120 victories to his personal career win column. He also has three more AL All-Star Game nods, has finished in the top four of the AL Cy Young voting three times, and helped lead New York to their last World Series championship in 2009.

GEM CUTS YANKS DEFICIT IN HALF


We wanted him on the mound tonight,” Girardi said per Peter Botte of the New York Daily News. “We thought we had the right guy on the mound. Six innings, just an outstanding effort. Couldn’t ask for anything more.

Adam Warren followed Sabathia, tossing a pair of shutout innings. The only Houston offense was generated off Dellin Betances in the top of the 9th inning, but Tommy Kahnle came in to shut the Astros down and close out the victory.

The turn-back-the-clock Sabathia win cuts the Yankees deficit to 2-1 now, with the next two games slated for Tuesday and Wednesday. Those will once again take place in the postseason hotbed of Yankee Stadium.

On Tuesday for a late afternoon 5pm EDT start, Girardi will send Sonny Gray to the mound. Hinch will go with Lance McCullers in Game Four. Both managers will be hoping for a performance as clutch as the one delivered by Sabathia on Monday night.

Phillies Andy MacPhail right not to spend money on roster

Phillies President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail

Andy MacPhail has just begun his third off-season as President of Baseball Operations with the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

First hired by the Phillies as an assistant to Pat Gillick in June 2015, MacPhail has been an inside observer to the workings of the team as it finished with 63, 71, and 66 wins over the last three seasons.

Going back even further, the Phillies and their fans have now suffered through five consecutive losing campaigns. Not just barely losing, where your team is competitive. The Phillies best finish in that stretch was 16 games below the .500 mark.

It has been a long, dark period made even less palatable by the fact that it followed the greatest decade in franchise history. From 2001-11, the Phillies fielded just one loser, and that 2002 team finished just a game below the .500 mark.

Most fans, though frustrated, understood the circumstances that led to this current losing stretch. Our heroes of the previous decade pretty much all aged out together. Injuries cut short a few careers. A few poor decisions exacerbated matters.

The reality was that the Phillies needed to rebuild their farm system, developing a group of players who could form the next core of a winning ball club. That was going to take a few years.

Well, a few years have passed. The Phillies have indeed rebuilt that farm system. In the opinions of most respected evaluators, they have indeed developed a core group capable of special things in the coming years.

Despite the final standings, a number of those young players stepped up big in the 2017 season. The club played 23-19 ball over the last month and a half of the season as more of the kids were moved into prominent roles.

So when MacPhail sat down in front of the press in early October to discuss the Phillies off-season strategy, hope was in the air. It appears that “rebuilding” is over, or nearing completion.

Many fans and scribes believe that with just a couple of key additions, especially in the pitching rotation, the Phillies might even be able to push for a 2018 Wildcard playoff berth. Was the hierarchy of the team on board, ready to make a real push to start winning again?

My philosophy hasn’t changed,” MacPhail said per Ryan Lawrence of The Philly Voice. “There are times when you’re going to have to dive into that pool and just take a risk. But it’s not my favorite place to be. We get inundated with stories across the game about how everybody is looking for starting pitching. Just get two quality starters, and we’ll be all set. Well, you might as well look for a unicorn at the same time. It’s tough. You don’t want to be paying for past performance.”

The cumulative message in MacPhail’s presser was that the Phillies are going to be spending money this off-season, just not on immediate improvements to the roster. Instead, there will be improvements to the ballpark and to the behind-the-scenes organization, such as the analytics staff.

Lawrence also reported in his piece, however, that according to MacPhail, principal owner John Middleton is not necessarily on board.

When asked how Middleton and the ownership group responded to the idea of not spending on roster improvements, MacPhail stated: They did not react extraordinarily well in the beginning. Ultimately, they’re OK with it with one proviso: that if an opportunity presents itself, we do not exclude it. They understand the program.

Since the press conference, MacPhail’s statements and position have met with a mostly negative reaction from that frustrated fan base. It has also prompted some criticism from those in the press.

Jack McCaffery of the Delaware County Daily Times was perhaps the most direct. McCaffery called the team president’s message “nonsense”, and characterized as “unacceptable” his position to spend on the park but not on the players. McCaffery opened his piece as follows:

“With the chance to use the Phillies’ slight, late-season, youth-driven improvement to inspire renewed fan excitement, Andy MacPhail instead made a recent retreat to the organization’s most humiliating modern-era moment.
Though the team president didn’t reprise the classic Bill Giles lament that he is running a small-market operation, MacPhail projected an identical message.”

While I may not be at the ballpark on a daily basis, I don’t need to be in order to have an educated, informed opinion on the Phillies roster and their organizational decision-making process.

As a Phillies fan for 47 seasons now, I have seen many ups and downs. There have been two glorious World Series titles, five National League pennants, 11 NL East crowns on the good side of the ledger.

More than half (24) have been losing seasons on the other side. This year’s team was the 12th Phillies ball club that I watched through a season in which they finished at least 20 games below that .500 mark.

