MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince unloads on CC Sabathia

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Anthony Castrovince is one of MLB.com’s best. He’s a good reporter and, unlike some of the other people over there, he doesn’t give off the impression that he’s overly cozy with the team he covers, the Cleveland Indians. He’s a straight shooter, as likely to see things from the player’s perspective as he is the team’s perspective when those two perspectives are at odds. And even if he’s arguing one side of things, he’s always been fair in my experience.

As a result, if Castrovince is going after someone — I mean really going after someone — you can bet that something really, really got under his skin. In this case it’s CC Sabathia, who said yesterday, in response to a question about the Indians losing him, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez in the space of a year or so, that “that wasn’t our fault. They traded us. That’s on them.”

Read Castovince’s laser-guided missile assault at CC Sabathia in full for all of its glory. In the meantime, here’s a taste:

Essentially, Sabathia got lucky. Because 50 years from now, Indians
fans won’t remember him as the guy who walked away from the Tribe for
the big payday elsewhere. He won’t go down with the likes of Albert
Belle, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome. Rather, he’ll be remembered as the
Cy Young winner the Indians stupidly dealt in his prime.

Nevermind, of course, that the Indians were forced to deal Sabathia
because he was going to walk away three months later and because he and
his teammates crumbled upon the weight of expectations in 2008.
Nevermind that the primary reason that ’07 team — a “good team” in its
own right, having won 96 games in the regular season — didn’t ascend to
the World Series like it should have was because Sabathia was
outpitched in Games 1 and 5.

If Sabathia were being honest with himself and honest with the fans, he
would have said, “This is a business, and it’s difficult for a team in a
smaller market like Cleveland to afford to keep its core intact. That’s
why it’s a shame we weren’t able to take advantage of the special
opportunity we had in ’07. And as the ace of that pitching staff, I take
the brunt of the blame.”

You may disagree with parts of it, but I think Castrovince got it mostly right. The key here is that Castrovince does not — like so many other scribes who criticize big money players — expect some sort of loyalty from Sabathia. He didn’t expect CC to say with the Indians because such a thing made no economic or logical sense for anyone. All he expects is honesty from guys in Sabathia’s position. For them to say “hey, baseball economics are what they are, and that leads to things like Lee, Martinez and I getting traded,” rather than to disingenuously blame the team.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask, and I think that Castrovince nailed it.

Game 6: This is why the Astros traded for Justin Verlander

Associated Press
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Houston’s pitching has not been their biggest problem as they’ve watched their 2-0 series lead turn in to a 3-2 series deficit. It has not been good, mind you — Charlie Morton got rocked in Game 3, the bullpen collapsed on Game 4 and Dallas Keuchel was suddenly mortal in Game 5 — but even then it’s not been the biggest concern. The real problem has been the lack of offense.

The Astros led the majors in runs (896), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.478) during the regular season and were second to the Yankees in homers. Despite that, they have scored just nine runs and have hit only one homer. The team’s ALCS batting line, those two wins included, is .147/.234/.213. As such, facing off against Luis Severino and a rested Yankees bullpen tonight can’t give them a ton of confidence.

They do have one thing going for them, however: Justin Verlander. The same Justin Verlander who received only two runs of support in Game 2 of the series but made it hold up thanks to his 124-pitch, 13-strikeout complete game victory. You can’t really expect a starter to do that sort of thing two times in a row, but that’s what the Astros acquired him for at the end of August. In a league where there are vanishingly few horses a team can ride to victory, Verlander stands as one of the few remaining old school aces. Expect A.J. Hinch to keep the bit in Verlander’s mouth for as long as this game is close and, even then, maybe an inning longer.

Is there any reason for optimism regarding the Astros’ lineup? Sure, of course. They didn’t suddenly all forget how to hit. Every team goes through a stretch of 3-5 games where the hits don’t seem to fall. There may, possibly, be some reason for hope in the man they’re facing too. Severino lasted only four innings in Game 2, having been removed early after taking a ground ball off his left wrist. Severino said he was fine and wished that Joe Girardi hadn’t taken him out, but (a) he was acting a little odd, shaking his arm out like he was trying to shake off some pain; and (b) starting pitchers almost always lie and say they’re better than they are. I’m certain Severino is healthy enough to go, but there’s at least a small chance that he’s vulnerable, somehow. At the very least Astros hitters can walk to the plate convincing themselves of it. Any edge you can either get or imagine, right?

Game 6 seems like it will have to be a matter of a small edge one way or another for both teams, really. The Yankees are rolling, but their assignment tonight is a tough one as they try to chase a guy who fancies himself — and has often shown himself — to be a rare throwback to those 1960s and 1970s aces who only seem to get better as the ballgame goes on. The Astros, meanwhile, are tasked with solving a young, fireballing stuff monster who has something to prove after his early exit in Game 2 and, even if he can’t prove it, a corps of relief aces who are among the most formidable in baseball. Add to that the notion that Major League Baseball, Fox and most commentators and casual fans outside of Houston want to see the 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup and the Astros have to be thinking everything’s against them.

Which is OK, though, right? Ballplayers love it when no one believes in them. That’s not better than six or seven runs of support, but the Astros will take anything they can get at the moment.