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'I Need Help': The Courage Of CC Sabathia

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia adjusts his cap after allowing a run and walking two batters in the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets in New York, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. (Kathy Willens/ AP)
New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia adjusts his cap after allowing a run and walking two batters in the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets in New York, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. (Kathy Willens/ AP)
This article is more than 3 years old.

“I need help.”

That’s what Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia is reported to have told his manager, Joe Girardi, in the clubhouse on Sunday, the final day of baseball’s regular season.

Sabathia then checked himself into a rehabilitation facility to begin recovery from alcohol addiction.

His teammates prepared for what would turn out to be a one-game postseason.

Lots of people are desperate. The courageous among them say, 'I need help.'

Would this have been a bigger story if the Yankees had beaten the Astros on Tuesday night? In baseball terms, sure. New York would have had to assemble a pitching rotation that didn’t include Sabathia, who would certainly have been in the team’s plans if he hadn’t decided to go about saving his life instead.

But this isn’t about baseball.

This story is about the courage it takes to say, “I need help,” whether you’re a former Cy Young winner, a short-order cook, a lawyer, a yoga master or the alligator man in the circus.

Lots of people are desperate. The courageous among them say, “I need help.”

Over the coming weeks, while baseball fans gradually learn which two teams will advance to the World Series, CC Sabathia will have the opportunity to learn where to find and how to accept the help he has sought.

The opportunities are numerous and varied. When he returns to baseball, if he wants to, he’ll discover that almost no city — Major League or otherwise — lacks people who can help.

Which is not to suggest there won’t be challenges, because there will be. Some of them surfaced even before the Yankees’ season ended on Tuesday night, two days after Sabathia left the team. Under the online Wall Street Journal story of Sabathia’s decision, there appeared almost immediately several comments. Some of them were supportive. Here are a couple of the others: “A weak, pathetic loser,” and “Mantle would have stuck his head in an ice bucket and pounded some Budweiser through the playoffs.”

We live in a culture where alcohol is part of every celebration, and every occasion clouded by failure as well. Nowhere is that more evident than in the world of pro baseball...

“Mantle” is Mickey Mantle, the former Yankees star whose alcoholism led to the collapse of his life and, eventually, to his death. Shortly before that happened, Mantle addressed his many fans. He said, “Don’t be like me.”

We live in a culture where alcohol is part of every celebration, and every occasion clouded by failure as well. Nowhere is that more evident than in the world of pro baseball, where beer brings the games to fans who drink beer while they watch the games and the commercials where actors pretending to be fans drinking in bars appear to be having more fun than the fans at home.

In the face of all that, CC Sabathia said, “I need help.”

May serenity, strength and wisdom follow from those three brave words.

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