It's really more of a referendum on bunting.
One day after lashing out at Boston infielder Eduardo Nunez, calling him "weak" for trying to bunt for a hit in the first inning of a 6-2 Yankees victory Thursday night, CC Sabathia clarified his comments by saying he is opposed to bunting as a general philosophy.
"It's not that it's out of bounds, I guess," said Sabathia, a 17-year big leaguer and former Cy Young Award winner. "That's just me. It doesn't matter who is bunting or who I'm playing. I get pissed when people bunt, period. We could be playing a Little League game. If my son bunts on me, I'm going to cuss him out. I've always been like that. This is nothing new, and I think a lot of people know that."
But Sabathia's strong reaction, in the context of a game between the top two teams in the American League East on the final day of August, led many people to believe it was related to his well-known knee trouble. Sabathia wears a brace on his right knee after undergoing surgery last year. He missed 10 days in August with inflammation in the same knee.
Nunez apologized to Sabathia during the game for having to bunt, but made it clear later that he wasn't sorry for applying the strategy. Sabathia is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox this season, and early in the game, Nunez was simply trying to start a rally.
It worked, too. Sabathia fielded the bunt but threw it away, allowing Nunez to reach base.
"With my speed, if he has knee issues, I have to bunt, I have to be on base to win games," Nunez said. "If he's not healthy, go back to the DL. It's simple, I have to bunt, it's not my problem."
Said Red Sox manager John Farrell: "We're going to do it again."
Sabathia's comments also provoked a strong reaction from Hall of Fame outfielder Jim Rice, a pre- and postgame analyst on Red Sox telecasts on NESN. Rice called bunting "part of the game" and accused Sabathia of being angry only because he's out of shape. Sabathia is listed at 300 pounds and has pitched for most of his 17-year career at a similar weight.
"If you tell him to leave some of that chicken, that doughnut and that burger weight -- maybe his leg will be OK that he can field that baseball," Rice said. "That's just stupid."
Sabathia said his wife made him aware of Rice's comments. Although she didn't find them amusing, Sabathia mostly laughed it off.
"It's just funny. He's right. I'm fat," said Sabathia, who hasn't met Rice. "He won that. ... I just hope when I'm that age I'm not that bitter."
Sabathia fired up at Red Sox
After Eduardo Nunez decides to bunt in the first inning, CC Sabathia refers to the Red Sox as "weak."