Aaron Boone’s inexperience as a major league manager had no bearing on what went on at the Trop this afternoon. Boone had seen this scenario many times before as a player, when a teammate nearly gets hit in the head. With C.C. Sabathia on the mound for his club, Boone expected an answer. “I think there’s no question there was intent,” the Yankees first year skipper said after the game.
Boone was referring to the pitch from Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge that just missed hitting Yankees catcher Austin Romine in the head during the top of the sixth inning of a 12-1 pasting of the Rays.
I’m sure the Yankee Manager was Romine at one time or another and had experienced the greatest fear that a hitter could have, one of getting hit in the head. “If you’re gonna play that game and you start messin’ around with people’s heads, we’re gonna take exception to that,” the Manager said.
Sabathia was throwing a gem and was heading towards a bonus if he could go seven innings in his final start of the season (career?) but as has been his wont during his big league career, C.C. had his catcher’s back. Sabathia was well aware that the umpires had issued a warning in the top of the inning but that didn’t matter.
Rays catcher Jesus Sucre was the first hitter in the bottom of the sixth and was a perfect candidate for retaliation. C.C. drilled Sucre in his left thigh and was thrown out but not before orating a few verbal gems towards the Rays’ dugout. Between the lines, hitting Sucre low was the proper way to respond, but you would expect nothing different from the Yankee left hander who answered the right way.
There was some concern that something else could break out or someone else could get hit and get hurt, particularly a Yankee batter, but Sabathia is well respected around the game so it was unlikely at that point. It also gave some validity to those who believe that the players should “police themselves.”
Sabathia was blunt when asked about what he saw when Kittredge “dusted” Romine. “He threw one under his [Romine] chin so that’s never a good spot to throw at anybody,” he said.
Giancarlo Stanton knows what it’s like to be hit up high. A little over four years ago, Stanton was drilled in the face by pitcher Mike Fiers. Intentional or not, the pitch caused multiple facial fractures. To his credit, Stanton has rebounded to be a productive major league player but if anyone knows the danger of being hit up high, it’s the first year Yankee. “It doesn’t matter what happens out there, you don’t throw at someone’s head,” said Stanton, who appreciated the response from his pitcher. “He [Sabathia] did what he felt he needed to do, so either way, I’m with ‘C,’ always,” he said.
If you’ve ever been part of a team in an organized sport, you realize what it is to stand up for those who wear the same uniform as you do. Aaron Judge, who is already a leader in his own right, recognizes the value of what Sabathia did. “He’s always been a guy that’s always had our back, always looked out for his teammates, no matter the situation,” Judge said. “That’s the type of guy you want to go to battle with.”
With Sabathia leading the way, the Yankees won a very big game if they hope to have next Wednesday’s Wild Card game in the Bronx. Because of what happened in the sixth inning, Sabathia’s outing was brushed aside as a lead story but the Manager knew what he saw from his veteran pitcher. “Just looked like he was playing catch with Romine out there,” Boone said.
What made Sabathia’s action even more remarkable is that he had a $500,000 bonus on the line if he could pitch two more innings. The way the big lefty was throwing, it looked like that bonus was in the bank, yet, knowing that he would be ejected, he still supported his team. “I don’t make decisions based on money I guess, you know just felt like it was the right thing to do,” Sabathia said in what could’ve been his last outing as a Yankee.
If this was the finale, then Sabathia goes out having helped the Yankees win their last World Championship among other accomplishments, while garnering the ultimate respect from a team and a sport that will miss him when he’s gone.