Harsh enough that the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman recalls the Gothamphobia of prior Yankee hired guns like Randy Johnson and Ed Whitson (“CC Sabathia can also look forward to having his off-field movements scrutinized, too. Along with the dough comes official Yankee celebrity status. Sabathia’s name is about to transcend the sports pages. Gossip, anyone? His family will share in this lovely experience”), but the Gallagher lookalike quotes an Ohio colleague who claims the Bombers’ latest glittering acquistion wants no part of the Bronx, $161 million or not.
“I know CC well enough to know he didn’t really want to go to New York,” said Sheldon Ocker (above), the veteran Indians beat writer for the Akron Beacon Journal. “I don’t think it (Sabathia’s reluctance) was about the Yankees, but it was the city. The media stuff might wear on him. I don’t know. He certainly is aware of what he’s getting into. And I’m sure he has it in his head that he can deal with it (the New York media), but when you face the reality of it it’s sometimes different.”
Ocker’s relationship with Sabathia goes back to the pitcher’s minor league days. Judging by the reporter’s day-to-day experiences, it might take an inordinate amount of heat for Sabathia to blow his cool.
Ocker said Sabathia “consciously tried to avoid” listening to sports-talk radio in Cleveland (“It will be harder to do that in New York”) and described him as a “regular guy” who has no “prima donna” in him.
“CC was one of the best (to deal with). You can ask him anything,” Ocker said. “With CC everything is pretty casual.”
Others have arrived here on an even keel only to depart in a straitjacket.
“The media may wind up affecting his life,” Ocker said, “but it won’t affect his pitching.”
Sabathia is capable of doing that himself. Ocker said the pitcher tends to believe it’s solely up to him to win a huge game – that everybody is counting on him. This self-inflicted pressure is a product of Sabathia having the responsibility of being called ace of the Tribe’s staff since he was 20.
“He (thinks) he can’t make any mistakes, that he can’t give up a hit or a run,” Ocker said. “That’s what his problem has been in the playoffs the last two years….I wouldn’t call it choking. He just puts a lot of pressure on himself because he’s supposed to be the guy.”