The New York Yankees take on the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday in the World Series — and for Cleveland fans, the matchup on the pitching mound is bittersweet. Or perhaps just bitter.
CC Sabathia, the mammoth left-hander who has been dominant in the postseason for the Yankes, faces the equally unbeatable lefty Cliff Lee of the Phillies. Sabathia won the 2007 Cy Young Award for the Cleveland Indians. A year later, Lee won the Cy Young Award — for the Cleveland Indians.
Money is the reason neither player is still with the Indians, says Paul Hoynes, a sportswriter for Cleveland's newspaper, The Plain Dealer.
"It's kind of a vicious cycle for teams like the Indians, the small and midmarket teams, teams that work hard on their player development, that develop their players, train them and watch them come to fruition, really establish themselves in the big leagues, and then can't hold on to them," Hoynes tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "For teams to do this, for small-market and midmarket clubs to lose back-to-back Cy Young winners, the effects right now — they're not good."
Sabathia won the award in 2007 and became a free agent a year later. In July 2008, he was traded to Milwaukee, finished the season there, and again became a free agent. Sabathia then signed the biggest-ever contract for a pitcher: seven years, $161 million with the Yankees.
A year after trading Sabathia, the Indians traded Lee to the Phillies.
Hoynes says that, as a Cleveland native, he knows what many Indians fans are feeling: anger and despair.
"They are saying to the guy sitting next to them on the bar stool: 'I'll never go to another Indians game again. I'll never watch the Indians again,' " he says. "This is a town with a chip on its shoulder, a town that likes to cry in its beer, and it's not going to get any better tonight."