As well as anyone, I understand the frustration. However, I don’t join in what I see now as a somewhat misguided rush to win in the short term. I want to win for the long term. I want another decade run, at least.

MacPhail was specifically alluding to the current off-season crop of available free agents when he spoke of keeping Middleton’s wallet closed for now.

That current crop includes a pair of arms that would be categorized by many as “aces”, #1 starter-level arms. Those would be Yu Darvish and Jake Arreita.

Beyond that, there are a number of interesting arms of various levels, all proven big league starter types. These include C.C. Sabathia, John Lackey, Francisco Liriano, Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, and former Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson.

Luring one of the two aces here by overpaying them, something that would most certainly need to happen in order to get them to choose the last-place Phillies over a contender, and adding one or two of the second-tier arms would absolutely improve the odds of a 2018 postseason run.

However, you aren’t getting either of those aces on a one-year contract. You aren’t even likely to get them on a three-year deal. You’re probably talking about a five year contract, minimum. Arrieta made $16.5 million and Darvish made $11 million this year. You can bet on them seeking, and likely getting, a five-year deal worth a total of $100 million or more.

Both pitchers are now 31 years old. Arrieta will turn 32 before the 2018 season opens. That is far from old in the real world. But you are committing big chunks of your budget to either arm through the 2022 campaign. MacPhail is not willing to do that, and I believe that he is right.

Spending $100 million or more on baseball players already in their 30’s is a fool’s contract in the modern game. It might work out once in awhile. But the vast majority of the time, you will be lucky to get a couple of good years before being saddled with three or more years of a contract albatross hanging around your club’s neck.

In a revealing piece on this topic back in 2013, Jonah Keri for Grantland told us to “beware the $100 million MLB man.”

if you want to avoid making a $240 million mistake you’ll regret for a decade, the answer’s simple: Assemble a bottomless well of homegrown talent and hire a GM with enough clout to talk his billionaire boss out of doing anything rash.

If the Phillies were already a proven contender, and they had plenty of budget room, maybe things are different. But that is not the case. This young group still has to prove that they are for real over the length of a full season.

MacPhail believes, and I am not sure that he is wrong, that the Phillies will not repeat the recent losing campaigns in 2018, even without a big outlay of cash to free agents.

If the youngsters are as good as we all believe them to be, if those last six or seven winning weeks were not an aberration, then 2018 will indeed be much more exciting.

And if that does indeed turn out to be the case, if the Phillies are hanging around the .500 mark at mid-season, there is nothing to preclude them going after a big ticket arm and/or bat as next year’s trade deadline approaches.

There is one interesting case that appears could meet the Middleton proviso of being able to pursue an opportunity. That would be the case of Japanese phenom Shohei Otani.

Otani is just 23 years old. He has been compared to Babe Ruth, and called “the world’s best player who isn’t in the majors.” It has been said that Otani has “the kind of extraordinary talent that could change the sport” due to his outstanding performances as both a pitcher and hitter.

The Phillies would be joined by at least a dozen other clubs in Major League Baseball in bidding on the young wunderkind. But the fact is that based on age and position, he perfectly fits what the club should be looking for at this time. He is that “opportunity presenting itself” of which Middleton speaks.

Short of a successful Otani bid, I am on board with the Phillies heading into the 2018 season with their current crop of youngsters. I believe they will be much better next year, that it will prove to be the real beginning of a step forward.

I also believe that the Phillies are on the verge of spending big. Not now. Not this off-season. But perhaps at that 2018 trade deadline. Certainly no later than next off-season.

I do not believe that MacPhail is dooming Phillies fans to a repeat of 2013-17 any longer. The kids are here, and they are good. MacPhail and I, and you as well if you are honest, believe they are ready to shine. If they do, then they will get help. It’s almost time. Almost.

ALDS Prediction: Cleveland Indians over New York Yankees

Progressive Field in Cleveland hosts first two ALDS games

No disrespect meant to the most decorated organization in the history of Major League Baseball, but I think they are in over their heads in their ALDS matchup with the Cleveland Indians.

Let’s begin the preview with who the Yankees are coming into the series. Joe Girardi’s squad took control of the top AL Wildcard spot in September, and even made a run at the Boston Red Sox for the AL East Division crown before falling two games short.

That pushed the Yanks into the AL Wildcard Game. In that contest, held on Tuesday night, the Yankees spotted the Minnesota Twins a 3-0 first inning lead. The Bronx Bombers then bombed away, out-scoring the Twins 8-1 the rest of the way.

The Yankees (91-71) big hitters did the damage in that one-game playoff. Aaron Judge went 2-4 with a monster home run (what else is new), and scored three runs. Gary Sanchez and Brett Gardner each had two hits, with Gardner and Didi Gregorius each blasting a home run.

Those three are going to have to contribute heavily if the Yankees are to have any hope of overcoming the defending AL champion Indians. The Tribe won five of the seven meetings between the two teams this season, and I just don’t see it happening in a playoff series.

