This morning, I was all set to take some idiot New York writer's column about CC Sabathia entering a rehabilitation program to deal with his alcoholism, and rip it a new one. Sabathia's timing, just before the start of the postseason, is undeniably inconvenient for the Yankees (though one wonders what condition Sabathia would have been in if he were to pitch), and here I thought I'd be walking into a cacophony of "CC quit on his team" outrage from columnists who couldn't sympathize with Sabathia's struggles and for whom a game was more important than a man's mental and physical health.
But a funny thing happened. Those idiotic columns? They didn't get written. Those hot takes? They cooled off. Instead of talking about CC Sabathia's "failure," they talked about his strength in seeking assistance. Joel Sherman, of The New York Post (THE NEW YORK POST!) highlighted how Sabathia "saved" the Yankees and hailed his "stand-up nature" in handling his difficult revelation. The Daily News's John Harper talked about the "anguish it surely caused him to tell [Brian] Cashman and [Joe] Girardi that he needed help and needed it now, knowing it meant leaving his teammates to play for a championship without him.
This, my friends, is great progress. Now, it is progress born of the fact that Sabathia, in spite of his on the field struggles, seems to be universally admired and respected by his teammates and by reporters. One shudders what would happen if Alex Rodriguez or, God forbid, Bryce Harper made similar statements and decisions, for instance. But it IS progress.
Last year, in that same city, Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton criticized Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy for taking a couple of days at the start of the 2014 season to be present for the birth of his son and to help his wife recover from a cesarian section birth. We've seen that happen multiple times over the past several years. This year, following news that he relapsed over the offseason, we saw Arte Moreno and Mike Scioscia excoriate Josh Hamilton and chase him back to Texas because they wanted nothing to do with him. Almost every week, players are thrown at and threatened and criticized in the media for not "respecting the game" and taking it seriously enough (taking a game seriously? Sheesh).
Yet, here is one of baseball's most highly paid players, and one whose performance has been underwhelming for the last three seasons, announcing in the most scrutinized and hyper-critical media environment in the world that he is going to miss the entire playoffs...and no one bats an eye. It is (hopefully) a sign that at least a few of us are starting to realize how little baseball matters in the grand scheme of the universe, regardless of how much it matters to us. That no matter how much we care about the Yankees, or the Twins, or the Rockies, or the Dodgers, a player's life and health and family are so much more important. It's as true for drug and alcohol abuse as it is for head injuries or family emergencies.
Even the strongest of us can be fragile and vulnerable to crumbling apart. Even those of us who are 6'7" behemoths who can throw 90 miles per hour. Occasionally, we need assistance when we start to crack so that we can return to our lives stronger where those cracks have mended. We deserve that help as well, and receiving it is far more important than any championship ring. It's hard enough to keep it together without the world actively rooting for you to stay down. And in feeling empathy, we help pick each other back up. And the response to Sabathia's difficult decision has me hopeful that we're starting to get, at least incrementally, better.
Be well, CC. Good luck. Come back stronger, happier, healthier, and better in 2016. We are all in this together, and I will be rooting for you.