Sunday, April 11, 2010

CC Flirts With No-No

It was September, 1996. I was watching the Yankees-A's game and was marvelling at how David Cone had managed to throw 7 no-hit innings. After all, Coney, who still doesn't have a dance, was making his first start since having surgery for an aneurysm in his shoulder in early May.

The Yankees had a real shot at winning their first title in 18 years that season, having ended a 14 year playoff drought the previous October. That's what Joe Torre had in mind when he pulled Coney from the game despite the no-no in progress. Cone was on a 100 pitch limit that day, but Torre yanked him after 85 tosses. He wasn't going to risk his ace's arm for one day of regular season glory. That Mariano kid came on and lost the no-hitter, but he would more than make up for it in October. And Coney was around to throw a magnificent six innings in the tide turning game 3 win in the World Series. Oh, and the catcher that day in September...that would be Joe Girardi.

Flash forward to yesterday. Just the second start of the season for CC Sabathia, who saw his pitch count grow as he entered the 8th inning. Had the one of the Rays already reached safely on a base hit, CC would have been out of the game for sure. But spectacular plays by Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez had preserved the gem and Sabathia was just four outs away from "baseball immortality", to quote a certain baseball announcer.

Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland could be seen conferring as each Rays batter stepped to the plate. Clearly, the duo did not want to over extend their big man. Rays' catcher Kelly Shoppach ended all speculation with a hard single to left field to break up the no-hitter. It was Sabathia's 111th pitch, a fairly high count for April in these days of clickers and pitch counts. After the game, Girardi revealed that no matter what Shoppach had done, CC was done for the day.

And though it would have been an unpopular one, it would have been the right decision. There's no point in risking your ace's health and your season for one regular season moment of glory. All you have to do is look back at your own history to realize that.

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