Girardi is scheduled to send big trade acquisition Sonny Gray to the mound in the opener. He’ll be followed by veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia in Game Two. Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka gets the nod for Game Three on Saturday back at Yankee Stadium.

For the Indians (102-60) and manager Terry Francona, it was a surprise to many to see righty Trevor Bauer get the call for the opener. But Francona and the Tribe have a great deal of trust in Bauer, who started Game One of the ALDS a year ago vs Boston, and who also made two starts in the World Series vs the Chicago Cubs.

He will be followed by ace Corey Kluber in Game Two, and then veteran Carlos Carrasco on Saturday. Bauer and the Tribe pen pitching their way to a first-game victory would be huge, with AL Cy Young contender Kluber going on Friday.

Part of the reason that Francona doesn’t fear sending Bauer out in the opener is confidence in his relief corps. Perhaps no manager in this year’s MLB postseason is more experienced in the “bullpenning” concept.

Francona will turn to righties Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Danny Salazar, and Mike Clevinger. From the left side it would be Danny Olson and the multi-inning weapon Andrew Miller. The regular closer is right-hander Cody Allen.

Girardi has no problem going to a bullpen game either, as he demonstrated in the Wildcard Game. When starter Luis Severino was knocked out by the Twins in the first inning, the Yankees skipper paraded out a quartet of relievers. Over the ensuing 8.2 innings they combined to allow just one run on five hits, and the offense rallied to victory.

That New York relief group includes righties David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Chad Green, all of whom went in the Wildcard Game. Right-handers Dellin Betances, Jordan Montgomery, and Adam Warren are also available. From the left side the options are Jaime Garcia and closer Aroldis Chapman.

The Indians lineup features a pair of American League MVP candidates in shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Jose Ramirez.

Talented veteran second baseman Jason Kipnis missed big chunks of the season, playing in just 90 games. But he returned to the lineup in mid-September and hit .321/.394/.536 over his final nine games. He may be set for a big October.

Another huge addition to the Indians lineup since last year has been Edwin Encarnacion. The veteran DH signed away from the Toronto Blue Jays infused Francona’s lineup with 38 homers and 107 RBI, and he has a knack for coming through in the big moments.

The Indians postseason experience a year ago, their variety of offensive threats, and the depth of their pitching staff all add up to a series victory for me. The Yankees have enjoyed a strong season, but they are a little short on talent against this opponent, and I’m calling it a 3-0 sweep.

C.C. Sabathia On His Last Legs in the Bronx

At 7:10pm on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, the New York Yankees will send their veteran 36-year old left-hander to the mound.
CC Sabathia will be trying to help the club to its first victory of the nascent 2017 season. The host Tampa Bay Rays ripped the Yanks by a 7-3 final in Sunday’s season opener. For Sabathia, this will be his 17th season in Major League Baseball.
The first-round pick at 20th overall in the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft by the Cleveland Indians, he spent most of his first eight seasons with the Tribe. He was a three-time AL All-Star with Cleveland. In his final full season there, Sabathia won the AL Cy Young Award.
Sabathia was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers at the 2008 trade deadline and helped the Brew Crew to an NL Wild Card berth.
Following that ’08 season, Sabathia signed a huge nine-year, $202 million free agent contract with the Yankees. His first season in the Big Apple resulted in the Yankees winning the World Series. Sabathia finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.
In each of the subsequent two seasons, Sabathia again finished within the top four of the AL Cy Young race. He was an AL All-Star each year from 2010-12.

SABATHIA BEGINS TO SLIP

It was the following year that his performance really began to slip. Sabathia made his 32 starts and tossed 211 innings in 2013. It was the seventh consecutive season that he passed the 200 IP mark.
At that point in his career, Sabathia had thrown at least 180 innings in each of his 13 seasons in the big leagues. It would also prove to be the final time, at least to date.
Eight starts into his 2014 campaign, Sabathia was done for the year. He was diagnosed with a degenerative knee condition.
Sabathia was able to return, but his last two seasons have shown him to be a shell of his former self. Over 59 starts, he has allowed 360 hits in 347 innings with a 289/115 K:BB ratio. He has also given up 50 home runs over the two seasons.
This year, Sabathia is slotted into the #2 spot in the Yanks’ rotation to begin the season behind Masahiro Tanaka. Following those two, the Yankees rotation is full of unproven kids and major question marks.
For the Yankees to do anything this season, Sabathia needs to be effective over 30+ starts. This is the final year of that big contract, likely his final season in pinstripes.
What can the Yankees hope for, reasonably? If Sabathia can give them 180 innings, keep his ERA around the 4.00 mark, and allow fewer than 20 homers, it’s a win.
Actually getting that production may be difficult. His knee could go at any time, with his age and size as increasingly relevant factors. Once again, and for a final time, Sabathia is in the Yankees rotation. The big question remains, can he make it a memorable last hurrah?