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World Series Pitchers Have A 'Tribe' In Common

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World Series Pitchers Have A 'Tribe' In Common

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World Series Pitchers Have A 'Tribe' In Common

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Here's an odd twist about the opening game of the World Series that's kind of amusing. It's amusing provided that you're not from Cleveland.

The starting pitcher for the Yankees is CC Sabathia, a mammoth left-hander who has been unbeatable in the postseason. The starting pitcher for the Phillies is Cliff Lee, an equally unbeatable, if less mountainous, left-hander. Both pitchers have won American League Cy Young Awards, which means that each was once voted the best pitcher in the league: Lee in 2008 and Sabathia in 2007. And both did it while pitching for - well, I'll let sportswriter Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer finish that sentence.

Mr. PAUL HOYNES (Sportswriter, Cleveland Plain Dealer): The Cleveland Indians.

SIEGEL: The Cleveland Indians.

Mr. HOYNES: Unfortunately.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Unfortunately. How is it, first of all, that CC Sabathia, the Yankee's ace, why is he no longer a Cleveland Indian?

Mr. HOYNES: C.C. Sabathia's no longer an Indian because the Indians couldn't afford to pay him. At the end of the 2008 season, CC was scheduled to become a free agent, and he did become a free agent. The Indians traded him on July 7th of 2008 to Milwaukee. They made him an offer. It was an offer that CC could refuse and did refuse. CC finished the season with Milwaukee, then became a free agent and signed the biggest contract ever for a pitcher, six - seven years, $161 million with the Yankees, and the rest is history.

SIEGEL: Hey, but no problem for Indians fans because you still had Cliff Lee on the pitching staff.

Mr. HOYNES: That's right. They had Cy Young winners stacked up behind each other, and that's the way teams like to do it, that's the way teams, you know, in their mind, envision it. And for the first time ever in Indians history, they had back-to-back Cy Young winners. Cliff won the Cy Young in 2008, won 22 games, but they decided to trade him.

SIEGEL: Whole point here is that as star players in Major League Baseball qualify after a number of years to be free agents, they can be signed by any team in the majors, but not every team can actually effectively bid for them in that game.

Mr. HOYNES: That's exactly right. A player has to have six years service time in the big leagues, then he can become a free agent, and then he's open to deal with his own team, his old team, and the 29 other big league clubs. And, you know, it's kind of a vicious cycle for teams like the Indians, small, the 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.

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.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Well, put is in the mind of some Indians fans watching game one of the series as these two guys, who might have been Indians, still are facing each other.

Mr. HOYNES: Well, having grown up in Cleveland, I know what they're feeling. They are feeling despair. They're feeling anger. They're saying to the guy sitting next to them on the barstool: I'll never go to another Indians game again. I'll never watch the Indians again. Cleveland fans have been without a World Series since 1948. So this is a town with a chip on its shoulder, a town that likes to cry in its beer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOYNES: And it's not going to get any better tonight, I don't think.

SIEGEL: Ah, it's a wonderful game, our national pastime, isn't it?

Mr. HOYNES: That's exactly right. It'll bring you to the heights, and it'll humble you at the same time.

SIEGEL: Well, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, thanks a lot for sharing us in the misery that Clevelanders feel about the beginning of this World Series.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOYNES: Thank you. I'm not sure if I should say thank you, but thank you.

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