Five days after the World Series ended last year, CC Sabathia sat down for a network television interview about the alcoholism that prompted him to seek treatment on the day before the Yankees began the postseason.
Sabathia again was interviewed about that topic several times during the offseason as he participated in charity events. He answered questions about it again when he reported to spring training in February.
This is much, much more difficult than facing the media after a rough start, and it’s much, much more important.
Much has been said during the past week about another New York pitcher, one who refused to talk to the media after his latest in a string of poor outings. That other pitcher was criticized for leaving his teammates to talk for him, which is a no-no in major league clubhouses.
One of the people who criticized that other pitcher is David Wright, the captain of his team, who said in a New York Post interview, “I think the consensus is we should all be accountable for what we do on the baseball field.”
“Stand-up guy” is the phrase most commonly associated with an athlete who faces the media after a poor performance. Few athletes in New York have been as consistently stand-up as Sabathia, who once was one of the best pitchers in baseball before suffering through injuries and ineffectiveness.
In the last few seasons, no one has struggled on the mound more than Sabathia, who actually knows what it is to be great over a long period of time. He never ducked out after a pounding. He never made his teammates answer for his pitching woes.
This past week, I asked one former player who is friendly with that other pitcher if it’s myth or fact that teammates get chafed when a starting pitcher ducks the media after a bad outing.
“Fact,” he said.
I asked a current player the same question.
“It’s a fact,” he said. “But we don’t take it as personally as you [media] guys.”
Accountability has always been a feature of the Yankees’ clubhouse in the Joe Torre / Joe Girardi era. For example, Rafael Soriano once skipped the postgame Q&A after blowing a save in 2011 when he was filling in for a night for Mariano Rivera as the Yankees’ closer.
The next day, Soriano apologized to the media, which might be the first and last time that has happened. Soriano said he was so upset after blowing a potential win for Sabathia that he didn’t even return a call from his mother.
Soriano also said a member of the Yankees’ front office called his agent and asked him to let Soriano know the team expected him to speak to the media after a loss.
The agent was Scott Boras, who also is that other pitcher’s agent.
Girardi, who probably would prefer to skip talking to the media on most days if he could, said at the time that the Yankees had no formal rule on the subject. General manager Brian Cashman chalked it up to Soriano being new to New York.
On the Mets’ side, Wright has spent more time answering questions about bad baseball or — more recently — his bad back than anyone could ever count. But he’s always there, and usually with a smile.
Wright called that other pitcher’s actions a “mistake.”
The mistake, as many have pointed out, is not fatal. Pitch well and fans will throw bouquets at your feet and the postgame questions will be about as fluffy as cotton candy.
If not? There are a lot tougher things in life.
Just ask CC Sabathia. And he’ll answer, too.