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Sabathia breaks ground with Cy Young

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

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Sabathia also Players Choice winner for top A.L. pitcher

So, a few more burdensome pounds for C.C. Sabathia, now not just the Cleveland Indians' ace who went soft in the postseason, but the ace of the entire American League.

He certainly is worthy of the Cy Young trophy, or at least as much as Josh Beckett and John Lackey. You couldn't begrudge a Sabathia vote any more than you could a Beckett vote, and all ballots were filled by baseball writers before the conclusion of the regular season.

Those were big numbers for the big fella: 19 wins, 241 innings and 209 strikeouts.

And little numbers: Seven losses, 37 walks, 3.21 ERA.

The Indians rode those massive shoulders (along with Fausto Carmona's pointy ones) to grand things in 2007 – AL Central title, 96 wins, ballgames three weeks into a balmy October, organizational rebirth.

Sabathia's heavy Cy should foster wonderful things for him. He'll make more money in the short term (his base salary rises $2 million, to $11 million, in 2008) and the long (negotiations for a multi-year extension are ongoing). He made 34 starts for the first time in his career, a reasonably impressive achievement in an industry that rewards showing up almost as much as putting up, and one of the first things Sabathia mentioned during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

And his stature – at 6-foot-7, 250(-ish) already substantial – heightens in the African-American communities so dear to him. He is the first African American to win the award since Dwight Gooden in 1985, the first in the AL since Vida Blue in 1971.

At a time when baseball is attempting to appeal to the Sabathia demographic, along comes the Sabathia hero, a grounded big man with an enormous smile and a wicked fastball.

Not that long ago, Sabathia and a couple dozen other African-American players met with MLB and union officials about the dearth of blacks at all levels of the game. They talked about broadening the RBI programs, building more academies, holding more clinics.

And now here's Sabathia, putting his performance and his hardware where his heart is.

"It's big," he said. "Hopefully, this will help."

Yes, it's big, and it's deserved, and baseball needs a lot more of it.

There is, however, the October ending, as it turned out Sabathia was the best pitcher in the AL as of Sept. 30, and among the real mysteries thereafter.

It was not Sabathia who went after hitters relentlessly. It was Beckett.

It was not Sabathia whose fearlessness dragged his club from round to round. It was Beckett.

It was not Sabathia who, given the ball and a chance to play in the World Series, was up to it. It was Beckett who, given no net and slim hope, pitched the Boston Red Sox into another game.

The Cy Young is a regular-season award. A good pitcher won it. Yet, you wonder, for Sabathia, if it served to further distinguish the elusiveness of the final month from the precision of the first six.

Had Sabathia won either of his American League championship series starts – Game 1 or Game 5 – chances are pretty good he'd have a ring to go along with his trophy. Instead, he gets the trophy, Beckett gets the ring.

In the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park, Sabathia had sat quietly after Game 7 while teammates hugged and promised to stay in touch. Finally, he sighed and groaned a long, soft expletive, and left that place. Three-and-a-half weeks later, Sabathia, sounding pleased but subdued, seemed to be over the mourning phase.

"It's still …," he said, and started over. "It's still tough. But, we had a good year."

They'd left "great" out there. Only Sabathia, along with his teammates, can say how much that weighs.

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