As New York Yankees pitcher Clarke Schmidt begins his liquidation, Chris Young, MLB Network analyst and former Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder, makes a prediction: “He’s gone deep, yo.” A moment later, two-way Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani throws a sweeper that catches too much plaque and sends it flying.
CC Sabathia winces, knowing that Schmidt missed out on that April 18 match. After celebrating the home run and Young’s prediction, Sabathia shares an anecdote to go to a match as a fan to watch Ohtani. He then explains how he allegedly attacked Ohtani in a 2-0 count. Forty seconds into the clip, it’s abundantly clear that Sabathia is good at it.
It was not a guarantee. Players who switch to broadcast after their playday is over are a mixed bag. Some struggle to explain the intricacies of the game, some seem overly rehearsed and struggle with the camera, and some spend their airtime telling you that the game was better back when they were playing.
That’s not Sabathia’s style. He is still passionate about baseball, despite his changes, and he takes real pleasure in watching today’s superstars achieve incredible feats on the field.
“I love the modern ball player,” Sabathia told Yahoo Sports. “So having the chance to watch these guys up close while being part of the game is fun for me.”
Sabathia is not your typical baseball broadcaster. It does not normally appear in the cabin and does not provide color commentary. He’s more reactionary and conversational, which is why MLB Network has him on its MLB Tonight: Clubhouse Edition shows beginning in 2021. The shows are looser and meant to simulate the organic conversations players might have in the canoe during matches.
It helps that these shows play to its strengths. Sabathia is shameless himself. He made headlines in 2021 for launching a profane tirade against Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa. You won’t hear as much profanity on MLB Network, but you still get the real Sabathia.
“It’s his authenticity,” Young said. “As a former teammate, being able to see him from the media side, he’s literally the same person he was at the clubhouse. The conversations you hear on CC’s MLB Network are the same as we would have before games. , hang out.
It’s a refreshing perspective from a baseball broadcaster. More than other sports, baseball romanticizes its past. Fans sometimes bristle when Mike Trout is compared to Mickey Mantle. For a long time it seemed blasphemous to mention Shohei Ohtani and Babe Ruth in the same sentence. It can sometimes seem like you’re not allowed to appreciate today’s superstars unless you adequately respect yesterday’s greats. Unfortunately, these feelings can carry over into the broadcast booths.
For her part, Sabathia had every reason to take the negative path. Although he played as recently as 2019, he is already a throwback. He excelled in part because of his durability, amassing huge inning totals, consistently topping 100 shots per start, and taking the ball on short rest when his team needed it. Launchers are no longer prompted to do so.
Instead of lamenting or criticizing starting pitchers today for being pampered, Sabathia believes they are still the key to winning the World Series.
“They’re building relievers now, where the starters don’t need to go deep into the game,” he said. “But you look at who’s won the World Series and who’s gone deeper into the playoffs in recent years – it’s always the team with the best starters.”
He also likes what the pitch timer has done for the game and thinks he would have had no problem adapting to it if it had been implemented while he was still playing.
This willingness to embrace change and adapt to the modern game is what sets Sabathia apart as a broadcaster. When he talks about why he’s still interested in baseball in 2023, you believe him.
“I think the players are probably the best they’ve ever been,” he said. “Bigger, faster, stronger. Guys who throw harder than they ever have before. Hit the balls harder.”
Sabathia – along with Young and Siera Santos – will be part of the MLB Tonight: Clubhouse Edition airing Thursday, when the Houston Astros take on the Toronto Blue Jays. When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. takes to the mound, you can bet Sabathia will regale fans with a story about what it’s like to face Guerrero or maximum poetry about his immense power at home plate.
Whatever answer Sabathia gives, fans can be sure it will be genuine.