Tuesday, April 7, 2009


THE NEW YORK YANKEES looked like a million dollars in spring training. Or, to be more accurate, they looked like a team with a $200 million-plus payroll.

But if ever there was an example that spring training counts for nothing then it came at Camden Yards yesterday as the Yanks, and $161 million dollar man CC Sabathia in particular, suffered an embarrassing 10-5 defeat.

Baseball fans (and reporters) are prone to overreaction. If some of today’s newspaper columns are to be believed, then the Bronx Bombers are one and done.

But although the Yanks lost the opening day battle in Baltimore, they can – and most probably will – still win the war.

Those expecting a Johan Santana-like pitching performance from Sabathia should remember he is a notoriously slow starter. He went 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA in his first four outings in 2008.

Trouble is that when you’ve spent the kind of money the Yanks have on rebuilding their team this winter, then you want to see an instant return.

Hopefully, CC – with the aid of his heating pad – won’t take quite so long to warm up this year.

He needs to get the fans on his side and it won’t take too many more outings like yesterday’s, when he gave up six runs and eight hits in just 4.1 innings, to have people questioning whether he really is worth all that money. 

For the first time in 110 starts, Sabathia failed to record one strikeout. He had never previously thrown two wild pitches in the same inning. It was also the first time he had lost to the Orioles in ten career starts.

Opening day anguish for big-money signings

“It was just command of the fastball,” he said. “I’ve stressed this – everything I throw is off my fastball: my changeup, my cutter, my two-seamer. When I can’t find command of that and can’t get ahead of guys, it’s pretty difficult for me.”

Maybe Sabathia was nervous; maybe it was the cold, damp conditions in Maryland. Whatever the case, he will be hoping for much better on his second start.

So too will another of the Yankees’ big-money signings, Mark Teixeira, who had a miserable debut against his hometown team, going 0 for 4.

Teixeira, who spurned an offer from the Orioles to sign an eight-year, $180 million contract with New York, was booed by the fans.

“I would expect Orioles fans are going to boo the Yankees,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, where you grew up or what your name is.”

Welcome to New York, Mark and CC. In just one day, you’ve learned about the pressure that comes with playing for the Yankees.

You’ve learned about the fickle fans that flood the radio phone-ins after each and every defeat. You’ve learned about the reaction you can expect on the road from opposing supporters. And you’ve learned about the tabloid newspapers with banner headlines screaming “Money For Nothing.”

You should also have learned that the Yankees have some pretty good players and, given a season free of major injuries, there should be more good days than bad.

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