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And Another Thing (About Sabathia)

I've had a nice mix of responses to the column on CC Sabathia this morning. However, almost all the negative e-mails, from sharp people and good fans, make the same point: "But EVERYBODY use to start on three days' rest. Why can't CC do it for two weeks?"

I grew up as a kid with a Warren Spahn baseball card in my wallet so I know about stamina, complete games and pitchers past age 40 throwing far more innings than anybody today. And in Spahn's case, pitching a 15-K, two-hit shutout against the Yanks in the World Series after one of those season which would seem impossible today.

However, the well-meaning "they used to do it" crowd is making the easy obvious point. But I believe they are missing the pertinent point. Athletes train their bodies for specific tasks. When they change their work patterns, regardless of era, they risk injury. What if the Orioles had asked Jim Palmer, after a max-inning season, to pitch on TWO days' rest, instead of thee days', for FOUR straight pennant race or post-season games?

Wouldn't that have been irresponsible, excessive? Of course it would. And they didn't do it. It's the same thing. Palmer trained his whole career for pitching on the fourth day. For whatever combination of reasons, it suited him. Like others in that era, he may have pitched on two days rest a couple of times -- as Mickey Lolich did in Game 7 of the '68 Series. But nobody -- not even Spahn and Sain and pray for rain -- ever pitched on what was considered "short rest" (just two days) in their era FOUR straight times.

Baseball identifies the players who thrive under the playing conditions of THAT era. Sabathia has flourished under five-man rotation conditions. Who knows exacly why? If CC had a $100-million contract with the Brewers and they asked him to do what he's now doing, that's fine. Risky, but legit to ask him. But they rent this guy for thee months and now they are asking him if he will to do something ("Oh, sure, I'll be glad to do it") that, as far as I know, nobody has ever done in a pennant race and post-season: pitch on short rest -- as it is defined in that era -- four straight times.

By the way, overworked pitchers seldom grab their arm in pain in October. They finish the season just fine. They find out the damage that they've done NEXT season.

So, it's in '09 that I'll really be rooting for CC.

By Thomas Boswell  |  October 2, 2008; 2:02 PM ET
Categories:  Brewers  
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Fair enough, but they're paying him whatever they are paying him now to carry this whole team on his back. He'll cash in next year, regardless, because he can do that.
Besides, if he did say, "Yanno, I don't think that's a good idea," I can't believe it would diminish his stature, either in the locker room or the free agent market, one bit. Not at this point.

Posted by: ce | October 2, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

All I'm saying is, Curt Schilling pitched Game 1, 4 and 7 of the 2001 World Series.

Randy Johnson after winning game 6 went on in relief in Game 7 of the same Series!

Its not recommended, but it HAS been done before!

Posted by: CALSGR8 | October 2, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

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