When Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia retired at the end of the 2019 season after riding an end-of-career resurgence to 3,000 career strikeouts, fans and detractors found themselves firmly on opposite sides of his Baseball Hall of Fame case.
For Yankee fans, the argument was easy. The counting numbers are there; in addition to the whiffs, Sabathia hitting the 250-win plateau basically made him a modern-day 300-game winner (only slightly a stretch). The aura was definitely there; he made championship moments in 2009, and his stretch run in Milwaukee in 2008 was the stuff of legends.
For Yankee haters? Their eyes are firmly focused on Sabathia’s 2013-2015 run, what should’ve theoretically been his prime but instead didn’t feature an ERA better than 4.73.
We know the reasoning behind the slide, of course — health issues combined with struggles with alcohol changed the trajectory of Sabathia’s career before he miraculously rebounded. But those who are especially precious about what it means to enter Cooperstown on the first ballot will certainly attempt to withhold the honor, in this case.
Two years following his retirement, after all the confetti has fallen and been swept up, baseball experts are still split on Sabathia’s first-ballot status, just like fans in opposite camps.
Writer Howard Bryant and the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff joined Chris Rose on the Jomboy Media Network’s “Rose Rotation” podcast this week to debate his shoo-in status, and came in on different sides.
Will Yankees’ CC Sabathia be a first-ballot Baseball Hall of Famer?
Objective assessments seem to indicate he might fall short at first; Sabathia’s 22 on the Black Ink Test that measures league-leading marks (40 is an average Hall of Famer) and 174 on the Gray Ink (also below the 185 standard) leave him below the upper echelon threshold, though he surpasses the “Hall of Fame Monitor” baseline (128, while a score of “100” deems someone “likely” to hit Cooperstown).
His Baseball-Reference similarity scores agree, and surprisingly place him directly alongside two humorous names: Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina, by their metric the two most comparable pitchers to Sabathia in all of baseball history.
Moose earned the honor, but it certainly took a while for him to sneak over the threshold, while Andy seems destined to be on a long journey to the Veterans Committee before his candidacy has a shot.
Does Sabathia’s personality push him over the mark early, David Ortiz-style? What about his strikeout numbers and longevity? He’s one of just 19 pitchers with 3,000 Ks, all of whom are in the Hall (though it took Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton a while), will be (Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander), or Are Curt Schilling (Curt Schilling).
In our estimation, Sabathia should march in on the first ballot for this alone:
Combined with his Josh Reddick sniping and Rays-baiting … they should probably just waive the five-year waiting period and let him in ahead of time.
We understand the counterpoints here, but holding a 2000s and 2010s pitcher to outdated win-grubbing standards seems irrelevant. Sabathia was larger than life, and fulfilled his duty to a tee in 15 of his 19 seasons.
If he has to wait, so be it. But crown him, and do it as quickly as you can.