When CC Sabathia met the media following the 10-5 loss to Baltimore on Monday, he was honest about his shortcomings. He admitted having no command of his fastball, which is the key to setting up his other pitches, and described his effort as terrible. It was terrible, and it could have been caused by any number of factors.
Like the cold, which could have made it difficult to get his arm or, judging from his use of a heating pad, oblique muscles loose. It may shock you to learn that Sabathia has obliques, but he does and he had problems with them in the early parts of previous seasons. Seeing as how he didn't have any velocity issues while in Florida, a bit of tightness seems like a pretty reasonable explanation.
Not that anyone around New York deals in reasonable explanations. A flood of callers on sports radio proclaimed the Sabathia deal a bust on Tuesday, and while newspapers showed a bit more judgment, there's definitely a tabloid war brewing about who can be the first to call the deal a massive bust. Heck, even the YES network's John Flaherty got in on the fun.
"When I'm watching him pitch and see the heat pad and then see him throwing 88-89 (miles per hour), it's almost like he's protecting something and pitching at 70%. But everybody says he's feeling fine, so obviously that wasn't the issue. ... to see a day when (Sabathia) can't control his fastball and his velocity is down. When I've seen guys amped up, they're throwing gas and they're all over the place. But it was like he never really got going."
Flaherty has been around the big leagues for just about 20 years and he acts like it's the first time he's seen a pitcher come out with less than his best stuff. It happens over the course of a 162 game season, which, incidentally, is just long enough that one April loss isn't significant enough for anyone who knows anything to get too upset about. It's unfortunate that it happened in his first start after signing a huge contract, but it happens.
Wanna know when else it happened? In 2008, when Sabathia got crushed by the White Sox on Opening Day. He went on to struggle through all of April, ending the month with a 7.88 ERA. It was more than five runs lower by the time all was said and done, but what's the fun of perspective?